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Astrophysical Applications of Quantum Mechanics


Murchikova, Elena M. (2018) Astrophysical Applications of Quantum Mechanics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/PEBS-ZJ88.


From an outside point of view, astrophysics and quantum mechanics as subclasses of the physical sciences could not be further from each other. Yet these two sides of nature are deeply intertwined. The influence of quantum mechanics on astrophysics and astrophysics on quantum mechanics has been profound: spectral lines as diagnostics, radiative transport, the interiors of celestial bodies, neutrino oscillations, constraints on neutrino mass and graviton mass. In this work, I discuss several applications of quantum mechanics in astrophysics: (1) I examine the use of submm recombination lines of H, He and He+ to probe the extreme ultraviolet luminosity of starbursts and Active Galactic Nuclei. (2) I use the hydrogen recombination line H30α to study the accretion zone of the Milky Way's Galactic Center black hole. I discuss detection of an accretion disk of radius <0.008 pc, consisting of ~104 K gas the disk properties, and its importance in the context of accretion on the black hole. (3) I carry out an extensive study and comparison of M1 closure schemes for neutrino radiation transport, using the protoneutron star interior as a background. (4) I study first-order hydrodynamics of a chiral fluid on a vortex background, and in an external magnetic field, as the precursor for a study of neutron star interiors. I show that there are two previously undiscovered modes describing heat waves propagating along the vortex and magnetic field.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:astrophysics, quantum mechanics, recombination lines, black holes, Sagittarius A*, neutrino transport, chiral fluids
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Phinney, E. Sterl
Group:TAPIR, Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Phinney, E. Sterl (chair)
  • Scoville, Nicholas Zabriskie
  • Chen, Yanbei
  • Fuller, James
Defense Date:29 May 2018
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Groce FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06082018-000259902
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription for ch. 2 for ch. 4 for ch. 5
Murchikova, Elena M.0000-0001-8986-5403
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11044
Deposited By: Elena Murchikova
Deposited On:12 Jun 2018 01:06
Last Modified:10 Mar 2020 23:04

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