Tag Archives: Presentations

Why is a PhD like a ‘rubber duck’?

A 3-D reconstruction of the Rosetta comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) in a 2003 model from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA and Philippe Lamy (Laboratoire d’Astronomie Spatiale)

A 3-D reconstruction of the Rosetta comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) in a 2003 model from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA and Philippe Lamy (Laboratoire d’Astronomie Spatiale)

On the left is an image reconstruction of our ‘best guess’ at what comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looked like in 2003. This was created using images from the Hubble Space Telescope in preparation for ESA’s Rosetta Spacecraft mission to travel there and take a closer look.

This closer look happened more than 10 years later, and just last week the Philae Lander was released and performed the very first soft landing ever on a comet. But even before this landing, we knew a lot more about comet 67P than we had in 2003. Images from Rosetta as it approached and began orbiting the comet showed us a completely unexpected shape, shown on the right, leading it to be nicknamed the ‘rubber duck’ comet.

The soft landing (or more strictly, bouncing) of Philae has been all over the news for the last week or so, but it was this article in Universe Today that drew my attention to the huge increase in knowledge about 67P over the last decade. We can easily get caught up in particular events and achievements but it isn’t often that we really sit back and appreciate how far we’ve come over a longer period of time. 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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Doing science and dealing with Science

A screenshot from an animated journey through the active galaxy NGC 5548, created by Renaud Person, one of the world directors of the famous Assassin's Creed video game

A screenshot from an animated journey through the active galaxy NGC 5548, created by Renaud Person, one of the world directors of the famous Assassin’s Creed video game. Click on the image to watch the animation on YouTube.

It has been almost six about four (EDIT: I counted…) months since my last post, and for once there has been a reason for that other than “I was busy”. I started this blog as a way to write about my research and experiences as a PhD student at MSSL, and for the last 6 months the experiences I’ve wanted to write about have all been directly connected to something I have had to keep quiet.

On 19 June 2014, the first academic paper I have been involved in was published:

“A fast and long-lived outflow from the supermassive black hole in NGC 5548″, J. S. Kaastra et al, Science, 19 June 2014 (10.1126/science.1253787)

A free to access version is available on the arXiv here.

EDIT: A non-specialist summary is on the UCL news page here.

I have written before about my involvement in a consortium; this group of over 30 astronomers has been working together on one set of data, a multi-wavelength campaign studying the active galaxy NGC 5548.

Submitting this paper to Science meant that the whole consortium decided not to publicise our research, as when Science accepts a paper it is then under embargo until publication.

Continue reading

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I am a scientist, I do not work alone. (Switzerland!)

The Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548. Image taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548. Image taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

When I started my PhD I became part of a consortium, a group of researchers at different institutions who work together on specific projects. This consortium is led by Dr. Jelle Kaastra, a Senior Scientist at SRON (the Netherlands Institute for Space Research) and has members not only in the Netherlands but also in France, Israel, the USA and of course the UK (all at MSSL – my supervisor, her previous PhD student, and now me).

Working with other researchers from different institutions, and different countries, causes a lot of regular interaction to be through email. I’m sure everyone reading this will be aware how much faster some conversations can be if they are face-to-face instead! Therefore this consortium arranges meetings to help the process of working together. The next one is in Switzerland on 8th-13th Dec, at a place called the International Space Science Institute in Bern, and I’m going! Not only am I going, but I have a 20 minute slot to ‘present my preliminary results’ to the rest of the consortium (having started this PhD only two months ago I’m both excited and nervous about that part!).

The International Space Science Institute's logo

The International Space Science Institute’s logo

Continue reading

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