Department of Astronomy Center for Radiophysics & Space Research

Ryan Lau

Professor Terry Herter
Ryan Lau

Research Area: Infrared Astronomy, Galactic Center, Star formation

Research Projects: FORCAST

Biography: I am currently working on several projects focusing on the extreme environment in the Galactic Center using images taken by the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). One of my projects includes exploring the and environment and characterizing the detailed structure of a ring of dust and gas surrounding the 4 million Solar mass black hole in the center of our Galaxy. We refer to this structure as the Circumnuclear Ring (CNR). Located a projected 130 light years away from the CNR is the Quintuplet Cluster, a young cluster of hot, massive stars that contains a member caught in a rarely observed evolutionary phase known as the Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) phase. This LBV, called the Pistol star, is proposed to be the most luminous star in the Galaxy—over a million times the brightness of our Sun—and is expected to be going supernova “very soon.” We are studying a nebula of gas and dust ejected by the Pistol star to better understand this relatively short evolutionary phase of extremely massive stars.

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and somehow manage to survive the frigid temperatures of Ithaca. In my free time I like to watch movies, play guitar/drums, skateboard (or landsurfing, as I like to call it), and practice karate—most of which can be done indoors.

 I also enjoy being closely involved with outreach in the community. I’ve lead several outreach events such as Museum in the Dark and Focus for Teens, both of which would not be possible without the awesome help from many of the graduate students in the department.