This award will support an observational study of binarity in the central stars of planetary nebulae. This stage of stellar evolution represents the penultimate phase of evolution for low- and intermediate mass stars, and very little is known about the evolution of binary stars during this stage. Close binaries are expected to evolve further into merging or mass-transfer systems, which would then manifest themselves as cataclysmic variables; they could also be the precursor systems to Type Ia supernovae. The project will involve a combination of multi-color photometry and spectroscopy with the aim of discovering new binary stars in planetary nebulae and characterizing some in detail.
It is expected that the project may have a significant scientific impact on the areas of supernova research, cataclysmic variables, and novae. It will also contribute to the development and training of students at a primarily undergraduate institution.