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Sat Jan 30, 2021

Rapidly-rotating neutron stars at COSPAR '21

The 43rd COSPAR Scientific Assembly was to be held in Sydney last August, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed until this week. Sudip Bhattacharya and I led a session on "Rapidly Rotating Neutron Stars", which featured a terrific set of presentations on radio and X-ray pulsars, as well as gravitational waves.

Monash PhD student Ka Ho Tse presented some of his recent work on the enigmatic mHz quasi-periodic oscillations observed in some burst sources, suggestive of quasi-stable nuclear burning but at accretion rates an order of magnitude below where we would expect them.

The COSPAR organisers imposed a very complex virtual program, with speakers required to pre-record full duration talks as well as 3-minute summaries. The platform was overly complicated, and plagued with technical issues; on top of that, having to go on your own time to view the full-duration talks kind of defeats the purpose of the session.

I'm not sure how well it worked for attendees, but for session organisers it was a nightmare, and I was glad when it was over. Some organisers of other sessions abandoned the platform altogether and switched to Zoom. These large virtual conferences are very challenging to set up, and it's all well and good to be ambitious with the format, but it would have been much better to keep it simple. It was also a bit galling for the organisers to blame the chairs and speakers in the closing address.

Labels: 2021, /meetings

Fri Dec 18, 2020

GOTO presentations at SPIE

This week GOTO postdoctoral researcher and control system guru Martin Dyer presented two papers at the (virtual) SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instumentation 2020 meeting. Like many 2020 meetings, this one had a challenging path to actually occurring, moving twice (from to Japan to California) and finally to the fully online format.

Martin's first paper offers a brief summary of the project, describing the hardware, software and future plans including the new "GOTO-South" node to be constructed at Siding Spring Observatory, NSW. The second paper describes development of the "G-TeCS" control system, which was much of Martin's thesis project, and serves as the critical "nervous system" of the facility, without which we could not operate.

Labels: 2020, /meetings

Mon Jul 01, 2019

Bursting the Bubble workshop

In June I attended the Lorentz Center workshop Bursting the Bubble: Connecting Thermonuclear Burst Research to a Wider Community in Leiden, NL. This meeting is the continuation of a series of meetings on the same topic, most recently with the BERN'18 meeting, but originally a series of ISSI international teams since about 2010. This year's meeting featured a selected group of attendees with the goal of bringing our burst research to a wider community, most notably those observers interested in novae, the WD analogues of thermonuclear bursts. A highlight for me was Bill Wolf's tutorial session on simulating bursts and novae with MESA. The centre proved terrific facilities and support for the great presentations and discussions we had over the week. As with previous meetings, JINA-CEE was a generous sponsor of the event, with support specifically aimed at enabling attendance by early-career scientists. Thanks also go to the dedicated team of organisers led by the irrepressible Anna Watts!

Labels: 2019, /meetings

Fri Apr 05, 2019

Australia-China Workshop on Astrophysics

The 5th Australia-China Workshop on Astrophysics was held in Healesville, VIC at RACV's Country Club resort this April. The meeting continues a series of events intended to foster cooperation between the two countries, and as my first attendance, I was very impressed with the level of cooperation alredy. A host of prominent Chinese and Australian astronomers were in attendance, and presentations were also made by students undertaking projects enabled made possible via cooperative programs. I gave a talk on X-ray binaries and the possibilities for joint observational programs, particularly with Insight-HXMT and the proposed eXTP. Exciting times ahead for cross-country cooperation!

Labels: 2019, /meetings

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

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

Fri Apr 13, 2018

GOTO team meeting @ Warwick U.


This week the (rapidly expanding) GOTO collaboration met at Warwick U. We heard talks about the exciting science following the detection of GW170817, as well as the instrument and software development. It was great to hear from new prospective collaboration partners Rene Breton (U. Manchester) and Seppo Mattila (U. Turku). There is still a lot to do before the LIGO observations resume (expected in early 2019), but we are on-track to be ready to detect optical counterparts!

Labels: 2018, /meetings