Physics & Astrophysics
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Keele Astronomers Harvest Facility Time Awards
PhD student Viktor Zivkov, with supervisor Joana Oliveira have won 27 hours of observing time on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) 4m VISTA telescope on Cerro Paranal, Chile to study the infrared variability of young stars in the metal-poor environment of the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy. The goal is to detect a possible effect of metal content on the amplitude and periodicity of the variability by comparing it with Galactic samples.
PhD student Steve Goldman, with supervisor Jacco van Loon won 10 hours on ESO's 8m Very Large Telescope (VLT) to take infrared spectra of the brightest and dustiest stars in the Galactic Bulge. Characterising their dust shells will improve our understanding of the way these kinds of stars shed matter and thus regenerate the Universe.
PhD student Daniel Evans, with supervisor John Taylor won 9 hours on the VLT, using the instrument SPHERE to continue a high-resolution imaging survey which aims to detect and characterise stars near to known transiting exoplanet systems, in order to help answer questions about the formation of the planets known as "hot Jupiters".
PhD student Jake Ward, with supervisor Joana Oliveira and Jacco van Loon won 5 nights at ESO's 3.5m New Technology Telescope (NTT) on La Silla, Chile to obtain infrared spectra of protostars in the Small Magellanic Cloud. This will allow them to investigate the properties of protostellar outflows and discs in low metallicity environments using emission features from singly-ionised iron. PhD student Jessica Kirkby-Kent, with supervisor Pierre Maxted, John Taylor and PhD student Sam Gill took advantage of Keele's privileged access to the South African Astronomical Observatory's 1m telescope, thanks to Keele's partnership in the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) to gain 3 weeks of observing time to obtain optical photometry for a detached eclipsing binary system. The goal is to measure the radii of the stars in multiple passbands to high precision and thus use the system to test stellar evolutionary models.
Nye Evans, with PhD student Emmal Safi, Joana Oliveira and Jacco van Loon have been awarded 72 hours on beamline I11 of the Diamond Light Source. Saturn's largest satellite Titan has a dense nitrogen-methane atmosphere, and a crust consisting of ice and clathrate hydrate. I11 will be used to investigate the formation and dissociation of clathrates under conditions replicating those on Titan's surface and at the interface between its ice crust and sub-surface ocean.
Nye Evans was also awarded 12 hours of observing time on NASA's Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), to study the aftermath of stellar mergers, the most energetic phenomena associated with low-mass stars. The observations will study the fossil remnants remaining from the common envelope phase that preceded the merger, and the remains of the merger itself.
Nye Evans also won 1.1 hour with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), located at 5 km altitude in Chile. The object CK Vulpeculae, which erupted in 1670, is a complete mystery. ALMA will be used to observe the dense disc of dust in the immediate vicinity of CK Vul in an attempt to unravel its nature.
Jacco van Loon was awarded 30 hours of time on the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, USA. The goal is to map the distribution of gas he discovered in the globular star cluster Messier 15, the only such case known, to learn about the origin and fate of the gas.
Nick Wright won 24 hours on NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in space to probe the X-ray activity - rotation relationship in fully convective low-mass stars to explore their dynamo behaviour as a function of stellar mass. Nick's Nature paper from last Summer had shown that fully convective stars have an (unexpected) relationship between rotation and activity.
John Taylor, with Pierre Maxted and Barry Smalley have been awarded 7 nights on the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma, Spain to obtain spectra of eclipsing binary systems with one component showing delta Scuti pulsations, and observed using the Kepler satellite. The goal is to measure the orbits and thus the masses and radii of the stars, to obtain an improved relation between delta Scuti pulsation modes and stellar density.
The same team, with Coel Hellier also won 5 nights on the NTT to obtain blue-optical spectra of transiting giant planets, in order to constrain their
atmospheric characteristics and provide complementary wavelength coverage for potential future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope.
Rob Jeffries has been awarded 4 nights of NASA time and an additional 3 nights with collaborators at Indiana University on the 3.5m WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona to measure the rotation rates for low mass stars in the Praesepe cluster, for which rotation periods have already been determined with the Kepler satellite. The combination of data will allow calculation of the radii of these stars.