Kimberly Sokal

Department of Astronomy
P.O. Box 400325
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4325
(434) 924-7935
krs9tb [at] virginia [dot] edu

Current Research and Ongoing Projects

Part of the Star Formation Group at UVa

My favorite things in astronomy are probably supernovae and massive stars -- they live fast and die young (as supernovae!!!). Therefore I study the most extreme kind of massive stars, which are called Wolf-Rayet stars. And as Peter Conti says, the results when these guys get together are fantastic and totally exciting.

Specifically, I am focused on the evolution of super star clusters, which can host 100s to 1000s of massive stars. They form essentially in a nursery of dense natal material, but we all recognize them as clusters of massive stars. So how does that happen? Some astronomers know how it works for typical (much smaller) clusters. But SSCs have so many massive stars that these massive star populations might drive the evolution and clear out the material!

In one sentence, I am studying how massive star clusters emerge and the impact of Wolf-Rayet stars. To do this, I use:

  • Optical spectral observations with the 4m Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the 6.5m MMT
  • Data gathered with the 3.5m Telescope at Apache Point Observatory
  • Archival Hubble, Spitzer, and Herschel Space Telescope data
  • Newly acquired CARMA observations