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Wed Sep 26, 2012

Second LOFT Science Meeting

I'm in Toulouse this week to attend the second science meeting dedicated to ESA's proposed Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) mission. Almost a year has passed since the last meeting, and detailed studies by the various science teams in that time have begun to clarify the observational prospects offered by the mission. I presented a poster describing some simulations of spectral features which might be observed from thermonuclear bursts.

Thermonuclear burst spectroscopy with LOFT (0.7 MB PDF)

Labels: 2012, /missions

Fri Jan 13, 2012


As reported by NASA, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer has made its last observation, on January 3rd this year. The spacecraft, launched in December 1995, had a tremendous impact on the study of accreting neutron stars, which has been celebrated this week with a special session at the 219th AAS meeting in Austin, Texas. RXTE played a very personal role for me, having practically made my career; my PhD thesis was largely based on early observations of a high-magnetic field accretion-powered pulsar. Since then I've analysed many thousands of hours of data on millisecond pulsars, thermonuclear burst sources, and other exotica, and most of my published work has been based on these analyses. The loss of RXTE means the end to fast X-ray timing for the time being, at least until the much-anticipated launch of India's ASTROSAT satellite.

Labels: 2012, /missions

Fri Nov 25, 2011

A LOFTy prospect

Last month I had a flying visit to Amsterdam to attend the first science meeting dedicated to ESA's proposed Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT) mission. This concept has been chosen for the assessment phase of ESA's M3 "Cosmic Vision" call, and will compete with three other missions for a launch from 2020 onwards. With effective area approximately 20x that of the previous timing mission, NASA's RXTE, LOFT would provide stunning new observations of rapidly rotating neutron stars and black holes, sufficient to precisely measure neutron-star mass and radii, and also probe the spacetime close to black holes. The mission assessment is being led by researchers at MSSL (UK) and DTU Space (Denmark). I'll be contributing to the general science working group, as well as the group focussed on dense matter.

Thermonuclear burst spectroscopy with LOFT (9.4 MB Power Point)

Labels: 2011, /missions

Wed Dec 14, 2005

MIRAX workshop, Brazil

In December I attended the MIRAX workshop at INPE in São José dos Campos, Brazil. This is a nice, small-scale mission to be launched in 2010/11 which will use the BeppoSAX flight spare WFC camera, as well as a wide-field hard X-ray detector to be built by UCSD. Lots of interesting talks about X-ray transients and the science you can do with dedicated, long-term monitoring. Amongst the current and past monitoring projects mentioned are

Observations of transient LMXB pulsars (PDF file)

Labels: 2005, /missions

Mon Jul 11, 2005

Suzaku (aka ASTRO-EII) launched

Suzaku (aka ASTRO-EII) successfully entered its intended orbit early this morning (local time), according to a JAXA Press Release. All stations (Christmas island, Santiago, and Uchinoura) have confirmed detection of the signal indicating the satellite's separation from the launcher.
Suzaku, like ASCA, is the name of a legendary bird god. ASTRO-EII is the replacement for the unsuccessful ASTRO-E satellite, destroyed shortly following launch in Feburary 2000. ASTRO-EII will cover the energy range 0.2 - 600 keV with the three instruments, X-ray micro-calorimeter (X-ray Spectrometer; XRS), X-ray CCDs (X-ray Imaging Spectrometer; XIS), and the hard X-ray detector (HXD). The operational status will be confirmed in about 5 days. Congratulations JAXA!
UPDATE Unfortunately, the liquid helium for the cryogenically-cooled XRS unexpectedly evaporated during initial operations, rendering it useless. The active lifetime for this instrument was expected to be 2 years. The ASTRO-EII team are expected to announce a new call for proposals with the remaining science instruments in January.
See the Quicktime launch video
Astro-E2 Guest Observer Facility at HEASARC

Labels: 2005, /missions