Sco X-1 observing, La Palma
Last month I made the first in hopefully a series of observations of some neutron star binaries which are also candidate gravitational wave sources. Rapidly-rotating neutron stars will give off gravitational waves if they deviate only slightly from perfect spheres; it's possible that these waves may be detected by the Advanced-LIGO and Virgo interferometric detectors, currently being upgraded to improve their sensitivity for observations beginning a few years from now. The wave signal is smeared out by the binary orbit of the neutron star, so it's critical to measure the orbital period (and other parameters) as precisely as possible to enable to most sensitive search. I travelled to the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, at 2400m on top of the volcanic island of La Palma, in the Canaries, to carry out 2 nights of observing on the ING-group 4.2m William Herschel Telescope. We got spectroscopic observations of Sco X-1 over three nights, which will allow us to measure the orbital velocity of the stellar companion and improve the precision of the orbital parameters. Shakya Premachandra, whose PhD will focus on this project, is now visiting Warwick University in the UK working with collaborator Danny Steeghs to reduce the data.