Monday, June 13, 2022

UTSA professor presents stardust research at American Astronomical Society Conference

UTSA professor presents stardust research at American Astronomical Society Conference

UTSA’s Angela Speck will discuss her stardust crystallization research today during the semiannual conference of the American Astronomical Society.

JUNE 13, 2022 — Angela Speck, professor and chair in the UTSA College of Sciences’ physics and astronomy department, will discuss her findings regarding stardust crystallization today during the semiannual conference of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). This year’s event, which is being held at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California, through June 16, marks the 240th meeting of the AAS.

Entitled “Recalescence during crystallization of stardust: Resolution of the amorphous interstellar medium paradox,” Speck’s presentation examines in-depth details surrounding stardust, including its formation and crystallization.

Stardust contains a wide range of matter necessary for life including carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. When a star dies, these elements are ejected into space and serve as a “fertilizer” for forming new planets and life.


“Dust seems insignificant, but it impacts any environment in which it exists.”



Over the past five years, Speck has been researching how cosmic gas clouds are shaped, and how stardust interacts with energy and light. For instance, a carbon dust grain could be in the form of graphite—think coal or pencil lead—and would absorb light. A diamond dust grain would let light pass through.

Understanding what stardust is made of and its crystal structure is key to unlocking fundamental answers to how stars are born and how they die, contends Speck, who also believes that stardust can reveal other important concepts in the history of the universe. This knowledge may even be applied to solving issues back on Earth.


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“Dust seems insignificant, but it impacts any environment in which it exists,” Speck said. “We need to understand precise details about dust to understand its impact.”

Speck has collaborated on this project with Alan Whittington, professor in the college’s earth and planetary sciences department, and Alexander Sehlke from the NASA Ames Research Center.

Ryan Schoensee



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