L. Prato

Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States

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Publications (118)376.74 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Aims: We attempt to determine the masses of single or multiple young T Tauri and HAeBe stars from the rotation of their Keplerian disks. Methods:We used the IRAM PdBI interferometer to perform arcsecond resolution images of the CN N=2-1 transition with good spectral resolution. Integrated spectra from the 30-m radiotelescope show that CN is relatively unaffected by contamination from the molecular clouds. Our sample includes 12 sources, among which isolated stars like DM Tau and MWC 480 are used to demonstrate the method and its accuracy. We derive the dynamical mass by fitting a disk model to the emission, a process giving M/D the mass to distance ratio. We also compare the CN results with higher resolution CO data, that are however affected by contamination. Results: All disks are found in nearly perfect Keplerian rotation. We determine accurate masses for 11 stars, in the mass range 0.5 to 1.9 solar masses. The remaining one, DG Tau B, is a deeply embedded object for which CN emission partially arises from the outflow. With previous determination, this leads to 14 (single) stars with dynamical masses. Comparison with evolutionary tracks, in a distance independent modified HR diagram, show good overall agreement (with one exception, CW Tau), and indicate that measurement of effective temperatures are the limiting factor. The lack of low mass stars in the sample does not allow to distinguish between alternate tracks.
    06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present results from our ongoing program to map the visual orbits of pre-main sequence (PMS) binaries in the Taurus star forming region using adaptive optics imaging at the Keck Observatory. We combine our results with measurements reported in the literature to analyze the orbital motion for each binary. We present preliminary orbits for DF Tau, T Tau S, ZZ Tau, and the Pleiades binary HBC 351. Seven additional binaries show curvature in their relative motion. Currently, we can place lower limits on the orbital periods for these systems; full solutions will be possible with more orbital coverage. Five other binaries show motion that is indistinguishable from linear motion. We suspect that these systems are bound and might show curvature with additional measurements in the future. The observations reported herein lay critical groundwork toward the goal of measuring precise masses for low-mass PMS stars.
    The Astronomical Journal 05/2014; 147(6):157. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We constrain the properties of the progenitor system of the highly reddened Type Ia supernova (SN) 2014J in Messier 82 (M82; d ~ 3.5 Mpc). We determine the SN location using Keck-II K-band adaptive optics images, and we find no evidence for flux from a progenitor system in pre-explosion near-ultraviolet through near-infrared Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images. Our upper limits exclude systems having a bright red giant companion, including symbiotic novae with luminosities comparable to that of RS Ophiuchi. While the flux constraints are also inconsistent with predictions for comparatively cool He-donor systems (T < 35,000 K), we cannot preclude a system similar to V445 Puppis. The progenitor constraints are robust across a wide range of R_V and A_V values, but significantly greater values than those inferred from the SN light curve and spectrum would yield proportionally brighter luminosity limits. Pre-explosion HST infrared images yield more stringent constraints on the luminosities of very cool (T < 3000 K) companion stars than was possible in the case of SN Ia 2011fe.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2014; 790(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: PTFO 8-8695 is a weak-lined T-Tauri star in the 7-10 Myr old Orion-OB1a/25-Ori region discovered to have a transiting body in an orbital period of 0.45 days. Initial follow-up radial velocity observations in the optical with Keck and the HET and light curve modeling ruled out stellar binarity and stellar spots as possible causes of the transit events, and yielded an upper limit on the mass of the transiting object of 5 MJupiter. We have conducted further observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in an effort to confirm the planetary nature of the transiting object and better determine its mass. We present a Spitzer 4.5 um light curve and a Keck NIRSPEC radial velocity curve which confirm the transit and place more stringent limits on the mass limits of the planetary candidate.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We have built and commissioned gas absorption cells for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared in the H and K bands. We describe the construction and installation of three such cells filled with 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 14NH3 for the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF). We have obtained their high-resolution laboratory Fourier Transform spectra, which can have other practical uses. We summarize the practical details involved in the construction of the three cells, and the thermal and mechanical control. In all cases, the construction of the cells is very affordable. We are carrying out a pilot survey with the 13CH4 methane gas cell on the CSHELL spectrograph at the IRTF to detect exoplanets around low mass and young stars. We discuss the current status of our survey, with the aim of photon-noise limited radial velocity precision. For adequately bright targets, we are able to probe a noise floor of 7 m/s with the gas cell with CSHELL at cassegrain focus. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using a gas cell on the next generation of near-infrared spectrographs such as iSHELL on IRTF, iGRINS, and an upgraded NIRSPEC at Keck.
    Proc SPIE 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We have built and commissioned a prototype agitated non-circular core fiber scrambler for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared H band. We have collected the first on-sky performance and modal noise tests of these novel fibers in the near-infrared at H and K bands using the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF). We discuss the design behind our novel reverse injection of a red laser for co-alignment of star-light with the fiber tip via a corner cube and visible camera. We summarize the practical details involved in the construction of the fiber scrambler, and the mechanical agitation of the fiber at the telescope. We present radial velocity measurements of a bright standard star taken with and without the fiber scrambler to quantify the relative improvement in the obtainable blaze function stability, the line spread function stability, and the resulting radial velocity precision. We assess the feasibility of applying this illumination stabilization technique to the next generation of near-infrared spectrographs such as iSHELL on IRTF and an upgraded NIRSPEC at Keck. Our results may also be applied in the visible for smaller core diameter fibers where fiber modal noise is a significant factor, such as behind an adaptive optics system or on a small < 1 meter class telescope such as is being pursued by the MINERVA and LCOGT collaborations.
    Proc SPIE 09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: As part of our continuing campaign to measure the masses of pre-main sequence stars dynamically and thus to assess the reliability of the discrepant theoretical calculations of contraction to the main sequence, we present new results for NTTS 045251+3016, a visual and double-lined spectroscopic binary in the Taurus Star Forming Region. We obtained new high angular resolution astrometry and high spectral resolution spectroscopy at Keck Observatory. The new data lead to a significant revision of previously published orbital parameters. In particular, we find that the masses of the primary and secondary are 0.86+/-0.11 and 0.55+/-0.05 M_sun, respectively, smaller than previously reported, and that the system lies 158.7+/-3.9 pc from the sun, further than previously reported.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2013; 773(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery that the pre-main sequence object LkCa3 in the Taurus-Auriga star-forming region is a hierarchical quadruple system of M stars. It was previously known to be a close (~0.5 arc sec) visual pair, with one component being a moderately eccentric 12.94-day single-lined spectroscopic binary. A re-analysis of archival optical spectra complemented with new near-infrared spectroscopy shows both visual components to be double-lined, the second one having a period of 4.06 days and a circular orbit. In addition to the orbital elements, we determine optical and near-infrared flux ratios, effective temperatures, and projected rotational velocities for all four stars. Using existing photometric monitoring observations of the system that had previously revealed the rotational period of the primary in the longer-period binary, we detect also the rotational signal of the primary in the 4.06-day binary, which is synchronized with the orbital motion. With only the assumption of coevality, a comparison of all of these constraints with current stellar evolution models from the Dartmouth series points to an age of 1.4 Myr and a distance of 133 pc, consistent with previous estimates for the region and suggesting the system is on the near side of the Taurus complex. Similar comparisons of the properties of LkCa3 and of the well-known quadruple pre-main sequence system GG Tau with the widely used models from the Lyon series for a mixing length parameter of alpha_ML = 1.0 strongly favor the Dartmouth models.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2013; 773(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: RX J0513.1+0851 and RX J0539.9+0956 were previously identified as young, low-mass, single-lined spectroscopic binary systems and classified as weak-lined T Tauri stars at visible wavelengths. Here we present radial velocities, spectral types, vsini values, and flux ratios for the components in these systems resulting from two-dimensional cross-correlation analysis. These results are based on high-resolution, near-infrared spectroscopy taken with the Keck II telescope to provide a first characterization of these systems as double-lined rather than single-lined. It applies the power of infrared spectroscopy to the detection of cool secondaries; the flux scales as a less steep function of mass in the infrared than in the visible, thus enabling an identification of low-mass secondaries. We found that the RX J0513.1+0851 and RX J0539.9+0956 primary stars are fast rotators, 60 km/s and 80 km/s respectively; this introduces extra difficulty in the detection of the secondary component as a result of the quite broad absorption lines. To date, these are the highest rotational velocities measured for a pre-main sequence spectroscopic binary. The orbital parameters and mass ratios were determined by combining new visible light spectroscopy with our infrared data for both systems. For RX J0513.1+0851, we derived a period of ~4 days and a mass ratio of q = 0.46 +/- 0.01 and for RX J0539.9+0956, a period of ~1117 days and a mass ratio of q = 0.66 +/- 0.01. Based on our derived properties for the stellar components, we estimate the luminosities and hence distances to these binaries at 220 pc and 90 pc. They appear to be significantly closer than previously estimated.
    The Astronomical Journal 02/2013; 145(6). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present results from an ongoing multiwavelength radial velocity (RV) survey of the Taurus-Auriga star forming region as part of our effort to identify pre--main sequence giant planet hosts. These 1-3 Myr old T Tauri stars present significant challenges to traditional RV surveys. The presence of strong magnetic fields gives rise to large, cool star spots. These spots introduce significant RV jitter which can mimic the velocity modulation from a planet-mass companion. To distinguish between spot-induced and planet-induced RV modulation, we conduct observations at ~6700 Angstroms and ~2.3 microns and measure the wavelength dependence (if any) in the RV amplitude. CSHELL observations of the known exoplanet host Gl 86 demonstrate our ability to detect not only hot Jupiters in the near infrared but also secular trends from more distant companions. Observations of nine very young stars reveal a typical reduction in RV amplitude at the longer wavelengths by a factor of ~2-3. While we can not confirm the presence of planets in this sample, three targets show different periodicities in the two wavelength regions. This suggests different physical mechanisms underlying the optical and K band variability.
    The Astrophysical Journal 11/2012; 761(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the identification of the M9 dwarf SDSS J000649.16-085246.3 as a spectral binary and radial velocity variable with components straddling the hydrogen burning mass limit. Low-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy reveals spectral features indicative of a T dwarf companion, and spectral template fitting yields component types of M8.5\pm0.5 and T5\pm1. High-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy with Keck/NIRSPEC reveals pronounced radial velocity variations with a semi-amplitude of 8.2\pm0.4 km/s. From these we determine an orbital period of 147.6\pm1.5 days and eccentricity of 0.10\pm0.07, making SDSS J0006-0852AB the third tightest very low mass binary known. This system is also found to have a common proper motion companion, the inactive M7 dwarf LP 704-48, at a projected separation of 820\pm120 AU. The lack of H-alpha emission in both M dwarf components indicates that this system is relatively old, as confirmed by evolutionary model analysis of the tight binary. LP 704-48/SDSS J0006-0852AB is the lowest-mass confirmed triple identified to date, and one of only seven candidate and confirmed triples with total masses below 0.3 Msun currently known. We show that current star and brown dwarf formation models cannot produce triple systems like LP 704-48/SDSS J0006-0852AB, and we rule out Kozai-Lidov perturbations and tidal circularization as a viable mechanism to shrink the inner orbit. The similarities between this system and the recently uncovered low-mass eclipsing triples NLTT 41135AB/41136 and LHS 6343ABC suggest that substellar tertiaries may be common in wide M dwarf pairs.
    The Astrophysical Journal 08/2012; 757(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present new orbital measurements of the pre-main sequence triple system, V807 Tau, using adaptive optics imaging at the Keck Observatory. We computed an orbit for the close pair, V807 Tau Ba-Bb, with a period of 12.312 +/- 0.058 years and a semi-major axis of 38.59 +/- 0.16 mas. By modeling the center of mass motion of the components in the close pair relative to the wide component, V807 Tau A, we measured a mass ratio of 0.843 +/- 0.050 for Bb/Ba. Combined with the total mass from the relative orbit, we derived individual masses of M_Ba = 0.564 +/- 0.018 (d/140 pc)^3 Msun and M_Bb = 0.476 +/- 0.017 (d/140 pc)^3 Msun at an average distance of 140 pc to the Taurus star forming region. We computed spectral energy distributions to determine the luminosities of the three components. We also measured their spectral types, effective temperatures, and rotational velocities based on spatially resolved spectra obtained at the Keck Observatory. If the rotational axes are aligned, then the projected rotational velocities imply that V807 Tau Ba and Bb are rotating much faster than V807 Tau A. The uncertainty in the stellar effective temperatures and distance to the system currently limit the comparison of our dynamical mass measurements with predictions based on evolutionary tracks for pre-main sequence stars. We also report preliminary results from a program to map the 3.6 cm radio emission from V807 Tau using the Very Long Baseline Array. With continued monitoring, these observations will provide a precise parallax for placing the dynamical masses on an absolute scale.
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2012; 756(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Eclipsing binaries (EBs) provide critical laboratories for empirically testing predictions of theoretical models of stellar structure and evolution. Pre-main-sequence (PMS) EBs are particularly valuable, both due to their rarity and the highly dynamic nature of PMS evolution, such that a dense grid of PMS EBs is required to properly calibrate theoretical PMS models. Analyzing multi-epoch, multi-color light curves for 2400 candidateOrion Nebula Cluster (ONC) members from our Warm Spitzer Exploration Science Program YSOVAR, we have identified 12 stars whose light curves show eclipse features. Four of these 12 EBs are previously known. Supplementing our light curves with follow-up optical and near-infrared spectroscopy, we establish two of the candidates as likely field EBs lying behind the ONC. We confirm the remaining six candidate systems, however, as newly identified ONC PMS EBs. These systems increase the number of known PMS EBs by over 50% and include the highest mass (Theta1 Ori E, for which we provide a complete set of well-determined parameters including component masses of 2.807 and 2.797 solar masses) and longest period (ISOY J053505.71-052354.1, P \sim 20 days) PMS EBs currently known. In two cases (Theta1 Ori E and ISOY J053526.88-044730.7), enough photometric and spectroscopic data exist to attempt an orbit solution and derive the system parameters. For the remaining systems, we combine our data with literature information to provide a preliminary characterization sufficient to guide follow-up investigations of these rare, benchmark systems.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2012; 753(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The young, low-mass, triple system NTTS 155808-2219 (ScoPMS 20) was previously identified as a ~17-day period single-lined spectroscopic binary with a tertiary component at 0.21 arcseconds. Using high-resolution infrared spectra, acquired with NIRSPEC on Keck II, both with and without adaptive optics, we measured radial velocities of all three components. Reanalysis of the single-lined visible light observations, made from 1987 to 1993, also yielded radial velocity detections of the three stars. Combining visible light and infrared data to compute the orbital solution produces orbital parameters consistent with the single-lined solution and a mass ratio of q = 0.78 +/- 0.01 for the SB. We discuss the consistency between our results and previously published data on this system, our radial-velocity analysis with both observed and synthetic templates, and the possibility that this system is eclipsing, providing a potential method for the determination of the stars' absolute masses. Over the ~20 year baseline of our observations, we have measured the acceleration of the SB's center-of-mass in its orbit with the tertiary. Long-term, adaptive optics imaging of the tertiary will eventually yield dynamical data useful for component mass estimates.
    The Astronomical Journal 06/2012; 144(2). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present a method to optimize absorption cells for precise wavelength calibration in the near-infrared. We apply it to design and optimize methane isotopologue cells for precision radial velocity measurements in the K band. We also describe the construction and installation of two such cells for the CSHELL spectrograph at NASA's IRTF. We have obtained their high-resolution laboratory spectra, which we can then use in precision radial velocity measurements and which can also have other applications. In terms of obtainable RV precision methane should out-perform other proposed cells, such as the ammonia cell ($^{14}$NH$_{3}$) recently demonstrated on CRIRES/VLT. The laboratory spectra of Ammonia and the Methane cells show strong absorption features in the H band that could also be exploited for precision Doppler measurements. We present spectra and preliminary radial velocity measurements obtained during our first-light run. These initial results show that a precision down to 20-30 m s$^{-1}$ can be obtained using a wavelength interval of only 5 nm in the K band and S/N$\sim$150. This supports the prediction that a precision down to a few m s$^{-1}$ can be achieved on late M dwarfs using the new generation of NIR spectrographs, thus enabling the detection of terrestrial planets in their habitable zones. Doppler measurements in the NIR can also be used to mitigate the radial velocity jitter due to stellar activity enabling more efficient surveys on young active stars.
    Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 05/2012; · 3.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have built a single gas absorption cell for precision spectroscopic radial velocity measurements in the near-infrared. We are currently carrying out a survey with the CSHELL spectrograph at the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility to detect exoplanets around red, low mass, and young stars. We discuss the current status of our survey, with the aim of 20 m/s long-term photon-noise limited radial velocity precision at 2.3 microns. We present the design of a near-infrared fiber scrambler with first light in May 2012 with CSHELL at IRTF. The fiber scrambler makes use of non-circular core fibers to stabilize the illumination of the slit and echelle grating against changes in seeing, focus, guiding and other sources of systematic radial velocity noise, complementing the wavelength calibration of a gas cell.
    05/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: We report the identification of the M9 dwarf SDSS J000649.16-085246.3 as part of a tightly-separated brown dwarf binary within a low-mass triple system with the M7 star LP 704-48 as a widely-separated ( 600 AU) third component. Low-resolution spectral data from IRTF/SpeX show subtle spectral features typical of a T dwarf companion, and spectral template fitting indicates component types of M8.5 and T5±1 for the tight binary. Multi-epoch high-resolution spectra from Keck/NIRSPEC, taken over 16 months, show RV variability with an amplitude of 9 km/s, and orbital fits reveal a nearly circular orbit with a period of 150 days and semi-major axis of 0.2 AU. The absence of H alpha emission in the M7 primary suggests a minimum age of 7 Gyr, which with the radial velocity orbit provides stringent constraints on the masses of SDSS J000649.16-085246.3A and B. Hierarchical multiple systems like this one provide an ideal benchmark for the study of brown dwarf formation.
    05/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Near-infrared and high-precision have historically been disjoint adjectives to describe precision radial velocity searches. Recent advances have pushed precision in the near-infrared from 50 m/s with telluric wavelength calibration to 5 m/s with absorption gas cells. We have built a single gas, near-infrared absorption cell with greater line density and bandpass coverage than recently reported in the literature. We are currently carrying out a survey to detect exoplanets around red, low mass, and young stars. We discuss the current status of our survey, and new near-infrared instrumentation techniques that we are pursuing to complement optical radial velocity work.
    01/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: We report initial results from a radial velocity survey of T Tauri stars in Taurus-Auriga and Pleiades to search for stellar reflex motions resulting from brown dwarf and giant planet companions. Our goals are to investigate the origins of the brown dwarf desert by measuring the frequency of brown dwarfs as close companions to Solar-type stars as a function of age, as well as detect the youngest-known giant planet. Most of our targets show significant radial velocity jitter; many are periodic. We are using bisector analysis to distinguish between stellar activity-induced radial velocity noise and the signal of a substellar companion. Promising candidates are being followed-up with infrared observations.
    12/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the discovery of seven ultracool brown dwarfs identified with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Near-infrared spectroscopy reveals deep absorption bands of H_2O and CH_4 that indicate all seven of the brown dwarfs have spectral types later than UGPS J072227.51-054031.2, the latest type T dwarf currently known. The spectrum of WISEP J182831.08+265037.8 is distinct in that the heights of the J- and H-band peaks are approximately equal in units of f_lambda, so we identify it as the archetypal member of the Y spectral class. The spectra of at least two of the other brown dwarfs exhibit absorption on the blue wing of the H-band peak that we tentatively ascribe to NH_3. These spectral morphological changes provide a clear transition between the T dwarfs and the Y dwarfs. In order to produce a smooth near-infrared spectral sequence across the T/Y dwarf transition, we have reclassified UGPS J0722-0540 as the T9 spectral standard and tentatively assign WISEP J173835.52+273258.9 as the Y0 spectral standard. In total, six of the seven new brown dwarfs are classified as Y dwarfs: four are classified as Y0, one is classified as Y0 (pec?), and WISEP J1828+2650 is classified as >Y0. We have also compared the spectra to the model atmospheres of Marley and Saumon and infer that the brown dwarfs have effective temperatures ranging from 300 K to 500 K, making them the coldest spectroscopically confirmed brown dwarfs known to date.
    The Astrophysical Journal 08/2011; 743. · 6.73 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
376.74 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012
    • Fisk University
      • Department of Physics
      Nashville, Tennessee, United States
    • Rice University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Houston, Texas, United States
  • 2006–2012
    • Lowell Observatory
      Flagstaff, Arizona, United States
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 2011
    • University of California, San Diego
      • Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS)
      San Diego, California, United States
  • 2010
    • New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
      Socorro, New Mexico, United States
  • 2009
    • Stony Brook University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Stony Brook, NY, United States
  • 2008
    • Northern Arizona University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Flagstaff, Arizona, United States
  • 1999–2008
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      • • Division of Astronomy & Astrophysics
      Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 2004
    • Gemini Observatory
      Hilo, Hawaii, United States
  • 2003
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Infrared Processing and Analysis Center
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2002
    • Tel Aviv University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 2000
    • University of Wyoming
      Laramie, Wyoming, United States
  • 1998
    • State University of New York
      New York City, New York, United States