D. A. Howell

Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel

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Publications (221)715.24 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present a time series of the highest resolution spectra yet published for the nearby Type Ia supernova (SN) 2014J in M82. They were obtained at 11 epochs over 33 days around peak brightness with the Levy Spectrograph (resolution R~110,000) on the 2.4m Automated Planet Finder telescope at Lick Observatory. We identify multiple Na I D and K I absorption features, as well as absorption by Ca I H & K and several of the more common diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs). We see no evolution in any component of Na I D, Ca I, or in the DIBs, but do establish the dissipation/weakening of the two most blueshifted components of K I. We present several potential physical explanations, finding the most plausible to be photoionization of circumstellar material, and discuss the implications of our results with respect to the progenitor scenario of SN 2014J.
    11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the early, rising light curves of 18 Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) and the La Silla-QUEST variability survey (LSQ). We fit these early data flux using a simple power-law $(f(t) = {\alpha\times t^n})$ to determine the time of first light $({t_0})$, and hence the rise-time $({t_{rise}})$ from first light to peak luminosity, and the exponent of the power-law rise ($n$). We find a mean uncorrected rise time of $18.98 {\pm} 0.54$ days, with individual SN rise-times ranging from $15.98$ to $24.7$ days. The exponent n shows significant departures from the simple 'fireball model' of $n = 2$ (or ${f(t) \propto t^2}$) usually assumed in the literature. With a mean value of $n = 2.44 {\pm} 0.13$, our data also show significant diversity from event to event. This deviation has implications for the distribution of 56Ni throughout the SN ejecta, with a higher index suggesting a lesser degree of 56Ni mixing. The range of n found also confirms that the 56Ni distribution is not standard throughout the population of SNe Ia, in agreement with earlier work measuring such abundances through spectral modelling. We also show that the duration of the very early light curve, before the luminosity has reached half of its maximal value, does not correlate with the light curve shape or stretch used to standardise SNe Ia in cosmological applications. This has implications for the cosmological fitting of SN Ia light curves.
    11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present observational data for a peculiar supernova discovered by the OGLE-IV survey and followed by the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects. The inferred redshift of z=0.07 implies an absolute magnitude in the rest-frame I-band of M$_{I}\sim-17.6$ mag. This places it in the luminosity range between normal Type Ia SNe and novae. Optical and near infrared spectroscopy reveal mostly Ti and Ca lines, and an unusually red color arising from strong depression of flux at rest wavelengths <5000 \AA. To date, this is the only reported SN showing Ti-dominated spectra. Our multi band and bolometric lightcurves, as well as the spectral evolution, are in reasonable agreement with the predictions of models for the pure detonation of a helium shell around a low-mass CO white dwarf and "double-detonation" models that include a secondary detonation of a CO core following a primary detonation in an overlying helium shell.
    10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We analyse spectroscopic measurements of 122 type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) with z<0.09 discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory, focusing on the properties of the Si II 6355 and Ca II `near-infrared triplet' absorptions. We examine the velocities of the photospheric Si II 6355, and the velocities and strengths of the photospheric and high-velocity Ca II, in the context of the stellar mass (Mstellar) and star-formation rate (SFR) of the SN host galaxies, as well as the position of the SN within its host. We find that SNe Ia with faster Si II 6355 tend to explode in more massive galaxies, with the highest velocity events only occuring in galaxies with Mstellar > 3*10^9 solar mass. We also find some evidence that these highest velocity SNe Ia explode in the inner regions of their host galaxies, similar to the study of Wang et al. (2013), although the trend is not as significant in our data. We show that these trends are consistent with some SN Ia spectral models, if the host galaxy stellar mass is interpreted as a proxy for host galaxy metallicity. We study the strength of the high-velocity component of the Ca II near-IR absorption, and show that SNe Ia with stronger high-velocity components relative to photospheric components are hosted by galaxies with low stellar mass, blue colour, and a high sSFR. Such SNe are therefore likely to arise from the youngest progenitor systems. This argues against a pure orientation effect being responsible for high-velocity features in SN Ia spectra and, when combined with other studies, is consistent with a scenario where high-velocity features are related to an interaction between the SN ejecta and circumstellar medium (CSM) local to the SN.
    09/2014; 446(1).
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    ABSTRACT: The Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network comprises nine 1-meter and two 2-meter telescopes, all robotic and dynamically scheduled, at five sites spanning the globe. Instrumentation includes optical imagers and low-dispersion spectrographs. A suite of high-dispersion, high-stability spectrographs is being developed for deployment starting late this year. The network has been designed and built to allow regular monitoring of time-variable or moving objects with any cadence, as well as rapid response to external alerts. Our intent is to operate it in a totally integrated way, both in terms of scheduling and in terms of data quality. The unique attributes of the LCOGT network make it different enough from any existing facility that alternative approaches to optimize science productivity can be considered. The LCOGT network V1.0 began full science operations this year. It is being used in novel ways to undertake investigations related to supernovae, microlensing events, solar system objects, and exoplanets. The network’s user base includes a number of partners, who are providing resources to the collaboration. A key project program brings together many of these partners to carry out large projects. In the long term, our vision is to operate the network as a part of a time-domain system, in which pre-planned monitoring observations are interspersed with autonomously detected and classified events from wide-area surveys.
    SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation; 08/2014
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical and near infrared (NIR) observations of the nearby Type Ia SN 2014J. Seventeen optical and twenty-three NIR spectra were obtained from 10 days before ($-$10d) to 10 days after (+10d) the time of maximum $B$-band brightness. The relative strengths of absorption features and their patterns of development can be compared at one day intervals throughout most of this period. Carbon is not detected in the optical spectra, but we identify CI $\lambda$ 1.0693 in the NIR spectra. We find that MgII lines with high oscillator strengths have higher initial velocities than other MgII lines. We show that the velocity differences can be explained by differences in optical depths due to oscillator strengths. The spectra of SN 2014J show it is a normal SN Ia, but many parameters are near the boundaries between normal and high-velocity subclasses. The velocities for OI, MgII, SiII, SII, CaII and FeII suggest that SN 2014J has a layered structure with little or no mixing. That result is consistent with the delayed detonation explosion models. We also report photometric observations, obtained from $-$10d to +29d, in the $UBVRIJH$ and $K_s$ bands. SN 2014J is about 3 magnitudes fainter than a normal SN Ia at the distance of M82, which we attribute to extinction in the host. The template fitting package SNooPy is used to interpret the light curves and to derive photometric parameters. Using $R_V$ = 1.46, which is consistent with previous studies, SNooPy finds that $A_V = 1.80$ for $E(B-V)_{host}=1.23 \pm 0.01$ mag. The maximum $B$-band brightness of $-19.19 \pm 0.10$ mag was reached on February 1.74 UT $ \pm 0.13$ days and the supernova had a decline parameter of $\Delta m_{15}=1.11 \pm 0.02$ mag.
    05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical spectra and light curves for three hydrogen-poor super-luminous supernovae followed by the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO). Time series spectroscopy from a few days after maximum light to 100 days later shows them to be fairly typical of this class, with spectra dominated by Ca II, Mg II, Fe II and Si II, which evolve slowly over most of the post-peak photospheric phase. We determine bolometric light curves and apply simple fitting tools, based on the diffusion of energy input by magnetar spin-down, \Ni decay, and collision of the ejecta with an opaque circumstellar shell. We investigate how the heterogeneous light curves of our sample (combined with others from the literature) can help to constrain the possible mechanisms behind these events. We have followed these events to beyond 100-200 days after peak, to disentangle host galaxy light from fading supernova flux and to differentiate between the models, which predict diverse behaviour at this phase. Models powered by radioactivity require unrealistic parameters to reproduce the observed light curves, as found by previous studies. Both magnetar heating and circumstellar interaction still appear to be viable candidates. A large diversity in the luminosity in the tail phases is emerging with magnetar models failing in some cases to predict the rapid drop in flux. This would suggest either that magnetars are not responsible, or that the X-ray flux from the magnetar wind is not fully trapped. The light curve of one object shows a distinct re-brightening at around 100d after maximum light. We argue that this could result either from multiple shells of circumstellar material, or from a magnetar ionisation front breaking out of the ejecta.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 05/2014; 444(3). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of a Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) archival search for blue transients which lie in the magnitude range between "normal" core-collapse and superluminous supernovae (i.e. with $-21\,{\leq}M_{R\,(peak)}\,{\leq}-19$). Of the six events found after excluding all interacting Type IIn and Ia-CSM supernovae, three (PTF09ge, 09axc and 09djl) are coincident with the centers of their hosts, one (10iam) is offset from the center, and for two (10nuj and 11glr) a precise offset can not be determined. All the central events are similar photometrically to the He-rich tidal disruption candidate PS1-10jh. Spectroscopically, PTF09ge is also He-rich, while PTF09axc and 09djl display broad hydrogen features around peak magnitude. All three central events are in low star-formation hosts, two of which are E+A galaxies. Our spectrum of the host of PS1-10jh displays similar properties. PTF10iam, the one offset event, is different photometrically and spectroscopically from the central events and its host displays a higher star formation rate. Finding no obvious evidence for AGN activity, we conclude that the three central transients likely arise from the tidal disruption of a star by a super-massive black hole. We compare the spectra of these events to TDE candidates from the literature and to the recent ASASSN-14ae, and find that all of these objects can be unified on a continuous scale of spectral properties. The accumulated evidence of this expanded sample strongly supports a tidal disruption origin for this class of nuclear transients.
    05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of a Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) archival search for blue transients which lie in the magnitude range between "normal" core-collapse and superluminous supernovae (i.e. with $-21\,{\leq}M_{R\,(peak)}\,{\leq}-19$). Of the six events found after excluding all interacting Type IIn and Ia-CSM supernovae, three (PTF09ge, 09axc and 09djl) are coincident with the centers of their hosts, one (10iam) is offset from the center, and for two (10nuj and 11glr) a precise offset can not be determined. All the central events are similar photometrically to the He-rich tidal disruption candidate PS1-10jh. Spectroscopically, PTF09ge is also He-rich, while PTF09axc and 09djl display broad hydrogen features around peak magnitude. All three central events are in low star-formation hosts, two of which are E+A galaxies. Our spectrum of the host of PS1-10jh displays similar properties. PTF10iam, the one offset event, is different photometrically and spectroscopically from the central events and its host displays a higher star formation rate. Finding no obvious evidence for AGN activity, we conclude that the three central transients likely arise from the tidal disruption of a star by a super-massive black hole. We compare the spectra of these events to TDE candidates from the literature and to the recent ASASSN-14ae, and find that all of these objects can be unified on a continuous scale of spectral properties. The accumulated evidence of this expanded sample strongly supports a tidal disruption origin for this class of nuclear transients.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2014; 793(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present an extensive optical and near-infrared photometric and spectroscopic campaign of the type IIP supernova SN 2012aw. The dataset densely covers the evolution of SN 2012aw shortly after the explosion up to the end of the photospheric phase, with two additional photometric observations collected during the nebular phase, to fit the radioactive tail and estimate the $^{56}$Ni mass. Also included in our analysis is the already published \textit{Swift} UV data, therefore providing a complete view of the ultraviolet-optical-infrared evolution of the photospheric phase. On the basis of our dataset, we estimate all the relevant physical parameters of SN 2012aw with our radiation-hydrodynamics code: envelope mass $M_{env} \sim 20 M_\odot$, progenitor radius $R \sim 3 \times 10^{13}$ cm ($ \sim 430 R_\odot$), explosion energy $E \sim 1.5$ foe, and initial $^{56}$Ni mass $\sim 0.06$ $M_\odot$. These mass and radius values are reasonably well supported by independent evolutionary models of the progenitor, and may suggest a progenitor mass higher than the observational limit of $16.5 \pm 1.5 M_\odot$ of the Type IIP events.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2014; 787(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate iPTF13bvn, a core-collapse (CC) supernova (SN) in the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 5806. This object was discovered by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory very soon after the explosion and was classified as a stripped-envelope CC SN, likely of Type Ib. A possible progenitor detection in pre-explosion Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images was reported, making this the only SN Ib with such an identification. Based on photometry of the progenitor candidate and on early-time SN data, it was argued that the progenitor candidate is consistent with a single, massive Wolf-Rayet (WR) star. In this work we present follow-up multi-band light-curves and optical spectra of iPTF13bvn. We perform spectral line analysis to track the evolution of the SN ejecta, construct a bolometric light curve and perform hydrodynamical calculations to model this light curve to constrain the synthesized radioactive nickel mass and the total ejecta mass of the SN. Late-time photometry is analyzed to constrain the amount of oxygen. Furthermore, image registration of pre- and post-explosion HST images is performed. Our HST astrometry confirms the location of the progenitor candidate, and follow-up spectra securely classify iPTF13bvn as a SN Ib. Our hydrodynamical model indicates an ejecta mass of 1.9 solar masses and radioactive nickel mass of 0.05 solar masses. The model fit requires the nickel to be highly mixed in the progenitor. The late-time nebular r'-band luminosity is not consistent with predictions based on the expected oxygen nucleosynthesis in very massive stars. Our bolometric light curve of iPTF13bvn is not consistent with the previously proposed single massive WR-star progenitor scenario. The ejecta mass and the late-time oxygen emission are both significantly lower than what would be expected from a single WR progenitor with a main-sequence mass of at least 30 solar masses.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present time series photometric and spectroscopic data for the transient SN 2009ip from the start of its outburst in September 2012 until November 2013. This data was collected primarily with the new robotic capabilities of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, a specialized facility for time domain astrophysics, and includes supporting high-resolution spectroscopy from the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope, Kitt Peak National Observatory, and Gemini Observatory. Based on our nightly photometric monitoring, we interpret the strength and timing of fluctuations in the light curve as interactions between fast-moving ejecta and an inhomogeneous CSM produced by past eruptions of this massive luminous blue variable (LBV) star. Our time series of spectroscopy in 2012 reveals that, as the continuum and narrow H-alpha flux from CSM interactions declines, the broad component of H-alpha persists with SN-like velocities that are not typically seen in LBVs or SN Impostor events. At late times we find that SN 2009ip continues to decline slowly, at <0.01 magnitudes per day, with small fluctuations in slope similar to Type IIn supernovae (SNe IIn) or SN impostors, but no further LBV-like activity. The late time spectrum features broad calcium lines similar to both late time SNe and SN Impostors. In general, we find that the photometric and spectroscopic evolution of SN 2009ip is more similar to SNe IIn than either continued eruptions of an LBV star or SN Impostors. In this context, we discuss the implications for episodic mass loss during the late stages of massive star evolution.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2014; 787(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this Letter, we report the discovery of SN2014J in the nearby galaxy M82. Given its proximity, it offers the best opportunity to date to study a thermonuclear supernova over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. The first set of optical, near-IR and mid-IR observations of SN2014J, orchestrated by the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF), show that SN2014J is a spectroscopically normal Type Ia supernova, albeit exhibiting high-velocity features in its spectrum and heavily reddened by dust in the host galaxy. Our earliest detections start just hours after the fitted time of explosion. We use high-resolution optical spectroscopy to analyze the dense intervening material and do not detect any evolution in the resolved absorption features during the lightcurve rise. Similarly to other highly reddened Type Ia supernovae, a low value of total-to-selective extinction, Rv < 2, provides the best match to our observations. We also study pre-explosion optical and near-IR images from HST with special emphasis on the sources nearest to the SN location.
    02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present new data for five under-luminous type II-plateau supernovae (SNe IIP), namely SN 1999gn, SN 2002gd, SN 2003Z, SN 2004eg and SN 2006ov. This new sample of low-luminosity SNe IIP (LL SNe IIP) is analyzed together with similar objects studied in the past. All of them show a flat light curve plateau lasting about 100 days, an under luminous late-time exponential tail, intrinsic colours that are unusually red, and spectra showing prominent and narrow P-Cygni lines. A velocity of the ejected material below 10^3 km/s is inferred from measurements at the end of the plateau. The 56Ni masses ejected in the explosion are very small (less than 10^-2 solar masses). We investigate the correlations among 56Ni mass, expansion velocity of the ejecta and absolute magnitude in the middle of the plateau, confirming the main findings of Hamuy (2003), according to which events showing brighter plateau and larger expansion velocities are expected to produce more 56Ni. We propose that these faint objects represent the low luminosity tail of a continuous distribution in parameters space of SNe IIP. The physical properties of the progenitors at the explosion are estimated through the hydrodynamical modeling of the observables for two representative events of this class, namely SN 2005cs and SN 2008in. We find that the majority of LL SNe IIP, and quite possibly all, originate in the core-collapse of intermediate mass stars, in the mass range 10-15 solar masses.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present cosmological constraints from a joint analysis of type Ia supernova (SN Ia) observations obtained by the SDSS-II and SNLS collaborations. The data set includes several low-redshift samples (z<0.1), all 3 seasons from the SDSS-II (0.05 < z < 0.4), and 3 years from SNLS (0.2 <z < 1) and totals \ntotc spectroscopically confirmed type Ia supernovae with high quality light curves. We have followed the methods and assumptions of the SNLS 3-year data analysis except for the following important improvements: 1) the addition of the full SDSS-II spectroscopically-confirmed SN Ia sample in both the training of the SALT2 light curve model and in the Hubble diagram analysis (\nsdssc SNe), 2) inter-calibration of the SNLS and SDSS surveys and reduced systematic uncertainties in the photometric calibration, performed blindly with respect to the cosmology analysis, and 3) a thorough investigation of systematic errors associated with the SALT2 modeling of SN Ia light-curves. We produce recalibrated SN Ia light-curves and associated distances for the SDSS-II and SNLS samples. The large SDSS-II sample provides an effective, independent, low-z anchor for the Hubble diagram and reduces the systematic error from calibration systematics in the low-z SN sample. For a flat LCDM cosmology we find Omega_m=0.295+-0.034 (stat+sys), a value consistent with the most recent CMB measurement from the Planck and WMAP experiments. Our result is 1.8sigma (stat+sys) different than the previously published result of SNLS 3-year data. The change is due primarily to improvements in the SNLS photometric calibration. When combined with CMB constraints, we measure a constant dark-energy equation of state parameter w=-1.018+-0.057 (stat+sys) for a flat universe. Adding BAO distance measurements gives similar constraints: w=-1.027+-0.055.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 01/2014; 568. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The detailed study of nearby type Ia supernovae is critical for understanding their diversity, progenitor systems and explosion mechanisms. The type Ia supernova SN 2012fr exploded in late October 2012 in the galaxy NGC 1365, located only 18 Mpc away. SN 2012fr was caught just days after explosion, and so presents an excellent opportunity to study in detail the properties of a type Ia, and to put it into context with other nearby events. Here we present data from the LCOGT network over ~1 year, including 17 spectra from the FLOYDS robotic spectrograph. We measure light curve parameters for the supernova, and present a detailed spectroscopic analysis of this unique event.
    01/2014;
  • D. Sand, S. Valenti, I. Arcavi, D. A. Howell
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    ABSTRACT: We report that a spectrum of PSN J13041770-1020012 was obtained with FLOYDS (range 320-1000nm) on Faulkes Telescope South on UT Jan 03.73 2014. The spectrum reveals it to be a Type II supernova at the redshift of the apparent host galaxy, NGC 4939 (z=0.01037). Classification was performed via supernova spectrum cross correlation using SNID (Blondin & Tonry, 2007, ApJ, 666, 1024), with the best-fitting template being SN 2005cs.
    The Astronomer's Telegram. 01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) has deployed a global network of 1-m and 2m optical telescopes, optimized for work in time-domain astronomy. Since our scientific staff is rather small, and since network operation necessarily involves close collaborations with other astronomical institutions, we aim to extend the scientific depth and scope of the Observatory by creating a formal Science Collaboration. This poster explains the structure and membership of the Collaboration, with emphasis on the notion of Key Projects that we intend as vehicles to perform scientific programs for which LCOGT's facilities are uniquely suited, and which will have the greatest scientific impact. The general subjects of these projects are already defined (Supernovae, Extrasolar Planets, Solar System, AGN, and Stellar Astrophysics). A Collaboration-wide proposal process to be carried out in early 2014 will determine which problems within these categories will be addressed in the first round of Key Projects.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT.net) is a collection of nine robotic one meter telescopes with imagers spaced around the world in longitude, operated as a single network. There are also two robotic FLOYDS spectrographs on the two meter Faulkes telescopes in Siding Spring, Australia, and Haleakala, Hawaii. Here we describe recent supernova lightcurves and spectra with taken with LCOGT after being triggered from Pan-STARRS1, the La Silla-QUEST survey, the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory, and the IAU circulars. Since at least one telescope is always in the dark, and the facilities are robotic, LCOGT is uniquely suited to early-time supernova science.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: CBET 3762 available at Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
    Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams. 12/2013;

Publication Stats

2k Citations
715.24 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • Weizmann Institute of Science
      • Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics
      Israel
  • 2010–2014
    • University of California, Santa Barbara
      • Department of Physics
      Santa Barbara, California, United States
  • 2013
    • The Nordic Optical Telescope
      Santa Cruz, Canary Islands, Spain
  • 2010–2013
    • Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network
      Goleta, California, United States
  • 2009
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2004–2009
    • University of Toronto
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2002–2008
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
      Berkeley, California, United States