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Thomas E. Oberst

Associate Professor

Physics Faculty


oberstte@westminster.edu

(724) 946-7204


Campus Location:
   Hoyt Science Resources Center
   124
Mailbox: 1


Mail:
Thomas E. Oberst
Department of Physics
Westminster College
New Wilmington, PA 16172
 
Phone:
724-946-7204
 
Email:
oberstte -at- westminster.edu

Thomas E. Oberst

About Me


Assistant Professor of Physics
Director, Westminster College Planetarium and Observatory

 
PROFESSIONAL PREPARATION

B.S. Physics, Duquesne University, 2001
B.S. Mathematics, Duquesne University, 2001
M.S. Physics, Cornell University, 2007
Ph.D. Astrophysics, Cornell University, 2009
 
TEACHING

I teach several courses in physics and astronomy for the Westminster College Department of Physics, including:
Astronomy (PHY 121), Foundations of Physics (PHY 141), Optics (PHY 231), Thermal Physics (PHY 311), Modern Physics (PHY 313), Electromagnetic Theory (PHY 352), and Astrophysics (PHY 402).

In my teaching I provide individual attention to each student and incorporate the lastest pedagogical research findings and best practices, including Think Pair Share, Classroom Response Systems, Just-In-Time Teaching, Lecture Tutorials, group problems, interactive demonstrations, software simulations, student presentations, and student inquiry -- as well as some traditional lecture.

OUTREACH

I direct the Westminster College Planetarium, where we offer indoor fulldome programs and outdoor stargazing for the College, surrounding community, K-12 classes, scouts, and other groups. For more information please visit our website at www.westminster.edu/planetarium.

I also deliever many astronomy-related talks and workshops in the community, including for youth summer reading programs at libraries and for amateur astronomer gatherings.

RESEARCH
 
Discovering new planets
Every clear night, my students and I use a remotely controlled semi-automated telescope on the Westminster College campus to search for new worlds. Our current targets include exoplanetary candidates for KELT, Kepler, and several other projects, which we help to vet and characterize. We have co-discovered 12 exoplanets so far. Seeing exoplanets directly is very difficult because they are extremely distant and don’t produce their own light, as do stars. Therefore, we wait and watch for stars to dim when their planets cross in front of them – a technique known as the transit method. We are able to detect dimmings of as little as 0.2 % of a star’s brightness, which can correspond to planets ranging in size from super-Earths to inflated Jupiters, depending on the size of the host star.
 
Stellar nurseries
My other line of research asks, “what environment are stars born into?” To help answer this, I’ve observed from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and from the former Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory (AST/RO) at the Earth’s south pole. Stellar nurseries are shrouded in clouds of gas and dust, which are best penetrated by and emit most of their energy in the far-infrared and submillimeter wavelengths of light. Because moisture in Earth’s atmosphere blocks these wavelengths, the best telescopes for these observations are located where it’s high, dry, and cold. These observations have helped determine basic properties of the places where stars form – including the species of chemicals present and their abundances and densities.
 
Research Students Advised

Present
Tyler M. Heintz

Past
Samuel N. Mellon: Currently in physics & astronomy Ph.D. program at the U. of Rochester
William P. Armentrout: Currently in physics & astronomy Ph.D. program at West Virginia U.
Daniel K. Giles: Currently in physics Ph.D. program at Illinois Institute of Technology; Formerly employed at Boeing corp.
Stefanie Mack: Currently in Ph.D. program at the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography
Christopher Ellwanger: Currently employed at Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory; M.Eng. from the U. of Pittsburgh
Ryan Avril: Currently in M.Eng. program at the U. of Pittsburgh
Brett W. McElroy
Gabriel R. Ferraro

Select Publications

Eastman, J. D., Beatty, T. G., Siverd, R. J., Antognini, J. M. O., Penny, M. T., Gonzales, E. J., Crepp, J. R., Howard, A. W., *Avril, R. L., Bieryla, A., Collins, K., Fulton, B. J., Ge, J., Ma, B., *Mellon, S. N., Oberst, T. E., Wang, J., Gaudi, B. S., Pepper, J., Stassun, K. G., Buchhave, L. A., Jensen, E. L. N., Latham, D. W., Berlind, P., Calkins, M. L., Cargile, P. A., Colon, K. D., Dhital, S., Esquerdo, G. A., Gregorio, J., Johnson, J. A., Kielkopf, J. F., Manner, M., Mao, Q., McLeod, K. K., Penev, K., Stefanik, R. P., Street, R., DePoy, D. L., Gould, A., Marshall, J. L., Pogge, R. W., Trueblood, M., Trueblood, P. 2015, “KELT-4AB: An inflated hot Jupiter transiting the bright (V ~ 10) component of a hierarchical triple”, The Astronomical Journal, submitted.

Rodriguez, J. E., Colon, K. D., Stassun, K. G., Wright, D., Cargile, P. A., Bayliss, D., Pepper, J., Collins, K. A., Kuhn, R. B., Lund, M. B., Siverd, R. J., Zhou, G., Gaudi, B. S., Tinney, C. G., Penev, K., Tan, T. G., Stockdale, C., Curtis, I., James, D., Udry, S., Segransan, D., Bieryla, A., Latham, D. W., Beatty, T. G., Eastman, J. D., Myers, G., Bartz, J., Bento, J., Jensen, E. L. N., Oberst, T. E., Stevens, D. J. 2015, “KELT-14b and KELT-15b: An independent discovery of WASP-122b and a new hot Jupiter”, The Astronomical Journal, submitted.

Kuhn, R. B., Rodriguez, J. E., Collins, K. A., Lund, M. B., Siverd, R. J., Colón, K. D., Pepper, J., Stassun, K. G., Cargile, P. A., James, D. J., Penev, K., Zhou, G., Bayliss, D., Tan, T. G., Curtis, I. A., Udry, S., Segransan, D., Mawet, D., Soutter, J., Hart, R., Carter, B., Gaudi, B. S., Myers, G., Beatty, T. G., Eastman, J. D., Reichart, D. E., Haislip, J. B., Kielkopf, J., Bieryla, A., Latham, D. W., Jensen, E. L. N., Oberst, T. E., Stevens, D. J. 2015, “KELT-10b: The first transiting exoplanet from the KELT-South survey – a hot sub-Jupiter transiting a V = 10.7 early G-star”, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, submitted.

Fulton, B. J., Collins, K. A., Gaudi, B. S., Stassun, K. G., Pepper, J., Beatty, T. G., Siverd, R. J., Penev, K., Howard, A. W., Baranec, C., Corfini, G., Eastman, J. D., Gregorio, J., Law, N. M., Lund, M. B., Oberst, T. E., Penny, M. T., Riddle, R., Rodriguez, J. E., Stevens, D. J., Zambelli, R., Ziegler, C., Bieryla, A., D`Ago, G., DePoy, D. L., Jensen, E. L. N., Kielkopf, J. F., Latham, D. W., Manner, M., Marshall, J., McLeod, K. K., Reed, P. A. 2015, “KELT-8b: A highly inflated transiting hot Jupiter and a new technique for extracting high-precision radial velocities from noisy spectra”, The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 810, id. 30

Bieryla, A., Collins, K., Beatty, T. G., Eastman, J., Siverd, R. J., Pepper, J., Gaudi, B. S., Stassun, K. G., Canas, C., Latham, D. W., Buchhave, L. A., Sanchis-Ojeda, R., Winn, J. N., Jensen, E. L. N., Kielkopf, J. F., McLeod, K. K., Gregorio, J., Colon, K. D., Street, R., Ross, R., Penny, M., *Mellon, S. N., Oberst, T. E., Fulton, B. J., Wang, J., Berlind, P., Calkins, M. L., Esquerdo, G. A., DePoy, D. L., Gould, A., Marshall, J., Pogge, R., Trueblood, M., Trueblood, P. 2015, “KELT-7b: A hot Jupiter transiting a bright V=8.54 rapidly rotating F-star”, The Astronomical Journal, vol. 150, id. 12

Collins, K. A., Eastman, J. D., Beatty, T. G., Siverd, R. J., Gaudi, B. S., Pepper, J., Kielkopf, J. F., Johnson, J. A., Howard, A. W., Fischer, D. A., Manner, M., Bieryla, A., Latham, D. W., Fulton, B. J., Gregorio, J., Buchhave, L. A., Jensen, E. L. N., Stassun, K. G., Penev, K., Crepp, J. R., Hinkley, S., Street, R. A., Cargile, P., Mack, C. E., Oberst, T. E., *Avril, R. L., *Mellon, S. N., McLeod, K. K., Penny, M. T., Stefanik, R. P., Berlind, P., Calkins, M. L., Mao, Q., Richert, A. J., Depoy, D. L., Esquerdo, G. A., Gould, A., Marshall, J. L., Oelkers, R. J., Pogge, R. W., Trueblood, M., Trueblood. P. 2014, “KELT-6b: A P~7.9 d hot Saturn transiting a metal-poor star with a long-period companion”, The Astronomical Journal, vol. 147, 39

Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Nikola, T., Stacey, G. J., Löhr, A., Lane, A. P., Stark, A. A., Kamenetzky, J.  2011, “A 205 mm [NII] map of the Carina Nebula”, The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 739, p. 100

Hailey-Dunsheath, S., Nikola, T., Stacey, G. J., Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Benford, D. J., Staguhn, J. G., and Tucker, C. E. 2010, “Detection of the 158 um [CII] Transition at z = 1.3: Evidence for a Galaxy-wide Starburst”, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 714, p. L162

Hailey-Dunsheath, S., Nikola, T., Stacey, G. J., Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Bradford, C. M., Ade, P. A. R., Tucker, C. E. 2008, “Detection of the 13CO(J = 6 – 5) transition in the Starburst Galaxy NGC 253”, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 689, p. L109

Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Stacey, G. J., Nikola, T., Löhr, A., Harnett, J. I., Tothill, N. F. H., Lane, A. P., Stark, A. A., Tucker, C. E. 2006, “Detection of the 205 μm [NII] Line from the Carina Nebula”, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 652, p. L125

Select Presentations

Oberst, T. E., *Mellon, S. N., Pecaut, M. J., Mamajek, E. E. 2015, “Angular Momentum Evolution of Pre-Main Sequence Stars in the Nearest OB Association”, International Astronomical Union General Assembly, mtg. 29, num. 2258446

Bieryla, A., Collins, K. A., Beatty, T. G., Eastman, J. D., Siverd, R., Pepper, J., Gaudi, B. S., Stassun, K., Canas, C., Latham, D. W., Buchhave, L. A., Sanchis Ojeda, R., Winn, J. N., Jensen, E. L. N., Kielkopf, J. F., McLeod, K. K., Gregorio, J., Colon, K. D., Street, R., Ross, R. J., Penny, M., Oberst, T. E., Fulton, B. J., Berlind, P. L., Calkins, M. L., Esquerdo, G. 2015, “KELT-7b: A hot Jupiter transiting a bright V = 8.57 F-star”, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, mtg. 225, num. 257.12

Oberst, T. E., Beatty, T. G., Bieryla, A., Bozza, V., Collins, K., D'Ago, G., Eastman, J. D., Gaudi, B. S., Jang-Condell, H., Jensen, E. L. N., Kielkopf, J., Lund, M. B., Manner, M., McLeod, K. K., Novati, S. C., Penny, M. T., Pepper, J., Reed, P. A., Rodriguez, J. E., Scarpetta, G., Siverd, R. J., Stassun, K. G., Street, R. A. 2014, “The KELT Survey for Transiting Planets”, Search for Life Beyond the Solar System: Exoplanets, Biosignatures and Instruments.

*Avril, R. L., Oberst, T. E. 2014, “Performance of Electroluminescent Flats for Precision Light Curve Photometry”, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, mtg. 223, num. 148.40

Collins, K. A., Siverd, R., Beatty, T. G., Eastman, J., Gaudi, B. S., Pepper, J., Stassun, K., Latham, D. W., Bieryla, A., Manner, M., Jensen, E. L., Kielkopf, J. F., Gregorio, J., Fulton, B. J., Buchhave, L. A., Penev, K., Crepp, J. R., Cargile, P., Mack, C. E., Oberst, T. E., *Avril, R. L., *Mellon, S., McLeod, K. K., Dhital, S., Stefanik, R. P., Calkins, M. L., Esquerdo, G., Berlind, P. L., Street, R., Zambelli, R., Mao, Q., Richert, A. J., Gould, A., Depoy, D. L., Marshall, J. L., Pogge, R. W., Trueblood, M., Trueblood. P. 2013, “KELT-6b: A Transiting Mildly-Inflated Saturn with a Metal-Poor Host”, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, mtg. 222, num. 302.03

Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Nikola, T., Stacey, G. J., Loehr, A., Lane, A. P., Stark, A. A., Kamenetzky, J. 2011, “Submillimeter and Far-Infrared Observations of the Carina Nebula”, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, mtg. 218, num.  129.19

Ferkinhoff, C., Hailey-Dunsheath, S., Nikola, T., Oberst, T., Parshley, S., Stacey, G., Benford, D., Staguhn, J. 2010, “[CII] at 1 < z < 2: Observing Star Formation in the Early Universe With Zeus 1&2”, Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, mtg. 215, num.  387.08

Oberst, T. E., Stacey, G. J., Nikola, T., Parshley, S. P., Stark A. A., Lane A. P., Lohr, A., Tothill, N. F. H., Harnett, J. I. 2009, “A 205 um [NII] Map of the Carina Nebula”, XXVIIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, Joint Discussion 14, num. 2

Benford, D. J., Staguhn, J. G., Moseley, S. H., Allen, C. A., Chervenak, J. A., Irwin, K. D., Dicker, S. R., Devlin, M. J., Nikola, T., Oberst, T. E., Stacey, G. J. 2007, “Superconducting Bolometers for Submillimeter Spectroscopy from Ground-Based, Airborne, and Space Platforms”, From Z-Machines to ALMA: (Sub)Millimeter Spectroscopy of Galaxies, ASP Conference Series, vol. 375, p. 217

Stacey, G. J., Hailey-Dunsheath, S., Nikola, T., Oberst, T. E., Parshley, S. C., Benford, D. J., Staguhn, J. G., Moseley, S. H., Tucker, C. 2007, “ZEUS: the Redshift (z) and Early Universe Spectrometer”, From Z-Machines to ALMA: (Sub)Millimeter Spectroscopy of Galaxies, ASP Conference Series, vol. 375, p. 52

Oberst, T. E., Nikola, T., Parshley, S. C., Stacey, G. J.,  Tothill, N. F. H., Harnett, J. I., Lane, A. P., Stark, A. A., Tucker, C. R. 2006, “Terahertz Astronomy from the South Pole”, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Hobart, Australia

*Denotes student author