Image Credit: A. Frebel / McDonald Observatory
Today, another postdoc here at the University of Texas leaves us for warmer climes. Anna Frebel, a German astronomer educated in Australia and now working here in the States, is leaving Texas to be a prestigious postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Anna works on metal-poor stars. Every star has some amount of metal in it. Most stars have about the same amount of metal as the sun. But the stars that Anna studies have only between one thousandth and one millionth the amount of metal that the sun has. These stars are thought to be some of the oldest stars in the Universe, formed shortly after the Big Bang, and before a lot of supernovae could churn out metallic elements. (The Big Bang only made hydrogen, helium, and tiny amounts of lithium; everything else in the Universe has been made by stars since then.) Recently, Anna proved that these stars are as old as the Universe, which confirms this theory.
Let me also point out the obvious: Anna is a woman. And she's a darn good astronomer (better than me, in many ways). So, if any of you women out there ever hear that girls can't do math or science, Anna (among many other women, historical and present) that prove you can, and that you can run circles around many of us men. Click here to read more about the improving, but still unequal, status of women in astronomy.
Anna is a fun person who has brought a lot of life as well as science know-how to this department and to our little group of postdoctoral researchers here. Postdoc life is tough in that we're always saying goodbye to one of our friends; our stay at any one place is only a few short years. Good luck, Anna, we'll miss you!