About Me

Hello! My name is Zack, and I am currently a fifth-year graduate student in the Boston University Department of Astronomy and Institute for Astrophysical Research. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of central New York State. I received my Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude with high honors in Physics and Astronomy from Colgate University in May of 2017, and my Master of Arts in Astronomy from Boston University in May of 2019, as part of my Ph. D. program.

Currently, I work with Dr. Alan Marscher and Dr. Svetlana Jorstad as part of the Boston University Blazar Group, trying to answer the question of how supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies can cause those galaxies to be the most luminous objects in the entire Universe. More specifically, I am trying to figure out what physical processes are occurring to cause the large amounts of light coming from blazars by observing them across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. The brightness of a blazar at different parts of the spectrum, and how the brightness is different when you compare two different parts of the spectrum, tells us how the light is being generated in the first place: By charged particles, such as electrons and protons, being accelerated to speeds almost near the speed of light in vast structures known as jets that emerge from near the vicinity of the black hole. See my Research or Publications pages for more information about my research!

As part of my research, I make frequent trips to Flagstaff, Arizona, to observe with the 72-inch Perkins Telescope. While there, I take images of many blazars to monitor their brightness and polarization. These observations are part of an ongoing campaign to monitor the optical brightness of blazars that are also continuously monitored at gamma-rays with the Fermi-Large Area Telescope.

When I attended Colgate University I worked with Dr. Thomas Balonek for three years monitoring the optical brightness of several blazars, other active galactic nuclei, and variable stars using the Colgate University Foggy Bottom Observatory. During the course of the research I spent over 200 nights at the telescope, observing long-timescale

Dr. Thomas Balonek and I at the National Radio Astronomical Observatory overlooking the Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia (06/2016).

brightness variations of the sources. One in particular, the blazar 3C454.3, became the topic of my undergraduate thesis, The Dramatic 2016 Optical and Gamma-ray Outburst of the Blazar 3C454.3. A more detailed description of my work can be found in the Research page of this site.

Me (bottom right) operating the 16-inch telescope at the Colgate University Foggy Bottom Observatory during the “Supermoon” observing event at the observatory (11/2016).

In my free time I enjoy spending time with family and friends at home in central New York and here in Boston. I am an avid reader of science-fiction, and I have built my own desktop computer from commercially available parts. I love to hike and visit national parks across the United States, as well as travel internationally. There is nothing better than sitting around with good company and a good beer, though! If you have any interest in my research, or questions, feel free to contact me at zweaver *at* bu.edu. I am always happy to answer questions from curious minds!

National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars. – Carl Sagan