Tag Archives: Astrophysics

Telescopes, snow and so much food! (Asiago #1)

Group photo of NEON Observing School 2015 participants

Group photo of NEON Observing School 2015 participants

I don’t think I ever want to eat pasta again…

I’ve recently come home from the NEON Observing School in Asiago Observatory, Italy. This was a 10 day course designed to give Astro PhD students a chance to experience and learn about observing and data reduction, with a combination of lectures and group work. We also ate more food than I thought was possible; three course meals for lunch and dinner every day is not something I’m used to! Continue reading

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Cloudy in Belfast?

Participants at the Cloudy Summer School 2014 (QUB). Photo credit: Paul Woods

Participants at the Cloudy Summer School 2014 (QUB). Left to right, Nicole Reindl, Anne Fox, Patricia Bessiere, Larissa Takeda, Catherine McEvoy, Kingsley Gale-Sides, Megan Whewell, Tek Prasad Adhikari, Helen Meskhidze, Mattia Bulla, Catia Silva, Matt Nicholl, Andri Prozesky, Ted of School, Gary Ferland, Janet Chen, Tommy Nelson, Jake Turner, Richard Tunnard, Brianna Smart, Tom Finzell, Ting-Wen Lan, Joe Polshaw Photo credit: Paul Woods

In August (18th-22nd) I attended a Summer School at Queen’s University Belfast. The week was based around learning how to use a computer programme called Cloudy, which is an atomic physics code that simulates the spectrum you should expect to observe from many astrophysical objects and scenarios. Continue reading

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ISSI – Discussions, Presenting and Editing

The view from a bridge in Bern (May 2014)

The view from a bridge in Bern (May 2014)

In December, only two and a half months after I started my PhD, I wrote about a trip I was about to take to the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland.

When I got back I wanted to write about my experiences there, but it was on that trip that as a consortium we tried to work out a consistent picture for the strange data we collected of NGC 5548 over the summer. It was clear that we had an unexpected result and we wanted to minimise the risk of anyone else realising this before we had chance to publish, plus we decided as a group to submit to Science and therefore it was important to keep in mind their embargo rules.

As the first paper from this campaign was published last week, I want to go back and describe the experiences I had at ISSI. I have now spent two weeks there, one in December 2013 and one in May 2014, with almost the same people each time. I learnt a lot during both of these weeks at ISSI, but also found them very different; I will try to explain this in the rest of this post. Continue reading

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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! Continue reading

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The Importance Of Your PhD Supervisor

I am really enjoying my PhD at MSSL and the life I have around it, but not every day starts particularly well. Continue reading

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Astro Group Seminar: Satellite Galaxy Evolution and Student Advice

New Hubble image of galaxy cluster Abell 1689. Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble

New Hubble image of galaxy cluster Abell 1689. Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble

Every Thursday afternoon (apart from the first one in a month) the Astrophysics Group at MSSL has a seminar. These seem to mostly be by speakers from different institutions and about a wide range of topics. After the main seminar the speaker also sits down with the PhD students to answer any questions and give career advice. I enjoyed both sections and have summarized both in this post.

Although I have been at MSSL for three weeks now, due to a welcome event at UCL’s main campus and the beginning of a month, last week was my first seminar.  The speaker was Dr Anna Pasquali from the University of Heidelberg who talked about satellite galaxy evolution. Continue reading

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#STFCastro: Lyman-alpha forest

A forest. Not a Lyman-alpha forest.

A forest. Not a Lyman-alpha forest.

A couple of weeks ago now I attended the STFC Astronomy Introductory Summer School for incoming PhD students. I have a general overview post of the whole week here.

One of the first lectures was by Ross McLure from Edinburgh University. It was about high redshift galaxies and his particular research into them. These galaxies are extremely far away and therefore the light has travelled a very long way (and for a very long time) to get to our telescopes, so we see them as they were near the beginning of the Universe.

The part that stood out for me was his explanation of the ‘Lyman-alpha forest’. This is a feature in spectra of distant galaxies and quasars and something that has come up a few times when I’ve been reading about spectra but that I’d never been able to find an understandable explanation for. Continue reading

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#STFCastro: Overall Summary

Queen Mary University

Queen Mary University

Last week I attended the STFC Astronomy Introductory Summer School for incoming PhD students. It was held at Queen Mary University with something like 90 attendees. The accommodation was lovely – they weren’t huge rooms but large enough, and each had an en-suite bathroom. All attendees stayed in the same accommodation block which led to lots of chance meetings as you walked around to breakfast and lectures etc. Continue reading

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Preparing For Research: Summer Reading

The papers for summer reading I have printed out so far!

The papers for summer reading I have printed out so far!

Earlier this week I emailed my (future) supervisor and asked for a few things to read over the summer, so I can get up to speed on relevant topics before I start. She was incredibly helpful in her reply and has suggested a more than ‘a few’! I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them, and to be honest it’s lovely to have something productive to focus on in the evenings after work.

This post is a list of the books and papers she suggested. Continue reading

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Star Formation in Verse

The subject I address today
Is that of star formation.
And what we’ve found out recently
About the situation.

Stars start out as clouds of gas and
Dust and bits of spinning stuff.
Collapsing gravitationally
Until they’re dense enough.

While reading this link I was one of those annoying people who read half a line at a time out loud and fall into giggles. You should become one too
Continue reading

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