Michael F Corcoran

Michael F Corcoran

  • SR. RESEARCH SCIENTIST
  • 301.286.5576
  • NASA/GSFC
  • Mail Code: 662
  • Greenbelt , MD 20771
  • Employer: CATHOLIC UNIV OF AMERICA
  • Brief Bio

    Mike Corcoran received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, where, as a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, he learned the (often frustrating) art of visible-band photometry and polarimetry. Mike's thesis was an attempt to explore the importance of non-sphericity of winds from hot, massive stars by looking for a residual polarimetric signal in the photospheric radiation scattered by the wind material. As a result of this work, Mike became convinced of three things: that the assumption of spherical symmetry applied to winds from hot stars is, in general, unphysical; that disturbances in stellar winds can have observable effects throughout the electromagnetic spectrum; and that an unheated telescope dome gets pretty cold in winter.


    Moving indoors, in 1988 Mike found a job at NASA/GSFC as a post-doc with Advanced Computer Concepts (ACC) studying stellar wind behavior via analysis of UV spectral lines. After finishing his tenure at ACC in 1989, Mike inverse-Compton scattered his way to an NRC post-doc at the X-ray group at GSFC.


    In 1991 Mike went to work for Universities Space Research Association and joined the ROSAT Guest Observer Facility at GSFC as lead archive scientist. In 1993 Mike joined the HEASARC, and now serves as the manager of the HEASARC Calibration Database and HEASARC archive scientist for the GLAST mission, in addition to his continuing duties as ROSAT archive scientist. In 2008 Mike became USRA Associate Director for the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology (CRESST). In April 2017 Mike joined The Catholic University of America as an Associate Research Professor as part of CRESST.

    Research Interests

    X-ray Emission from Massive Stars

    Dr. Corcoran studies the ways stars in our Galaxy (and slightly beyond) produce X-ray emission. He's especially interested in studying mass loss in massive binary systems via their strong winds by studying the X-ray emission produced where the winds collide.

    Current Projects

    X-ray Emission from Eta Carinae

    Eta Carinae is perhaps the most luminous and massive binary system in our Galaxy. Variable X-ray emission from this system has been instrumental in establishing the star as a Colliding-Wind Binary system. Dr. Corcoran and his collaborators use X-ray observations with RXTE, Swift, Chandra, XMM, NuSTAR and NICER to determine how the system loses mass through strong stellar winds (the strongest "steady" stellar wind we know of in the Milky Way) and how this mass loss changes with time.

    Variable X-ray Emission from the Colliding Wind Binary Laboratory, WR 140 = HD 193793

    WR 140 is the prototype colliding wind binary, consisting of an evolved massive star and a less evolved, more massive star in an 8-year, very eccentric orbit. The star has been well studied from ground and the binary orbit imaged. It is a bright X-ray emitter where X-ray emission is produced by the collision fo the two stars in the system. Dr. Corcoran and his colleagues have used a variety of X-ray observatories to study the high-energy emission around the orbit and have helped develop models of the 3-D structure of the wind-wind interactions, and the mysterious connection between the very hot gas producing X-ray emission and the very cold gas that produces dust.

    Positions/Employment

    1988 - 1989

    Postdoctoral Researcher

    Advanced Computer Concepts, Inc, NASA/GSFC

    Analysis of IUE observations of the winds of massive stars in binary systems (supervisor: Dr. Sally Heap)

    1989 - 1991

    National Research Council Resident Research Associate

    National Reseach Council, NASA/GSFC

    Research involving the X-ray emission associated with shocked stellar winds from massive stars (supervisor: Dr. Jean Swank)

    1991 - 1993

    ROSAT Guest Observer Facility Support Scientist

    USRA, NASA/GSFC

    Assisted community access to and analysis of data from ROSAT.

    1993 - Present

    HEASARC Archive Scientist

    USRA, NASA/GFC

    Serves as ROSAT and Fermi archive scientists, manager of the Calibration Database, and editor of the High Energy Astrophysics Picture of the Week.

    2009 - 2016

    USRA Director, Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology

    USRA, NASA/GSFC

    Directed the USRA scientists employed through CRESST, and managed the CRESST Visitor Program.

    2014 - 2015

    Acting Director, Space Technology Institute

    USRA, NASA/MSFC

    Managed research activities of STI at MSFC

    2015 - 2016

    Director, NASA Postdoctoral Program

    USRA, NASA/GSFC

    Transitioned and directed the NASA Postdoctoral Program

    4/2016 - Present

    Associate Research Professor

    The Catholic University of America, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Washington, DC 20064

    I work for Catholic University as part of the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Sciences and Technology (2) at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt MD

    Teaching Experience

    Graduate Student Supervision


    1992 -Jose Suarez, Florida Institute of Technology

    1993 - Jennifer Catelli, U. Maryland

    1994 - Sven Geier, U. Maryland

    1996 - 1999 Kazunori Ishibashi, U. Minnesota (M. Sc., Ph. D.)

    1999 - Amy Fredericks, U. Maryland

    2000 - Laura Brenneman, USRA

    2003 - Gary Price, Richard Stockton College

    2017 - David Espinoza, The Catholic University of America


    Postdoctoral Supervision


    2001 - Dr. Aaron Flores

    2002 - Dr. Kenji Hamaguchi

    2020 - Dr. Christopher Russell

    Education

    1988-- Ph.D. Astrophysics, University of Pennsylvania
    1982-- BA. Physics, Cornell

    Professional Societies

    American Astronomical Union, 1986 - Present
    International Astronomical Union, 1988 - Present
    High Energy Astrophysics Division, American Astronomical Society, 2016 - Present
    Secretary

    Awards

    2019 - NASA Special ACT - Team Award for execution of the NICER Observing Program 2018 - NASA Special ACT - Team Award for contributions to the NICER Team


    2015 - NASA Group Achievement Award


    2005 - CPSS Community/Educational Outreach Award


    2001 - CPSS University Collaboration Award


    1992 - NASA Group Achievement Award


    1989 - National Research Council Resident Research Associate Award



    Brief Bio

    Mike Corcoran received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, where, as a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, he learned the (often frustrating) art of visible-band photometry and polarimetry. Mike's thesis was an attempt to explore the importance of non-sphericity of winds from hot, massive stars by looking for a residual polarimetric signal in the photospheric radiation scattered by the wind material. As a result of this work, Mike became convinced of three things: that the assumption of spherical symmetry applied to winds from hot stars is, in general, unphysical; that disturbances in stellar winds can have observable effects throughout the electromagnetic spectrum; and that an unheated telescope dome gets pretty cold in winter.


    Moving indoors, in 1988 Mike found a job at NASA/GSFC as a post-doc with Advanced Computer Concepts (ACC) studying stellar wind behavior via analysis of UV spectral lines. After finishing his tenure at ACC in 1989, Mike inverse-Compton scattered his way to an NRC post-doc at the X-ray group at GSFC.


    In 1991 Mike went to work for Universities Space Research Association and joined the ROSAT Guest Observer Facility at GSFC as lead archive scientist. In 1993 Mike joined the HEASARC, and now serves as the manager of the HEASARC Calibration Database and HEASARC archive scientist for the GLAST mission, in addition to his continuing duties as ROSAT archive scientist. In 2008 Mike became USRA Associate Director for the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology (CRESST). In April 2017 Mike joined The Catholic University of America as an Associate Research Professor as part of CRESST.

                                                                                                                                                                                            
    NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration