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Hierarchies of Models: Toward Understanding Planetary NebulaeStars like our sun (initial masses between 0.8 to 8 solar masses) end their lives as swollen red giants surrounded by cool extended atmospheres. The nuclear reactions in their cores create carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which are transported by convection to the outer envelope of the stellar atmosphere. As the star finally collapses to become a white dwarf, this envelope is expelled from the star to form a planetary nebula (PN) rich in organic molecules. The physics, dynamics, and chemistry of these nebulae are poorly understood and have implications not only for our understanding of the stellar life cycle but also for organic astrochemistry and the creation of prebiotic molecules in interstellar space. We are working toward generating three-dimensional models of planetary nebulae (PNe), which include the size, orientation, shape, expansion rate and mass distribution of the nebula. Such a reconstruction of a PN is a challenging problem for several reasons. First, the data consist of images obtained over time from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and spectra obtained from Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). These images are of course taken from a single viewpoint in space, which amounts to a very challenging tomographic reconstruction. Second, the fact that we have two disparate and orthogonal data types requires that we utilize a method that allows these data to be used together to obtain a solution. To address these first two challenges we employ Bayesian model estimation using a parameterized physical model that incorporates much prior information about the known physics of the PN. In our previous works we have found that the forward problem of the comprehensive model is extremely time consuming. To address this challenge, we explore the use of a set of hierarchical models, which allow us to estimate increasingly more detailed sets of model parameters. These hierarchical models of increasing complexity are akin to scientific theories of increasing sophistication, with each new model/theory being a refinement of a previous one by either incorporating additional prior information or by introducing a new set of parameters to model an entirely new phenomenon. We apply these models to both a simulated and a real ellipsoidal PN to initially estimate the position, angular size, and orientation of the nebula as a two-dimensional object and use these estimates to later examine its three-dimensional properties. The efficiency/accuracy tradeoffs of the techniques are studied to determine the advantages and disadvantages of employing a set of hierarchical models over a single comprehensive model.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Ames Research Center
Document Type
Knuth, Kevin H.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Hajian, Arsen R.
(Naval Observatory Washington, DC United States)
Clancy, Daniel
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Subject Category
Meeting Information
Meeting: Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods
Location: Moscow, ID
Country: United States
Start Date: August 3, 2002
End Date: August 7, 2002
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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