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Natalie at LLNL (US)

The elite study program “Physics Advanced” at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) puts an emphasis on students participating in research projects in parallel to course work. Through these channels, Dr. Natalie Hell learned about and was able to secure a research internship in the EBIT group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)’s RISE in North America (now RISE worldwide) program, where she was first introduced to the field of laboratory astrophysics in the X-ray regime.

Laboratory measurements in support of X-ray astrophysics

Energetic processes in astrophysical objects cause emission of a continuum of X-radiation. Material in the environment of these objects imprints additional spectral line features onto these spectra. Their line energies and intensities are used to determine elemental abundances, temperatures, densities, and dynamics of the material in the observed objects. These diagnostics are based on the atomic physics that is characteristic to ion species and plasma property. Often, atomic reference data are not sufficiently accurate for reliable interpretation of the observed spectra. Advances in high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy brought on by the next generation of space-based X-ray observatories further increase the need for accurate atomic data. Laboratory astrophysics seeks to gauge and improve these data through studies in a controlled laboratory environment. Natalie Hell studies these X-ray lines through measurements with the LLNL electron beam ion traps and a suit of high-resolution X-ray spectrometers.

Continued project and collaboration

Following her initial DAAD 12-week internship in the EBIT group at LLNL in 2010, Natalie Hell returned to EBIT for significant portions of the research for her Master’s and PhD theses at the Dr.-Remeis-Sternwarte at the Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP), FAU. This arrangement established a new collaboration of the Dr.-Remeis-Sternwarte and the LLNL EBIT group. After graduation from FAU in 2017, Natalie Hell started a PostDoc position at LLNL, where she is taking a leading role in the laboratory astrophysics efforts at EBIT. Ongoing collaboration with the Dr.-Remeis-Sternwarte/ECAP at FAU enables new generations of FAU students to gain insights into the important field of laboratory astrophysics in the X-ray regime.

Further information

https://www.sternwarte.uni-erlangen.de/remeis-start/research/x-ray-astronomy/atomic-physics/
https://ebit.llnl.gov/