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Image: The whirlpool galaxy and its neighbour, courtesy of NASA, ESA, S Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA
Organised by Professor Paul O’Brien, Professor Stephen Smartt, Professor Ralph Wijers and Professor Kenneth Pounds CBE FRS
Astronomers have developed a range of international observing facilities to observe violent, transient phenomena from across the Universe. This work increasingly depends on complex data analysis and data mining techniques. Our interdisciplinary meeting brings together experimentalists and theorists from photonic, astro-particle, and gravitational wave detection experiments to improve our communication and analysis methods in order to maximise our scientific output.
This meeting was preceded by a broader discussion meeting on New windows on transients across the Universe 23 - 24 April 2012.
Biographies of the organisers and speakers are available below. Audio recordings are freely available and the programme can be downloaded here.
Professor Joshua Bloom, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Dr Joshua S Bloom is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on understanding the origin of violent cosmic events and using such transients as astrophysical probes. Bloom is the Director of the Berkeley Center for Time-Domain Informatics and principal investigator of the largest robotic infrared telescope dedicated to time-domain studies. He received a Bachelors degree from Harvard College, a Masters of Philosophy from Cambridge University, and a PhD from the California Institute of Technology. He was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining the Berkeley faculty in 2005. He was a Sloan Research Fellow and, in 2010, was awarded the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society. He published his first book last year, titled “What are Gamma-ray Bursts?”, part of the Princeton University Press Frontiers of Physics series.
Professor Paul O’Brien, University of Leicester, UK
Paul O’Brien is a Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester. He received his PhD from University College London in 1987, and worked at UCL and at the University of Oxford before joining the University of Leicester in 1996. His research is focussed on understanding Gamma-Ray Bursts and Active Galactic Nuclei, the most energetic sources of light in the universe. He uses a variety of ground and space telescopes in order to explore how the intense emission can be produced by the accretion of matter onto a black hole. He is also involved in the operation and development of satellite observatories which can locate new transient objects on the sky. He is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the American Astronomical Society and is a member of the International Astronomical Union.
Professor Brian Schmidt, Australian National University, Australia
Brian Schmidt is a Laureate Fellow at The Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory. Brian was raised in Montana and Alaska, USA, and received undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1989. Under the supervision of Robert Kirshner, he completed his Astronomy Master's degree (1992) and PhD (1993) from Harvard University. In 1994 he and Nick Suntzeff formed the HighZ SN Search team, a group of 20 astronomers on 5 continents who used distant exploding stars to trace the expansion of the Universe back in time. This group's discovery of an accelerating Universe was named Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year for 1998. Brian Schmidt joined the staff of the Australian National University in 1995, and was awarded the Australian Government's inaugural Malcolm McIntosh award for achievement in the Physical Sciences in 2000, The Australian Academy of Sciences Pawsey Medal in 2001, the Astronomical Society of India's Vainu Bappu Medal in 2002, and an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship in 2005. In 2006 Schmidt was jointly awarded the US$1M Shaw Prize for Astronomy, and shared the US$0.5M 2007 Gruber Prize for Cosmology with his High-Z SN Search Team colleagues. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the United States National Academy, and Foreign Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences. His work on the accelerating universe was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter. Brian is continuing his work using exploding stars to study the Universe, and is leading Mt Stromlo’s effort to build the SkyMapper telescope, a new facility that will provide a comprehensive digital map of the southern sky from ultraviolet through near infrared wavelengths.
Professor Stephen Smartt, Queens University Belfast, UK
Professor Stephen Smartt is Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast. He obtained his PhD from Queen’s in 1996 and has held research posts at the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes and University of Cambridge. He is a former holder of a UK Research Council Advanced Fellowship, a European Young Investigator award and now holds an ERC Advanced Grant. Professor Smartt is Chair of the Pan-STARRS science council and PI of the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO). His research interests are the death of massive stars, explosive transient phenomena in the Universe, wide field surveys and management of large databases of transient sources.
Professor John Tonry, University of Hawaii, USA
John Tonry received his PhD from Harvard and after postdocs at IAS and Caltech spent 11 years on physics faculty at MIT, eventually moving to the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii in 1996. He has worked on a number of topics in extragalactic astronomy including the CFA redshift survey, the discovery of the black hole in M32, structure of early-type galaxies, measurements of large scale motions and dark matter in the local universe, a survey of galaxy distances using surface brightness fluctuations, the High-z supernova team whose work was awarded the Gruber and Nobel prizes, and most recently the Pan-STARRS project to survey 3/4 of the sky to unprecedented depth and accuracy as well as provide temporal coverage of the transient and variable sky.
Professor Ralph Wijers, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Ralph Wijers graduated in astronomy with theoretical physics from Leiden Observatory in 1987 and got his PhD in astronomy at the University of Amsterdam in 1991, with Professors Van den Heuvel and Van Paradijs. He then held a Compton Fellowship at Princeton University Observatory, where he first worked on gamma-ray bursts with Paczynski, followed by work at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, with Professors Rees and Meszaros, where he won a Royal Society URF. He then joined the faculty at SUNY Stony Brook, continuing his research on gamma-ray bursts as part of an international group that was awarded the EU Descartes prize in 2002 for their ground-breaking work on GRBs. He is now professor of high-energy astrophysics at the Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek of the University of Amsterdam, where he is director since 2011. In 2009, he won an ERC Advanced Investigator grant. His research includes gamma-ray bursts and radio transient sources with LOFAR.
Professor John Beacom, Ohio State University, USA
John Beacom is Professor in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy at the Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio, United States. He is also Director of the Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics (CCAPP), a joint effort of the above two departments. He began as Assistant Professor at OSU in 2004, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2007, Professor in 2010, and Director of CCAPP in 2011. His research is on neutrinos, supernovae, high-energy astrophysics, and dark matter, and frequently connects theory to experiment and observation and physics to astronomy. The fundamental goal of his work is to help turn "neutrino astronomy" from an oxymoron into a observational science and to develop its theoretical consequences. His work in research, teaching, and service has been recognized by a National Science Foundation CAREER award, two major teaching awards from OSU, and an Outstanding Referee Award from the American Physical Society.
Professor Lars Bildsten, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, UC Santa Barbara, USA
Professor Lars Bildsten is the Rosing, Raab Professor in Theoretical Astrophysics and a Permanent Member at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara. He received his PhD in Theoretical Physics from Cornell University in 1991, where he held a Fannie and John Hertz Fellowship. Dr Bildsten was at Caltech for three years as the Lee A DuBridge Fellow and received a Compton Fellowship from NASA in spring 1994. He was an assistant and associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Departments at UC Berkeley from January 1995 to July 1999. Among his awards are the Alfred P Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Cottrell Scholar of the Research Corporation, and the Helen B Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society. Dr Bildsten was the Salpeter Lecturer at Cornell University and the Biermann Lecturer at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. He has served on many international scientific advisory boards, including the "Decadal Survey" prioritization process for Federal investments in astrophysics for 2010-2020. His efforts in educational outreach have been focused on the expansion of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy.
Professor Neil Gehrels, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, USA
Professor Neil Gehrels is head of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and is Adjunct Professors at University of Maryland and Penn State. He is Principal Investigator of the Swift Observatory launched in 2004 and Deputy Project Scientist for the Fermi mission launched in 2008. His research involves building space flight instruments to observe astronomical objects. The emphasis of his research is on explosive events in the cosmos such as gamma-ray bursts and supernovae. He received his PhD in physics at Caltech in 1981 and has been an astrophysicist at Goddard since that time. He was Project Scientist for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory during its operations from 1991 to 2000.
Professor Jim Hinton, University of Leicester, UK
Professor Jim Hinton received his PhD from the University of Leeds in 1998 after working on a cosmic ray experiment at the South Pole. He moved into the field of gamma-ray astronomy in 2000, taking up a post-doctoral position at the University of Chicago. He spent four years at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg working on the HESS area of Cherenkov telescopes, before taking up an STFC Advanced Fellowship back at Leeds in 2006. He has held a Chair at the University of Leicester since January 2010, pursuing his research in high energy astrophysics using HESS and other observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum. His main activity is now working towards the construction of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, a major global infrastructure for very high energy gamma-ray astronomy.
Professor Isobel Hook, University of Oxford, UK and INAF-Observatory Rome, Italy
Isobel Hook holds a joint position at the University of Oxford and INAF-Observatory of Rome. She gained her PhD in 1994 from the University of Cambridge on the subject of high redshift quasars. Her current research is focused mainly on the use of Type Ia supernovae for cosmology and she is a member of Supernova Cosmology Project, the Palmomar Transient Factory and the Supernova Legacy Survey collaborations. She is closely involved with the planning of the European Extremely Large Telescope, for which she chairs the Science Working Group. She also jointly leads the supernova and transients science working group for Euclid, a future mission within ESA's Cosmic Visions programme.
Professor Sheila Rowan, University of Glasgow, UK
Sheila Rowan is Director of the Institute for Gravitational Research in Glasgow, where she leads a research group developing detectors and signal analysis methods to search for gravitational waves from astrophysical sources.
She currently holds a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2008, appointed to Fellowship of the Institute of Physics in 2006, and awarded a Leverhulme Prize for Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2005.
From 2007 to 2011 she served as a member and then as Deputy Chair of the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics (PPAN) science committee of STFC. She is currently a member of the STFC Science Board, and an invited member of the ASPERA Science Advisory Committee, responsible for advising European Funding Agencies on their strategy for particle-astrophysics.
Dr Benjamin Stappers, University of Manchester, UK
Dr Stappers is a New Zealander and did his undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Canterbury followed by a PhD in Astronomy at the Australian National University in Canberra. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and then had a permanent position as a Senior Scientist at ASTRON. He joined the University of Manchester in 2007 and is now head of the pulsar group there.
His primary research interests are radio pulsars, neutron stars and rapid radio transients. He also has a strong interest in hardware and software development. He is a member of the European Pulsar Timing Array project and a co-PI of the pulsar and transient projects for the next generation radio telescopes: LOFAR and MeerKAT, and is involved in technical and science working groups for the SKA. His group also regularly observes more than 700 pulsars using the Lovell telescope.
Professor Andrew MacFadyen, New York University, USA
Professor Andrew MacFadyen is a theoretical astrophysicist. His work focuses on numerical simulations of high energy astrophysical phenomena as well as planet formation. He has worked on the collapsar model for the central engine of cosmological gamma-ray bursts in which a massive rotating star collapses to form a black hole which produces powerful relativistic jets. He now studies the afterglow radiation which is produced as these jets launch shock waves into space and radiate. He also studies magnetic field amplification by magnetohydrodynamical turbulence relevant for neutron star mergers. He received his doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz then held postdoctoral fellowships at the California Institute of Technology and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton before joining the physics faculty and the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics at New York University.
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