COE Observatory Report


Tennessee State University
Center of Excellence in Information Systems
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

This report covers the 1.5-year interval January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. This change syncs these Observatory Reports to Tennessee State University's fiscal (reporting) year.

The TSU Automated Astronomy Group within the TSU Center of Excellence in Information Systems concentrates on stellar astrophysics using photometric, spectroscopic, and interferometric techniques to study cool giants, chromospherically active stars, solar-type stars, planetary-candidate host stars, binary and multiple stars, and pulsating variables. Most of the data for these programs has been acquired with robotic telescopes and instrumentation developed in coordination with Lou Boyd at Fairborn Observatory in southern Arizona. Astronomy staff at the Center during this period were Geoffrey S. Burks, Michael R. Busby (Center Director), Francis C. Fekel, Gregory W. Henry, Matthew W. Muterspaugh, and Michael H. Williamson. Burks and Muterspaugh hold joint faculty appointments in the TSU Department of Mathematical Sciences. Edward J.(Ted) Maxwell (Indiana U.) joined the Center as a new Post-Doctoral Research Scientist in August 2012; Askari Ghasempour and Samira Rajabi completed their work as Post-Doctoral Research Scientists in March 2013. Student Research Assistants during this period were Samba Fall (TSU), Dan Fischler (TSU), E. Victor Garcia (Vanderbilt graduate student), Chelsea Harrison (TSU), Vamsi Subraveti (MLK High School), and Sam Swihart (Vanderbilt REU student from U. Michigan).


Center of Excellence astronomers continue to develop and operate automated telescopes and instrumentation at Fairborn Observatory in the Patagonia mountains of southern Arizona. Fairborn Observatory is a non-profit Educational Corporation directed by Lou Boyd and dedicated to the design, construction, and operation of automated telescopes. Operational TSU telescopes include the T3 0.40 m automated photometric telescope (APT) for Johnson BV photometry, the T4 0.75 m APT for Stromgren by photometry, the T8, T10, T11, and T12 0.80 m APTs, also for Stromgren by photometry, the T13 2.0 m automatic spectroscopic telescope (AST) for high-resolution echelle spectroscopy, and the Celestron 14-inch (C14) automated imaging telescope (AIT). C14 completed its second year of operation at Fairborn Observatory after two years of operation at Dyer Observatory in Nashville. This system was put together and automated by M. Williamson and enables CCD imaging of astronomical objects. It is used to achieve precision photometry of stars too faint for the APTs. The table below gives the number of years each telescope has been operational and the current observing program(s).

TSU Automatic Telescope Summaries

Telescope Type Years Primary Observing Program(s)
T2 0.25 m APT 20 Semi-Regular Variables (Decommissioned 2007)
T3 0.40 m APT 26 Chromospherically Active Stars, Pulsating Stars, Exoplanet Search
T4 0.75 m APT 21 Solar-Type Stars
T8 0.80 m APT 18 Solar-Type Stars
T10 0.80 m APT 13 Solar-Type Stars, Exoplanet Search
T11 0.80 m APT 13 Solar-Type Stars, Exoplanet Search
T12 0.80 m APT 13 Exoplanet Search
T13 2.03 m AST 12 Binary/Multiple Stars, Interferometric Targets, Exoplanet Search
C14 0.36 m AIT 4 Exoplanet Search, Public Outreach

During the past year and a half, new construction has taken place at Fairborn Observatory. A new building for additional APTs was constructed with improved access to the southern sky. Another new building for guest instruments on the AST was added next to the existing AST building. The first guest instrument will be delivered in July 2013. This instrument, called EXPERT-III, has been built by Jian Ge's group at the University of Florida. It is a high-resolution (R=110,000), vacuum-enclosed, temperature-stabilized spectrograph covering visible wavelengths (0.38-0.9 microns simultaneous). We anticipate the arrival of a second guest instrument, also from the University of Florida, in Fall 2013. This second spectrograph, called FIRST, is similarly stabilized, but operates at near-infrared wavelengths (0.8-1.8 microns) with R=70,000.


The Automated Astronomy Group continues to develop robotic telescopes and instrumentation and apply them to several key fields of research including (1) the search for and the characterization of extrasolar planetary systems and their host stars, (2) the long-term photometric study of luminosity cycles in solar-type stars (3) the spectroscopic and photometric study of pulsating variables, particularly the relatively new class of Gamma Doradus stars, (4) the long-term photometric, spectroscopic, and interferometric study of chromospherically active stars, (5) the spectroscopic and interferometric study of binary, eclipsing, and multiple star systems and more. A few highlights include:

Fekel and Henry plus collaborators at other institutions have combined precise spectroscopy and photometry from TSU's automated telescopes to obtain the orbits of bright, eclipsing binaries and derive the basic parameters of their components, including their masses, sizes, and evolutionary status. A paper on HD 74057 was published in 2012, and one on VV Crv is nearing completion. Upgrades over the past 3 years to the 2m AST have enabled work on much fainter eclipsing binaries with Claud Lacy (U. of Arkansas). For that research, radial velocities from Fairborn, combined with photometry provided by Lacy, have resulted in a recently published paper on V335 Ser, and another on AL Leo is in preparation.

In May 2012, Fekel made a final visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory to obtain spectra with the coude feed telescope. The TSU 2m AST is now his primary source of observations for the measurement of binary and multiple star velocities.

Fekel and Williamson continue to collect spectra at Fairborn Observatory of about 25 known spectroscopic binaries with orbital periods greater than 5 days. Such stars are likely targets of optical interferometers such as NPOI and the CHARA array. The new radial velocities will be used to determine significantly improved orbital elements so that good three-dimensional orbital solutions can be determined. The eighth paper in this series, consisting of the orbits of four A-star binaries, has been submitted for publication.

Fekel, in collaboration with astronomers at Kitt Peak National Observatory, has continued a program of high-resolution infrared spectroscopy of symbiotic stars, binaries consisting of a cool giant star and a compact white dwarf. A paper was just published on the D-type or dusty symbiotic stars, which have orbital periods of decades or centuries.

Ghasempour, Muterspaugh, Williamson and TSU students Fall, Harrison, and Sergeyour presented an invited paper at the SPIE conference "Optical and Infrared Interferometry III" in Amsterdam and published their results on VISION, the next generation science camera for the Navy Optical Interferometer, in the SPIE conference series.

Henry, along with colleagues at Ege U. (Izmir), published a 20-year photometric study of the chromospherically active binary FG UMa and found essentially all spot activity confined to two active-longitude regions separated by 180 degrees. A similar study was conducted with colleagues in Finland on the chromospherically active single star LQ Hydra. The 24-year photometric data set on FG UMa exhibits a much more random distribution of spots on LQ Hya than on FG UMa.

Henry and Smith (Catholic U. / STScI) published their 5th in a series of papers on Gamma Cassiopeiae, the prototype of the classical Be Stars. They analyzed 15 observing seasons of Gamma Cas photometry from 1997—2011. They found low-amplitude photometric cycles clustered around 70 days but ranging between 50—91 days. During the 2010 observing season, they observed a mass-loss event (outburst) as evidenced by the brightening and reddening of the star along with a waning of the cycle amplitude. This reinforces the interpretation that the photometric cycles arise from a global disk instability.

Henry and colleagues published several papers containing APT photometry of planetary host stars including HD 163607, HD 164509, HD 189733, HD 192263, HD 207832, HD 97658, HD 37605, and HD 38529. These papers announced the discovery of 6 new planets and discussed detailed properties of the planets and host stars.

Henry and colleagues from HAO, Lowell, AFRL, WRC and NWRA demonstrated how the APT photometry of solar-type stars can confront models of solar irradiance changes measured with space-based radiometers. The stellar data does not discount the possibility of larger historical solar brightness variations put forward by recent solar irradiance studies, but illustrates the need for continued photometry of the solar-type stars.

Henry and colleagues published new radial velocites and 12 years of APT photometry of the two-planet system HD 38529bc. The radial velocities were used to update the orbital elements of the two planets and supply improved predictions for possible transits of the two planets. The APT data now rule out transits of the inner planet but not yet of the outer one. The photometry also shows the host star to be undergoing apparent luminosity cycles similar to the Sun's but with cycle times of ~6 years.

Muterspaugh and Burks collaborated with UC Berkeley on a $1M grant from the NSF PAARE program titled "Curriculum, Infrastructure, and Research Partnership Supporting Pursuit of Graduate Study in Astronomy at Tennessee State University." The 45-month grant began in September 2011. The three objectives are: (1) develop a web-based, university-wide centralized advertising system for undergraduate research opportunities; (2) develop advanced undergraduate and graduate coursework to support TSU's new undergraduate astrophysics concentration and future master's degree program; and (3) create next-generation spectroscopic instrumentation based on Externally Dispersed Interferometry (EDI) technology.

Muterspaugh's research group delivered the VISION instrument to the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer at Flagstaff, Arizona in May 2012. First fringes were obtained in October 2012 and 4-telescope (simultaneous) operation was demonstrated in January 2013. Vanderbilt graduate student E. Victor Garcia has joined the project as a Lowell Observatory Predoctoral Scholar, moving to the site in June 2013.

Rajabi, Muterspaugh, Ghasempour, Williamson, and colleagues analyzed high-resolution imaging, spectroscopy, and photometry of the classical nova V458 Vul. They successfully modelled the nova's ejecta as an inclined disk seen at low inclination (ellipticity), which is consistent with the nova being in the fireball phase (outflowing gas is optically thick). This is confirmed by the presence of P Cygni-type Balmer line profiles. in June 2013.

We published the second TSU Astronomy Research Group Calendar for 2013. Designed by TSU undergraduates, the calendar features highlights of recent results from the TSU Astronomy Research Group, including exoplanet research press releases, the observing facilities, new instrumentation efforts, and images from the C14 automatic imaging telescope. The calendar was distributed to all TSU employees and to the general public through a partnership with Nashville's Adventure Science Center and Sudekum Planetarium.


Dragomir, D., Kane, S. P., Henry, G. W., Ciardi, D. R., Fischer, D. A., Howard, A. W., Jensen, E. L. N., Laughlin, G., Mahadevan, S., Matthews, J. M., Pilyavsky, G., von Braun, K., Wang, S. X., and Wright, J. T., "The HD 192263 System: Planetary Orbital Period and Stellar Variability Disentangled," Astrophysical Journal, 754, 37, 2012. (paper)

Dragomir, D., Matthews, J. M., Howard, A. W., Antoci, V., Henry, G. W., Guenther, D. B., Johnson, J. A., Kuschnig, R., Marcy, G. W., Moffat, A. F. J., Rowe, J. F., Rucinski, S. M., Sasselov, D., and Weiss, W. W., "Non-Detection of Previously Reported Transits of HD 97658 with MOST Photometry," Astrophysical Journal, 759, L41, 2012. (paper)

Fekel, F. C., Cordero, M. J., Galicher, R., Zuckerman, B., Melis, C., and Weinberger, A. J., "Third Component Search and Abundances of the Very Dusty Short-Period Binary BD +20 307," Astrophysical Journal, 749, 7, 2012. (paper)

Fekel, F. C., Rajabi, S., Muterspaugh, M. W., and Williamson, M. H., "The Spectroscopic Orbits of Five Solar-Type, Single-Lined Binaries," Astronomical Journal, 145, 111, 2013. (paper)

Fekel, F. C., Williamson, M. H., Weber, M., Strassmeier, K. G., and Pourbaix, D., "The Spectroscopic Orbit of the K-Giant Binary gamma Canis Minoris," Astronomische Nachrichten, 334, 223, 2013. (paper)

Ge, J., Powell, S., Zhao, B. Z., Wang, J., Fletcher, A., Schofield, S., Liu, J., Muterspaugh, M., Blake, C., and Barnes, R., "High Resolution Florida IR Silicon Immersion Grating Spectrometer and an M Dwarf Planet Survey," in Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy IV, SPIE Vol. 8446, eds. I. S. McLean, S. K. Ramsay, and H. Takami (SPIE: Bellingham, WA), 84463O, 2012. (paper)

Ghasempour, A., Kelly, J., Muterspaugh, M. W., and Williamson, M. H., "A Single-Mode Echelle Spectrograph: Eliminating Modal Variation, Enabling Higher Precision Doppler Study," in Modern Technologies in Space- and Ground-based Telescopes and Instrumentation II, SPIE Vol. 8450, eds. R. Navarro, C. R. Cunningham, and E. Prieto (SPIE: Bellingham, WA), 845045, 2012. (paper)

Ghasempour, A., Muterspaugh, M., Hutter, D., Monnier, J., Armstrong, T., Benson, J., Mozurkewich, D., Williamson, M., Fall, S., Harrison, C., and Sergevous, C., "VISION: The Next Generation Science Camera for the Navy Optical Interferometer," American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 219, #446.13, 2012. (abstract)

Ghasempour, A., Muterspaugh, M. W., Hutter, D. J., Monnier, J. D., Benson, J. A., Armstrong, J. T., Williamson, M. H., Fall, S., Harrison, C., and Sergeyous, C., "Building the Next Generation Science Camera for the Navy Optical Interferometer," in Optical and Infrared Interferometry III, SPIE Vol. 8445, eds. F. Delplancke, J. K. Rajagopal, and F. Malbet (SPIE: Bellingham, WA), 84450M, 2012. (paper)

Gibson, N. P., Aigrain, S., Pont, F., Sing, D. K., Desert, J.-M., Evans, T. M., Henry, G., Husnoo, N., and Knutson, H., "Probing the Haze in the Atmosphere of HD 189733b with Hubble Space Telescope/WFC3 Transmission Spectroscopy," Monthy Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 422, 753, 2012. (paper)

Giguere, M. J., Fischer, D. A., Howard, A. W., Johnson, J. A., Henry, G. W., Wright, J. T., Marcy, G. W., Isaacson, H. T., Hou, F., and Spronck, J., "A High-Eccentricity Component in the Double-Planet System Around HD 163607 and a Planet Around HD 164509," Astrophysical Journal, 744, 4, 2012. (paper)

Haghighipour, N., Butler, R. P., Rivera, E. J., Henry, G. W., and Vogt, S. S., "The Lick-Carnegie Survey: A New Two-Planet System Around the Star HD 207832," Astrophysical Journal, 756, 91, 2012. (paper)

Helminiak, K. G., Konacki, M., Muterspaugh, M. W., Browne, S. E., Howard, A. W., and Kulkarni, S. R., "New High-Precision Orbital and Physical Parameters of the Double-Lined Low-Mass Spectroscopic Binary BY Draconis," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 419, 1285, 2012. (paper)

Hełminiak, K. G., Konacki, M., Ro'yczka, M., Kałuzny, J., ̇Ratajczak, M., Borkowski, J., Sybilski, P., Muterspaugh, M. W., Reichart, D. E., Ivarsen, K. M., Haislip, J. B., Crain, J. A., Foster, A. C., Nysewander, M. C., and LaCluyze, A. P., "Orbital and Physical Parameters of Eclipsing Binaries from the All-Sky-Automated Survey Catalogue. IV. A 0.61 + 0.45 Solar Mass Binary in a Multiple System," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astroomical Society, 425, 1245, 2012. (paper)

Henry, G. W., Kane, S. R., Wang, S. X., Wright, J. T., Boyajian, T. S., von Braun, K., Ciardi, D. R., Dragomir, D., Farrington, C., Fischer, D. A., Hinkel, N. R., Howard, A. W., Jensen, E., Laughlin, G., Mahadevan, S., and Pilyavsky, G., "Host Star Properties and Transit Exclusion for the HD 38529 Planetary System," Astrophysical Journal, 761, 46, 2013. (paper)

Henry, G. W. and Smith, M. A., "Rotational and Cyclical Variability in gamma Cassiopeiae. II. Fifteen Seasons," Astrophysical Journal, 760, 10, 2012. (paper)

Hinkle, K. H., Fekel, F. C., Joyce, R. R., and Wood, P., "Infrared Spectroscopy of Symbiotic Stars. IX. D-Type Symbiotic Novae," Astrophysical Journal, 770, 28, 2013. (paper)

Jones, C. E., Wiegert, P. A., Tycner, C., Henry, G. W., Cyr, R. P., Halonen, R. J., and Muterspaugh, M. W., "Using Photometry to Probe the Circumstellar Environment of delta Scorpii," Astronomical Journal, 145, 142, 2013. (paper)

Jones, C. E., Wiegert, P., Tycner, C., Henry, G. W., and Muterspaugh, M. W., "Circumstellar Disk Models: Unraveling the Mysteries of Be Star Disks," in Circumstellar Dynamics at High Resolution, ASP Conf. Ser. 464, eds. A. C. Carciofi and Th. Rivinius (San Francisco: ASP), p. 97, 2012. (paper)

Judge, P. G., Lockwood, G. W., Radick, R. R., Henry, G. W., Shapiro, A. I., Schmutz, W., and Lindsey, C., "Confronting a Solar Irradiance Reconstruction with Solar and Stellar Data," Astronomy & Astrophysics, 544, A88, 2012. (paper)

Knutson, H. A., Lewis, N., Fortney, J. J., Burrows, A., Showman, A. P., Cowan, N. B., Agol, E., Aigrain, S., Charbonneau, D., Deming, D., Desert, J.-M., Henry, G. W., Langton, J., and Laughlin, G., "3.6 and 4.5 micron Phase Curves and Evidence for Non-Equilibrium Chemistry in the Atmosphere of Extrasolar Planet HD 189733b," Astrophysical Journal, 754, 22, 2012. (paper)

Lacy, C. H. S., Fekel, F. C., and Claret, A., "Absolute Properties of the Eclipsing Binary Star V335 Serpentis," Astronomical Journal, 144, 63, 2012. (paper)

Lehtinen, J., Jetsu, L., Hackman, T., Kajatkari, P. and Henry, G. W., "Spot Activity of LQ Hydra from Photometry Between 1988 and 2011," Astronomy & Astrophysics, 542, A38, 2012. (paper)

Moravveji, E., Guinan, E. F., Shultz, M., Williamson, M. H., and Moya, A., "Asteroseismology of the Nearby SN-II Progenitor: Rigel. I. The MOST High-Precision Photometry and Radial Velocity Monitoring," Astrophysical Journal, 747, 108, 2012. (paper)

Muterspaugh, M. W., Williamson, M. H., Fekel, F. C., and Harrison, C., "The Upgraded Tennessee State University 2m Automatic Spectroscopic Telescope," American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 219, #422.04, 2012. (abstract)

Rajabi, S., Muterspaugh, M. W., Lane, B. F., Sirk, M. M., Browne, S., Ghasempour, A., Halverson, S. P., Kelly, J. G., and Williamson, M., "Spectro-Interferometric Observations of Classical Nova V458 Vul 2007," Astrophysical Journal, 755, 158, 2012. (paper)

Rajabi, S., Muterspaugh, M. W., Lane, B. F., Sirk, M. M., Browne, S., Ghasempour, A., Halverson, S. P., Kelly, J. G., and Williamson, M., "V458 Vul 2007: A Fast Varying Nova in the Early Phase of Evolution," American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts, 219, #436.16, 2012. (abstract)

Ratajczak, M., Konacki, M., Kulkarni, S. R., and Muterspaugh, M. W., "The Keck I/HIRES and TNG/SARG Radial Velocity Survey of Speckle Binaries," in From Interacting Binaries to Exoplanets: Essential Modeling Tools, IAU Symposium No. 282, eds. M. T. Richards and I. Hubeny, p. 472, 2012. (paper)

Smith, M. A., Lopes de Oliveira, R., Motch, C., Henry, G. W., Richardson, N. D., Bjorkman, K. S., Stee, Ph., Mourard, D., Monnier, J. D., Che, X., Bücke, R., Pollmann, E., Gies, D. R., Schaefer, G. H., ten Brummelaar, T., McAlister, H. A., Turner, N. H., Sturmann, J., Sturmann, L., and Ridgway, S. T., "The Relationship Between gamma Cassiopeiae's X-Ray Emission and its Circumstellar Environment," Astronomy & Astrophysics, 540, A53, 2012. (paper)

Sowell, J. R., Henry, G. W., and Fekel, F. C., "Absolute Properties of the Highly Eccentric Solar-Type Eclipsing Binary HD 74057," Astronomical Journal, 143, 5, 2012. (paper)

Stee, Ph, Delaa, O., Monnier, J. D., Meilland, A., Perraut, K., Mourard, D., Che, X., Schaefer, G. H., Pedretti, E., Smith, M. A., Lopes de Oliveira, R., Motch, C., Henry, G. W., Richardson, N. D., Bjorkman, K. S., Bücke, R., Pollmann, E., Zorec, J., Gies, D. R., ten Brummelaar, T., McAlister, H. A., Turner, N. H., Sturmann, J., Sturmann, L., and Ridgway, S. T., "The Relationship between gamma Cassiopeiae's Emission and its Circumstellar Environment II. Geometry and Kinematics of the Disk from MIRC and VEGA Instruments on the CHARA Array," Astronomy & Astrophysics, 545, A59, 2012. (paper)

Wang, S. X., Wright, J. T., Cochran, W., Kane, S. R., Henry, G. W., Payne, M. J., Endl, M., MacQueen, P. J., Valenti, J., Antoci, V., Dragomir, D., Matthews, J. M., Howard, A. W., Marcy, G. W., Isaacson, H., Ford, E. B., Mahadevan, S., and von Braun, K., "The Discovery of HD 37605c and a Dispositive Null Detection of Transits of HD 37605b," Astrophysical Journal, 761, 46, 2012. (paper)

Wright, N. J., Drake, J. J., Mamajek, E. E., and Henry, G. W., "The Stellar Activity-Rotation Relationship," Astronomische Nachrichten, 334, 151, 2013. (paper)