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I work at ICRAR/UWA as an Astro3D Research Associate, specialising in numerical simulations and galaxy dynamics. My research interests lie outside our own galaxy – in trying to understand how the diversity of galaxies that we observe around us have formed and evolved, specifically by studying their stellar kinematic signatures.  I am also keen to develop tools that allow us to more readily compare our observations and simulations. This interest extends to studying how reliable our simulations are, especially concerning velocity structure and the formation and evolution of thin galactic disks.

I have recently completed a PhD in computational astrophysics under the supervision of Chris Power and Aaron Robotham at the UWA node of ICRAR, in which I developed a code for generating mock observations of N-body and hydro-dynamical simulations and examined the effects that seeing conditions have on the kinematics we recover from IFU surveys. I am from the UK, having completed my undergraduate MSci Physics with Astronomy degree in 2016 at the University of Nottingham. During that time, my research projects covered a broad range of topics – from the analysis of merger detection statistics in semi-analytic models to the study of galaxy dynamics and gas stripping using Chandra archival data.

My research:

One element of my current research is to investigate how well we can recover the kinematics of galaxies observationally using N-body and hydro-dynamical simulations. Over the course of my PhD, I have designed a tool with which you can generate synthetic integral field unit (IFU) kinematic data cubes – an R-package called SimSpin – which will take the particles of a simulated galaxy and produce a 3D array describing the flux and velocity distributions that you would observe with a given IFU telescope. This package is now also available in Julia, with a python version in development.

Further plans include modifications to SimSpin to generate HI data-cubes and examining the origins of anomalous gas within hydrodynamical simulations. To check out SimSpin in web app form, click here. A demonstration of the app is shown below:

I have been using this tool to investigate how accurately we can recover observed galaxy kinematics (such as λR and V/σ).  Using this tool, we have empirically defined some corrections for the effects of seeing on λR and V/σ.  As shown in the figure below, by applying our correction to observations made at a variety of seeing conditions, we can return measured values back to within 0.02 dex and 0.06 dex of their true, intrinsic values for λR and V/σ respectively. These corrections can be applied using the Python script here.


“Recovering λR and V/σ from seeing dominated IFS data”, Harborne, K.E. et al., MNRAS, Volume 497, Issue 2, pp.2018-2038, June 2020

“SimSpin: Constructing mock IFS kinematic data cubes”, Harborne, K.E., Power, C. and Robotham, A.S.G., PASA, Volume 37, article id. e016, May 2020

“SimSpin: Kinematic analysis of galaxy simulations”, Harborne, K.E., Astrophysics Source Code Library, record ascl:1903.006, March 2019

“A numerical twist on the observable spin parameter, λR,  Harborne, K.E. et al., MNRAS, Volume 483, Issue 1, p.249-262, February 2019

“OMEGA – OSIRIS mapping of emission-line galaxies in A901/2 – IV. Extinction of star formation estimators with inclination”, Wolf, C. et al., MNRAS, Volume 480, Issue 3, p.3788-3799, November 2018

ICRAR Statement

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