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[Vol.19] Finding Something Everyone Missed Dearly (Mina Pak, UST-KASI Campus Astronomy and Space Science Major (Doctoral Course))

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  • Registration Date : 2016-09-29

It is not surprising to find something extraordinary among novel and eccentric things. Finding extraordinariness among normalities casts a brighter glow to the development of science. Mina Pak of the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) Campus did the same job. She fed her curiosity with average information given to everyone, and her curiosity brought out remarkable research results.



You drew huge attention from the academia and media through your research project, “Evidence of Galaxy Mergers in Dwarf Galaxy U141.” How do you feel?

The correct title of my project is “MCG+08-22-082: A Double Core and Boxy Appearance of Dwarf Lenticular Galaxy Suspected to Be a Merger Remnant.”

The project is more meaningful to me as it was introduced as the most noteworthy paper in the journal Nova of the American Astronomical Society, which is the most recognized academic journal in the field of astronomy. I was selected among many excellent researchers who are carrying out great works. I feel so honored and I am very thankful, too.



The key point of your project is that “a dwarf galaxy being a part of a giant galaxy is created by mergers of other galaxies.” Please explain it more in detail.

A dwarf galaxy is much smaller than a giant galaxy like Andromeda. The established theory of the astronomy community is that a giant galaxy swallows dwarfs or dwarfs are merged to create a giant one. In this regard, a dwarf galaxy is recognized as a basic ingredient or a building block of a galaxy. My project involves finding evidence of galaxy mergers in a dwarf, “U141 (MCG+08-22-082),” which is part of the Ursa Major Cluster. In other words, I found out that a dwarf galaxy is also born through mergers of many galaxies. The finding is quite relevant because it suggests a new possible theory of galaxy formation.




What is the specific evidence that mergers form the dwarf?

Dwarf galaxy U141, the subject of my research, has a boxy appearance. Normally, a stable dwarf galaxy has round or oval shape. Another evidence is the double core of U141 and the blue glow in its center, which is usually observed in young stars.




What motivated you to start the project?

Ursa Major Cluster is located near the earth, but it has not been of much interest among the academic circle. I investigated the cluster when I found U141, a dwarf galaxy that unusually showed the characteristics of galaxy mergers. It was the beginning of my project.

I studied about supernovas in my doctoral course, but I have been interested in galaxy formation since I decided on the subject of my project for my master’s degree. At that time, I only had a rough idea. Then, when I found that the existing research about the galaxy formation had ceased because it lacked observational evidence, I became more interested. So, since this March, I have given body to the idea. As such, the project began with trivial curiosity.



Astronomy research in Korea is said to be very limited due to the shortage of observation equipment. This makes your research more valuable.

The project was conducted based on data released by the US. I feel more rewarded because I brought out meaningful research outcomes using information anyone can access. Korea only possesses a few astronomical telescopes, so it is not easy to get quality data. However, I would rather try my best in such circumstance than blaming the poor condition. Recently, new telescopes were introduced for astronomic research, and international collaborations are also being actively carried out. I believe such improvement in research condition will activate the astronomic research of Korea.



What is your future research plan and ambition?

Astronomy is often divided into “theory” and “observation.” But in actual research, the parallel implementation of both is necessary. Data earned from observation is undeniable fact, and to explain such fact in a logical manner, theoretical base should act as foundation. In the future, as an observation researcher, I would like to perform projects in a wider range through collaboration with theory researchers.



Do you have any comment for the USTian readers?

“If there is one architect, there should be greater number of people carrying bricks who will build the building according to the blueprint; they are indispensible.”

I read that sentence in a book written by an astronomy professor. Once, I suffered from sense of shame; I thought to myself, “There are a lot of brilliant minds in this world, what can I then do? I am just an average person.” After reading it, however, I decided to be a person carrying bricks. We cannot live in a world where only leaders are around. There are a lot of “followers” who are sincerely fulfilling their mission, and this is the world where we can realize our goals. I hope my fellow USTians would keep this in mind.