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Mon Jan 21, 2019

Cavecchi visit

Longtime collaborator and friend of bursts Yuri Cavecchi visited Monash this month, supported by the MoCA Distinguished Visitor Program. Yuri and I have been working for a few years now on the global properties of thermonuclear bursts, particuarly the ignition conditions and how they respond to changes in accretion rate, motivated by observations with MINBAR. Yuri had already come up with a possible explanation for the drop in burst rates that is observed as accretion rates increase in some sources; during the visit we plan to work on matching the models in more detail to the observations. Stay tuned for exciting results coming soon!

Labels: 2019, /visits

Mon Nov 05, 2018

Measuring neutrino losses in thermonuclear bursts

PhD student Adelle Goodwin has been working hard trying to reconcile results of our 1-D time-dependent thermonuclear burst code Kepler with those of a much simpler (and much faster) code while trying to model the bursts from a millisecond pulsar, SAX 1808.4—3658. Continuing failure of this effort led to suspicion about the formula for the nuclear energy yield, and some careful experiments with Kepler revealed that the widely-used approximation for the energy generation adopted for the simpler code substantially overestimated the contribution lost as neutrinos. Adelle's paper on the study has now been published by ApJ. Adelle's work was also highlighted in the 2018 December edition of the JINA-CEE Newsletter.

Read the paper (ApJ 870, 64, 2019)

Labels: 2018, /postgrads

Wed Oct 31, 2018

Australia's partnership in the LSST

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is a truly impressive instrument for the next decade. The 8.4m telescope will illuminate a 3200 Mpix camera, and carry out a 10-year survey of the sky expected to provide millions of transient alerts... every night. Many astronomers in Australia are keen to get their hands on the data which is expected to start flowing around 2023. The Australian Science Lead, Sarah Brough (UNSW) along with Astronomy Australia Ltd. is coordinating a joint national membership which would allow access to the data for Australian astronomers, and this week my application to be one of the Principal Investigators was approved! Next step is to join one (or more) of the science groups and think about all the fun we can have when the telescope comes on-line. I'm also hoping to attend theaupcoming LSST@Asia meeting in Sydney, 20—23 May 2019.

Labels: 2018, /transients

Fri Aug 24, 2018

Mt. Kent (QLD) as a host for for GOTO-South?

Another possible site for the southern counterpart of our GOTO instrument on La Palma is USQ's Mt. Kent observatory. About 30 min drive from Toowoomba, Mt. Kent is significantly easier to get to compared to Siding Spring, via the recently-upgraded Wellcamp airport, and offers comparable observing conditions. Even better, they already have some spare concrete pads that might suit a GOTO-sized instrument! Earlier in the year we submitted a funding proposal to support development of the telescope from 2019 onwards. Fingers crossed!

Labels: 2018, /gravitational waves

Fri Jun 29, 2018

Nuclear astrophysics in the mountains

The 15th Nuclei in the Cosmos meeting was held at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, near Assergi, Italy. Monash had a pretty good showing with PhD students Adelle Goodwin, Zac Johnston and Melanie Hampel all in attendance. I presented a talk bringing together some of our recent work on measuring neutron star properties from thermonuclear bursts. A highlight was the conference banquet, at the wonderful Magione Papale, al fresco dining on a beautiful summer's evening topped off with a remarkable fireworks show.

The meeting setting offered a terrific opportunity to explore the area; from the earthquake-damaged (and still not fully recovered) town of L'Aquila, to the mountains and valleys surrounding the nearby village of Assergi, an unlikely place to find an Australian hotel owner!

Measuring neutron star properties from thermonuclear bursts (8 MB PDF)

Labels: 2018, /meetings

Fri Jun 15, 2018

BERN'18 workshop, Prato, Italy


This month I hosted the Burst Environments, Reactions and Numerical modelling workshop at Monash's Prato Centre, near Florence. Inspired by a series of ISSI international teams over the last few years, the meeting featured a selected group of attendees with the goal of bringing together researchers working on observational, numerical and nuclear experimental investigations of thermonuclear (type I) bursts. The centre proved an excellent venue for the great presentations and discussions we had over the week. I'm very grateful to JINA-CEE and MoCA for sponsoring the event, as well as the organising committee as well as Adelle and Zac for the website and their help organising. Hopefully these meetings will continue further, perhaps in Leiden in 2019!

Workshop website

Labels: 2018, /meetings

Fri Jun 01, 2018

A new burst oscillation source

The legacy of NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer continues to grow with the discovery of another burst oscillation in archival data from bursts observed more than 10 years ago, from the faint transient SAX J1810.8--2609. These burst oscillations, revealed by the careful work of Anya Bilous, confirm the spin frequency of the neutron star in this system at 532 Hz (that's an amazing 532 rotations every second!). This discovery adds to only a few tens of such measurements amongst the more than 100 known bursting sources. Anya's paper is now accepted by ApJ.

A Millisecond Oscillation in the Bursting X-Ray Flux of SAX J1810.8-2609 (Bilous et al. 2018) via NASA ADS

Labels: 2018, /thermonuclear bursts

Wed May 30, 2018

JINA-CEE Frontiers of Nuclear Astrophysics

This year's meeting (the 8th in the series!) was held in lovely South Bend, IN. As usual the meeting covered a wide range of nuclear astrophysics topics as well as the excellent attendee-driven "unconference" sessions. Donald Clayton gave a great historical overview in his opening talk. I presented a poster on the progress in our efforts to reconcile burst models and observations.
We also enjoyed the excellent share bike facilities and the great bike path along the river, conveniently leading the way to the Crooked Ewe

Reconciling observations and models of thermonuclear bursts: a progress report (0.5 MB PDF)

Labels: 2018, /meetings