Charles Alcock - CfA

Charles Alcock
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Charles Alcock

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Astrophysics (16)
Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (5)
Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics (4)
Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (2)
Statistics - Applications (1)
Statistics - Methodology (1)
Computer Science - Learning (1)
Astrophysics of Galaxies (1)
High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (1)
Physics - Data Analysis; Statistics and Probability (1)

Publications Authored By Charles Alcock

How black holes accrete surrounding matter is a fundamental, yet unsolved question in astrophysics. It is generally believed that matter is absorbed into black holes via accretion disks, the state of which depends primarily on the mass-accretion rate. When this rate approaches the critical rate (the Eddington limit), thermal instability is supposed to occur in the inner disc, causing repetitive patterns of large-amplitude X-ray variability (oscillations) on timescales of minutes to hours. Read More

We present proper motions for the Large & Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC & SMC) based on three epochs of \textit{Hubble Space Telescope} data, spanning a $\sim 7$ yr baseline, and centered on fields with background QSOs. The first two epochs, the subject of past analyses, were obtained with ACS/HRC, and have been reanalyzed here. The new third epoch with WFC3/UVIS increases the time baseline and provides better control of systematics. Read More

We present 663 QSO candidates in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) selected using multiple diagnostics. We started with a set of 2,566 QSO candidates from our previous work selected using time variability of the MACHO LMC lightcurves. We then obtained additional information for the candidates by crossmatching them with the Spitzer SAGE, the MACHO UBVI, the 2MASS, the Chandra and the XMM catalogs. Read More

We present a new QSO selection algorithm using a Support Vector Machine (SVM), a supervised classification method, on a set of extracted times series features including period, amplitude, color, and autocorrelation value. We train a model that separates QSOs from variable stars, non-variable stars and microlensing events using 58 known QSOs, 1,629 variable stars and 4,288 non-variables using the MAssive Compact Halo Object (MACHO) database as a training set. To estimate the efficiency and the accuracy of the model, we perform a cross-validation test using the training set. Read More

We study the dynamics of the Magellanic Clouds in a model for the Local Group whose mass is constrained using the timing argument/two-body limit of the action principle. The goal is to evaluate the role of M31 in generating the high angular momentum orbit of the Clouds, a puzzle that has only been exacerbated by the latest $HST$ proper motion measurements. We study the effects of varying the total Local Group mass, the relative mass of the Milky Way and M31, the proper motion of M31, and the proper motion of the LMC on this problem. Read More

Catalogs of periodic variable stars contain large numbers of periodic light-curves (photometric time series data from the astrophysics domain). Separating anomalous objects from well-known classes is an important step towards the discovery of new classes of astronomical objects. Most anomaly detection methods for time series data assume either a single continuous time series or a set of time series whose periods are aligned. Read More

We present a new approach to the analysis of time symmetry in light curves, such as those in the x-ray at the center of the Scorpius X-1 occultation debate. Our method uses a new parameterization for such events (the bilogistic event profile) and provides a clear, physically relevant characterization of each event's key features. We also demonstrate a Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm to carry out this analysis, including a novel independence chain configuration for the estimation of each event's location in the light curve. Read More

We conducted a search for occultations of bright stars by Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) to estimate the density of sub-km KBOs in the sky. We report here the first results of this occultation survey of the outer solar system conducted in June 2007 and June/July 2008 at the MMT Observatory using Megacam, the large MMT optical imager. We used Megacam in a novel shutterless continuous--readout mode to achieve high precision photometry at 200 Hz. Read More

We present a de-trending algorithm for the removal of trends in time series. Trends in time series could be caused by various systematic and random noise sources such as cloud passages, changes of airmass, telescope vibration or CCD noise. Those trends undermine the intrinsic signals of stars and should be removed. Read More

In HST Cycles 11 and 13 we obtained two epochs of ACS/HRC data for fields in the Magellanic Clouds centered on background quasars. We used these data to determine the proper motions of the LMC and SMC to better than 5% and 15% respectively. The results had a number of unexpected implications for the Milky Way-LMC-SMC system. Read More

The HST proper motion (PM) measurements of the Clouds have severe implications for their interaction history with the Milky Way (MW) and with each other. The Clouds are likely on their first passage about the MW and the SMC's orbit about the LMC is better described as quasi-periodic rather than circular. Binary L/SMC orbits that satisfy observational constraints on their mutual interaction history (e. Read More

We present a new sample of 4634 eclipsing binary stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), expanding on a previous sample of 611 objects and a new sample of 1509 eclipsing binary stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), that were identified in the light curve database of the MACHO project. We perform a cross correlation with the OGLE-II LMC sample, finding 1236 matches. A cross correlation with the OGLE-II SMC sample finds 698 matches. Read More

We present results from a study of the orbits of eclipsing binary stars (EBs) in the Magellanic Clouds. The samples comprise 4510 EBs found in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) by the MACHO project, 2474 LMC EBs found by the OGLE-II project (of which 1182 are also in the MACHO sample), 1380 in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) found by the MACHO project, and 1317 SMC EBs found by the OGLE-II project (of which 677 are also in the MACHO sample); we also consider the EROS sample of 79 EBs in the bar of the LMC. Statistics of the phase differences between primary and secondary minima allow us to infer the statistics of orbital eccentricities within these samples. Read More

Affiliations: 1Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 2Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 3Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 4KICP, 5Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 6STScI, 7Harvard-Smithsonian CfA
Category: Astrophysics

Recent proper motion measurements of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC, respectively) by Kallivayalil et al (2006a,b) suggest that the 3D velocities of the Clouds are substantially higher (~100 km/s) than previously estimated and now approach the escape velocity of the Milky Way (MW). Previous studies have also assumed that the Milky Way can be adequately modeled as an isothermal sphere to large distances. Here we re-examine the orbital history of the Clouds using the new velocities and a LCDM-motivated MW model with virial mass Mvir = 1e12 Msun (e. Read More

We report on the identification of the lens responsible for microlensing event MACHO-LMC-20. As part of a \textit{Spitzer}/IRAC program conducting mid-infrared follow-up of the MACHO Large Magellanic Cloud microlensing fields, we discovered a significant flux excess at the position of the source star for this event. These data, in combination with high resolution near-infrared \textit{Magellan}/PANIC data has allowed us to classify the lens as an early M dwarf in the thick disk of the Milky Way, at a distance of $\sim 2$ kpc. Read More

We present a measurement of the systemic proper motion of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) made using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the \textit{Hubble Space Telescope} (\textit{HST}). We tracked the SMC's motion relative to 4 background QSOs over a baseline of approximately 2 years. The measured proper motion is : $\mu_W = -1. Read More

Affiliations: 1CfA, 2STScI, 3CfA, 4Steward Observatory, 5LLNL, 6Caltech, 7Carnegie Observatories
Category: Astrophysics

We present a measurement of the systemic proper motion of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) from astrometry with the High Resolution Camera (HRC) of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We observed LMC fields centered on 21 background QSOs that were discovered from their optical variability in the MACHO database. The QSOs are distributed homogeneously behind the central few degrees of the LMC. Read More

The light curve of a blue variable in the MACHO LMC database (FTS ID 78.5979.72) appeared nearly unvarying for ~4 years (quasi-flat segment) but then rapidly changed to become periodic with noisy minima for the remaining 4 years (periodic segment); there are no antecedent indications of a gradual approach to this change. Read More

Affiliations: 1Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 2UPenn, 3Harvard-Smithsonian CfA
Category: Astrophysics

We present an algorithm that allows fast and efficient detection of transits, including planetary transits, from light-curves. The method is based on building an ensemble of fiducial models and compressing the data using the MOPED algorithm. We describe the method and demonstrate its efficiency by finding planet-like transits in simulated Pan-STARRS light-curves. Read More

We have carried out photometry of the microlensing event MACHO-LMC-5 with Spitzer's IRAC ten years after the magnification of the LMC source star was recorded. This event is unique in the annals of gravitational microlensing: the lensing star itself has been observed using HST (once with WFPC2 and twice with ACS/HRC). Since the separation between the source and lens at the epoch of the Spitzer observations was $\sim0. Read More

The Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey (TAOS) will detect objects in the Kuiper Belt, by measuring the rate of occultations of stars by these objects, using an array of three to four 50cm wide-field robotic telescopes. Thousands of stars will be monitored, resulting in hundreds of millions of photometric measurements per night. To optimize the success of TAOS, we have investigated various methods of gathering and processing the data and developed statistical methods for detecting occultations. Read More

We have performed a search for halo white dwarfs as high proper motion objects in a second epoch WFPC2 image of the Groth-Westphal strip. We identify 24 high proper motion objects with mu > 0.014 ''/yr. Read More

We entertain the idea that robust theoretical expectations can become a tool in removing hidden observational or data-reduction biases. We illustrate this approach for a specific problem associated with gravitational microlensing. Using the fact that a group is more than just a collection of individuals, we derive formulae for correcting the distribution of the dimensionless impact parameters of events, u_min. Read More

The accretion of comets onto DA white dwarfs can produce observable metal absorption lines. We show here that comet systems around the progenitor main sequence star are vulnerable to being lost during asymptotic giant branch mass loss, if the mass loss is sufficiently asymmetric to impart modest linear momentum to the white dwarf. This may have bearing on the frequency of observation of heavy elements in white dwarf stars, and on inferences regarding the frequency of comet systems, if the imparted linear velocities of white dwarfs can be estimated. Read More