Research Interests and Goals
My principal research interests center on using computers, computer software, and new computer algorithms to perform astronomical research and advance the work of other astronomers at UW. Examples of my own research in this area include the creation of high precision astrometric software to produce mean light curves from space-based pulsar photometry with sub-microsecond precision, the use of new wavelet compression theory to develop and test a viable method of transmitting astronomical images over inexpensive but slow data links while maintaining a very high effective bandwidth, and a new state-machine approach to the traditional problem of producing and reducing astronomical coordinates for the purposes of pointing a telescope.
Examples of work in support of UW astronomy include:
- Principal Investigator of the mighty Star Tracker 5000. This amazing device provides 3-axis stabilization for sounding rockets, low-bandwidth image transmission, and a "lost in space" ability to determine where it is pointed by analyzing star patterns.
- the design and construction of a network-transparent, machine-independent telescope control system that allows remote use from multiple sites simultaneously. This control system is used by the WIYN and WHAM observatories.
- the development of a grammar-based compiler for Hubble Space Telescope command loads that produces command summaries suitable for use by astronomers in checking observing proposals and by engineers in verifying the safety of flight hardware.
- the design and implementation of a table-driven state machine that performs high-precision astronomical coordinate transformations. It is a fast, compact code that agrees to the few-milliarcsecond level with the United States Naval Observatory's NOVAS and Patrick Wallace's SLALIB. It is suitable for hard-real-time control systems or desktop computing. This code is used for pointing the WIYN 3.5m telescope, Matt Haffner's WHAM H-Alpha mapper, and the Southern African Large Telescope. For the SALT application, the code was compiled on a Windows box (!) and embedded into LabVIEW.
Short- and long-term goals include research into autonomous determination of attitude in rockets and spacecraft for guidance and control and real-time compression of image data suitable for bandwidth conservation in space-based applications.