Astronomía y Astrofísica

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El grupo de Astrofísica del IAM fue iniciado por el Dr. Peter Phillips (qepd) quien desde 1997 se incorporó a la UdeG y promovió la creación y consolidación de un grupo de investigadores dedicados a estudiar los procesos físicos que ocurren en el Universo. La profunda dedicación a la investigación del Dr. Phillips fue reconocida recientemente, otorgándosele el nivel III del SNI. Gracias a él, el grupo de Astrofísica creció y se está consolidando; su ejemplo es, sin duda, un aliciente para continuar con el proyecto que él inició.

 

Una de las áreas de la astronomía que se estudia actualmente en el IAM es la evolución estelar, especialmente las últimas fases evolutivas de las estrellas de baja masa o intermedia, las llamadas Nebulosas Planetarias (NPs).

 

Estos objetos son el resultado de la evolución de las estrellas parecidas al Sol. El origen de la gran variedad de morfologías observadas en las NPs es un tema de investigación importante actualmente. Muchas de estas morfologías son posibles de explicar como simples proyecciones geométricas de un modelo único, generalmente bipolar o multipolar, sin embargo, la formación de esa geometría multipolar es lo que aun está por ser explicado desde el punto de vista de la Física.

 

Algunos miembros del grupo de Astrofísica del IAM, nos dedicamos a estudiar estos objetos. Para ello aprovechamos toda la información de que disponemos por lo que analizamos la radiación que nos llega no solo en las bandas de luz visible sino en el infrarrojo, el ultravioleta, en radio, rayos X etc. Esto nos permite tener una visión más completa de los diferentes procesos que se llevan a cabo en estos objetos, además de determinar sus características físicas tales como temperatura, densidad, masa, además de las características químicas como la composición o el nivel de ionización. El estudio de las NPs es importante porque corroboramos los resultados de los modelos evolutivos estelares y fijar las condiciones a la frontera que deben de cumplir estos modelos. Por otra parte, dado que el material que expulsan estos objetos enriquece el medio interestelar, su estudio es fundamental para entender la evolución química de nuestra Galaxia.

 

 Otra área de la astrofísica que es estudiada por investigadores del IAM es la estructura y evolución de estrellas masivas. Al tratarse de estrellas muy brillantes, es posible observarlas y analizarlas tanto en la Vía Láctea, como en galaxias cercanas. El espectro de estos objetos a resoluciones altas nos permite determinar la velocidad de los vientos  de dichas estrellas, su velocidad de rotación, así como su composición química, la masa involucrada, etc.

 

Otra línea de investigación en el IAM  es el estudio de las galaxias individuales, cúmulos y grupos compactos de galaxias, galaxias cD y material intracúmulo. Los grupos compactos de galaxias representan verdaderos laboratorios donde es posible estudiar la dinámica del cúmulo y  las interacciones entre las galaxias, las que no solo afectan su morfología sino también su historia tanto evolutiva como química.

 

Recientemente se ha empezado a desarrollar en el IAM la aplicación de técnicas de inteligencia artificial (IA) en la Astronomía. Por medio del uso de redes neuronales artificiales se ha logrado diseñar un sistema que permite la clasificación automática de espectros estelares y actualmente se trabaja en la clasificación espectral automática de galaxias. El uso de técnicas de IA en Astrofísica se inició desde hace ya más de dos décadas con el fin de poder aplicar estos sistemas de clasificación a las grandes bases de datos que estaban por llegar y que actualmente son una realidad.