Red Supergiant Binaries on the Path to Becoming Gravitational Wave Events


Fri, 11 Feb 2022, 03:00 pm - 04:00 pm
Spring 2022
Kathryn Neugent
University of Toronto


Abstract: The detection of gravitational waves (GW) has ushered in a new era of astrophysics. While mergers of compact objects lead to these events, our understanding of the massive star progenitors is lacking. My PhD research focused on characterizing one subset of these progenitors: the evolved massive red supergiants (RSG) in binary systems. I'm now extending this research to explore both the direct GW progenitor systems of RSGs currently interacting with their companions (both stellar and compact objects), as well as the failed GW progenitor systems that end either in stellar mergers or RSGs with distant stellar companions. In this talk, I'll cover what we've learned so far about RSGs in binary systems and what the future holds in terms of identifying interacting systems and potential merger products. By comparing observations and population statistics of these various systems with predictions from current population synthesis models, soon we will know both how these GWs occur and how many we expect to detect in the future.

Biography: Dr. Kathryn Neugent studies massive stars across the HR Diagram from hot OB and Wolf-Rayet stars, to cool yellow and red supergiants primarily in the Local Group galaxies M31, M33, and the Magellanic Clouds. Kathryn obtained her undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Astronomy from Wellesley College before pursuing a career in cyber security for several years. However, she missed astronomy and decided to come back to the field and recently graduated with her PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington. She is currently a Dunlap Fellow at the University of Toronto and will be starting as a Pappalardo Fellow at MIT this summer. For more information, see her website: