Richard ((Adlai E. Stevenson H.S.)
Mentor: Ilias Cholis
Dark matter is at the forefront of modern astrophysical research today, with dozens of theories that seek to explain what exactly it is, and a dearth of observational evidence for those theories. This summer, I worked with Ilias Cholis in the Theoretical Astrophysics department on visualizing data from the Fermi-LAT detector (which is not affiliated with Fermilab in any way) in Python. We focused on the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, due to its massive mass-to-light ratio of over 430 (in solar units).
By modeling incoming photons as 2-dimensional Gaussian functions and summing over the arc of Virgo Cluster, we obtained visualizations of gamma ray emissions from the cluster and were able to calculate the expected number of photons for any given area. Then, I learned HEALpix, enabling me to produce equal-area spherical projections of the same plots. I was not able to conduct full analysis of the data and compare it to theoretical dark matter models, considering the improper smearing of the Gaussian functions as we projected the data onto a sphere, with the mistaken valuing of longitudinal smearing s. latitudinal smearing.
Possible directions for future research include corrections to the spherical projections of the data, as well as point source masking, CMB and diffuse radiation masking, and statistical data analysis, comparing it to theoretical dark matter models. .