X-ray Universe 2014 – Dublin, Ireland

A full session hearing about Athena and the future of X-ray astronomy. Credit: @antmarcarr on Twitter. Click on the photo to go to the original tweet.

A full session hearing about Athena and the future of X-ray astronomy. Credit: @antmarcarr on Twitter. Click on the photo to go to the original tweet.

Last week I went to my first international astronomy conference, X-ray Universe 2014. This was organised by the XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre and had about 350 delegates, 217 talks and 135 posters.

I took a poster, showing my work so far this year, and the consortium I’m in had six talks about our NGC 5548 campaign on one afternoon (I’ve explained the main result we announced in this post).

While this was my first international astronomy conference, it wasn’t my first international conference, as I had attended the International Planetarium Society’s 2012 conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That one had 700 delegates, so the 350 people at X-ray Universe felt less intimidating than it would have done otherwise!

Returning back to Trinity College after the last (slightly too) late night out. The campus is beautiful, even at night!

Returning back to Trinity College after the last (slightly too) late night out. The campus is beautiful, even at night!

The accommodation I used was part of Trinity College Dublin, and as the campus was the location for the conference it was a great place to be. It was also very easy to walk to the Temple Bar area, where I spent a few nights in pubs, watching the World Cup and discussing life, the universe and what it’s like for women in science with other X-ray astronomers.

Overall I had a great week. I was particularly pleased that the talks very relevant to my own PhD research were much more understandable to me than I had hoped to expect (especially after only 10 months studying this topic!). It was also very interesting to hear about other X-ray astronomy around the world, not focussed on AGN, as well as talks on how to extend the life of XMM-Newton and future missions such as Astro-H and Athena.

This conference only happens once every three years, so if all goes to plan I will have finished my PhD by the time of the next one. On a much shorter timescale there seems to be a annual one day UK meeting called “New results in X-ray astronomy” in September each year so I can look forward to hopefully attending the next one only three months time.

My favourite facts and quotes from the week (the quotes are as close to word-for-word as I could remember them!):

“This beautiful image… of 21 photons” – Saxton

“We think these are very-starbursty sources” – Rovilos

Q: “What’s the most important thing we can learn from XMM in preparation for Athena?” A: “Hire people who will live to be 150 years old!” – Jansen

Every few years XMM-Newton crosses geostationary orbits; “If we knock out a billion$ comms satellite it won’t be appreciated” – Jansen

“Some of you may be wondering why a Sicilian astronomer who works in Spain is standing here telling you about a Japanese mission, particularly after Spain’s terrible performance last night” – Guainazzi (Context: Spain had been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup the evening before)

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