Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Physics and Astronomy



First Advisor

Massimo Marengo


In this work, we provide the theoretical and empirical framework to establish RR Lyrae stars (RRL) as the anchor of a Population II distance scale. We present new theoretical period-luminosity-metallicity (PLZ) relations for RRL at Spitzer and WISE wavelengths. The PLZ relations were derived using nonlinear, time-dependent convective hydrodynamical models for a broad range in metal abundances (Z=0.0001 to 0.0198). We also compare our theoretical relations to empirical relations derived from RRL in the field. Our theoretical PLZ relations were combined with multi-wavelength observations to simultaneously fit the distance modulus and extinction of each individual Galactic RRL in our sample. The results are consistent with trigonometric parallax measurements from the Gaia mission's first data release. This analysis has shown that when considering a sample covering a typical range of iron abundances for RRL, the metallicity spread introduces a dispersion in the PL relation on the order of 0.13 mag. However, if this metallicity component is accounted for in a PLZ relation, the dispersion is reduced to ~0.02 mag at MIR wavelengths. On the empirical side, we present the analysis of five clusters from the Carnegie RR Lyrae Program (CRRP) sample (M4, NGC 3201, M5, M15, and M14). M4, the nearest one of the most well studied clusters, was used as a test case to develop a new data analysis pipeline for CRRP. Following the analysis of the five clusters, the resulting calibration PL relations are $M_{[3.6]} = -2.424\pm0.079 \log P -1.205\pm 0.057$ and $M_{[4.5]} = -2.245\pm0.076 - 1.225\pm0.057$. The slope of the PL relations was determined from the weighted average of the cluster results, and the zero point was fixed using five Galactic RRL with geometric parallaxes measured by Hubble Space Telescope. The dispersion of the RRL around the PL relations ranges from 0.05 mag in M4 to 0.3 mag in M14. The resulting band-averaged distance moduli for the five clusters agree well with results in the literature. The systematic uncertainty will be greatly reduced when parallaxes of more stars become available from the Gaia mission, and we are able to use the full CRRP sample of 55 Galactic RRL to calibrate the relation.

Copyright Owner

Jillian Rose Neeley



File Format


File Size

257 pages