Connor Pickett

Connor Pickett

Postgraduate Research Student
B.S. Astronomy


My research project


Connor Stephen Pickett, Noel D Richardson, Theodore R Gull, D John Hillier, Henrik Hartman, Nour Ibrahim, Alexis M. Lane, Emily Strawn, Augusto Damineli, Anthony F. J Moffat, Felipe Navarete, Gerd Weigelt (2022)Changes in the Na D1 Absorption Components of η Carinae Provide Clues on the Location of the Dissipating Central Occulter, In: The Astrophysical journal937(2) The American Astronomical Society

The Na D absorption doublet in the spectrum of η Carinae is complex, with multiple absorption features associated with the Great Eruption (1840s), the Lesser Eruption (1890s), and the interstellar clouds. The velocity profile is further complicated by the P Cygni profile originating in the system's stellar winds and blending with the He i λ5876 profile. The Na D profile contains a multitude of absorption components, including those at velocities of −145 km s−1, −168 km s−1, and +87 km s−1, which we concentrate on in this analysis. Ground-based spectra recorded from 2008 to 2021 show significant variability of the −145 km s−1 absorption throughout long-term observations. In the high-ionization phases of η Carinae prior to the 2020 periastron passage, this feature disappeared completely but briefly reappeared across the 2020 periastron, along with a second absorption at −168 km s−1. Over the past few decades, η Carinae has been gradually brightening, which is shown to be caused by a dissipating occulter. The decreasing absorption of the −145 km s−1 component, coupled with similar trends seen in absorptions of ultraviolet resonant lines, indicate that this central occulter was possibly a large clump associated with the Little Homunculus or another clump between the Little Homunculus and the star. We also report on a foreground absorption component at +87 km s−1. Comparison of Na D absorption in the spectra of nearby systems demonstrates that this redshifted component likely originates in an extended foreground structure consistent with a previous ultraviolet spectral survey in the Carina Nebula.

Emily Strawn, Noel D Richardson, Anthony J Moffat, Nour Ibrahim, Alexis Lane, Connor Stephen Pickett, Andre-Nicolas Chene, Michael F Corcoran, Augusto Damineli, Theodore R Gull, D John Hillier, Patrick Morris, Herbert Pablo, Joshua D Thomas, Ian R Stephens, Mairan Teodoro, Gerd Weigelt (2023)The orbital kinematics of η Carinae over three periastra with a possible detection of the elusive secondary’s motion, In: Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society519(4)pp. 5882-5892

The binary η Carinae is the closest example of a very massive star, which may have formed through a merger during its Great Eruption in the mid-19th century. We aimed to confirm and improve the kinematics using a spectroscopic data set taken with the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory 1.5-m telescope over the time period of 2008–2020, covering three periastron passages of the highly eccentric orbit. We measure line variability of H α and H β, where the radial velocity and orbital kinematics of the primary star were measured from the H β emission line using a bisector method. At phases away from periastron, we observed the He ii 4686 emission moving opposite the primary star, consistent with a possible Wolf–Rayet companion, although with a seemingly narrow emission line. This could represent the first detection of emission from the companion.