The Beginning of a Wonderful Project and an Incredibly Short Introduction to Vera Rubin

Project: Looking for Dark Matter in the Rotation Curves of the Hubble Tuning Fork Galaxy Diagram

Department of Natural Sciences: Physics

Project adviser:  Dr. Scott Schneider

Researched by: Ceré L. Rettig


Project Summary as of: 9/21/2014

What is a galaxy rotation curve?

Galaxy rotation curves are a graphical analysis obtained from the magnitude of the orbital velocities of visible stars in a particular galaxy and their radial distance from the galaxies center, typically depicted with a scatter plot.


What is the Hubble Tuning Fork Galaxy Diagram?

The Hubble Tuning Fork Galaxy Diagram is a way to classify galaxies. Mr. Edwin Hubble believed that the elliptical galaxies (E0, E3, E5, E7) are early galaxies and that the lenticular (S0), and spiral galaxies (Sa, Sb, Sc, SBa, SBb, SBc) or late galaxies evolved from the elliptical galaxies. In this model the lenticular galaxies are viewed as a transition type between the elliptical and spiral galaxies. While this evolution model has been found to be incorrect, this is a good diagram used for galaxy classification.

Hubble Tuning Fork Galaxy Diagram

What is dark matter?

Dark matter accounts for effects that appear to be the result of mass where such mass cannot be seen. It attracts or exerts a gravitational inward pull on the visible matter surrounding it.

Are we sure it is not dark energy?

Yes, because dark energy repels or pushes outward.

What is already known about spiral galaxy rotation curves?

Rotation curves are an essential tool for determining mass distribution in spiral galaxies, and provide fundamental information for understanding the evolution and formation of spiral galaxies.

The existing programs that will be used were created by:

Dane Falberg is another student at Lawrence Technological University who is working on an astrophysics project advised by Dr. Scott Schneider. I will use his project to understand, and build my own genetic algorithm program using Java.

Project Objectives:

  • Research galaxy rotation curves for the six different types of spiral galaxies.
  • Investigate mathematical models for ordinary matter and dark matter to generate rotation curves.
  • Research genetic algorithms.
  • Study Dane Falberg’s programing with genetic algorithms.
  • Create the software, to fit galaxy rotation.
  • If time is available see if this process can be done with lenticular galaxies.


J.Q. Feng and C.F. Gallo, Res. Astron. Astrophys. 11 1429-1449, 1 (2011).
P. Charbonneau, Astrophys. J. Suppl. Ser. 101 309-334, 1 (1995)
Y. Sofue and V. Rubin, Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 39 181-0015, 1(2000).

  • Researching galaxy rotation curves for spiral galaxies, including: mathematical models for ordinary matter and dark matter to generate rotation curves.  
  • Researching Vera Rubin and her work on galaxy rotation curves.


Why Vera Rubin?

Vera Rubin’s work on galaxy rotation curves is why it is possible for my project to exist today. The discovery of her work was presented to both myself and Dr. Scott in the series finale of COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson.


The Scientific Method and Scientific Literature Research

The scientific method was reviewed and a much more strong emphasis on literature research. Learned how to research using various databases to see how the different databases can produce different results using the same search criteria. While I’ve looked at some journal articles before I did not perform any specific research until at this time in Introduction to Senior Projects in Science. An area of interest for my senior project was identified at this time: formation and evolution of galaxies and the formation of black holes. At this time I also did not know how possible this would be for a senior project, I only knew it was a path I wanted to pursue after graduation.

Faculty: Dr. Shannon Timmons

PSC 3001 Spring 2014 – The Scientific Method and Literature Research

PSC 3001 Spring 2014 – Assignment 1

PSC 3001 Assignment 1_Cere Rettig

Introduction to Senior Projects in Science

Introduction to Senior Projects in Science brings together the students within the Natural Science Department to help aid in designing a senior project and choosing an advisor.  This course is facilitated by Dr. Shannon Timmons this semester with several guest speakers: Dr. Julie Zwiesler-Vollick, Dr. Changgong Zhou, Dr. Nicole Villeneuve, Dr. Jeffery Morrissette, and Dr. Karen Evans.

Skills Obtained:  project management, ability to write a project proposal, ability to present research clearly.Requirements:  conduct literature research, project planning, proposal writing and presentation, application of ethical principles to scientific research.

PSC 3001 Spring 2014 – Syllabus

PSC 3001 Spring 2014 – Senior Project Proposal Requirements

PSC 3001 Spring 2014 – First Day of Class!

Please note: All posts categorized as Introduction to Senior Projects in Science are back dated to the date the event originally occurred. The thought of creating this blog did not come until after my Proposal Presentation on Thursday May 1, 2014.