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The Crab Nebula, courtesy of Davide De Martin, ESA/Hubble.
Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Paul O'Brien, Professor Kenneth Pounds CBE FRS, Professor Stephen Smartt and Professor Ralph Wijers
A violent stellar explosion detonates every second in the visible Universe producing transients such as supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. The dawn of a novel array of international observing facilities and detailed super-computer simulations is transforming the field. Our interdisciplinary meeting brings together experimentalists and theorists from photonic, astro-particle, and gravitational wave detection experiments to discuss their results and ideas.
Biographies of the organisers and speakers are available below and you can also download the draft programme (PDF). Recorded audio of the presentations will be available on this page after the event and papers will be published in a future issue of Philosophical Transactions A.
This event is intended for researchers in relevant fields and is free to attend. There are a limited number of places and registration is essential. An optional lunch is offered and should be booked during registration (all major credit cards accepted).
Participants are also encouraged to attend the related satellite meeting Interpreting signals from astrophysical transient experiments which immediately follows this event.
Enquiries: Contact the events team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Paul O'Brien, University of LeicesterChair of Session 1
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 Neil Gehrels, NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterHigh Energy Transients
Professor Neil Gehrels is head of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and is Adjunct Professor 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 Andrew MacFadyen, New York UniversityThe Dynamics and Afterglow Radiation of Gamma Ray Bursts
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.
Professor Stephan Rosswog, School of Engineering and Science, Jacobs UniversityThe multi-messenger picture of compact object encounters
Stephan Rosswog studied physics at the University of Basel and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. He received his PhD in theoretical physics in 1998 from the University Basel. After two years at the German Aerospace Centre in Cologne he worked as a Postdoc in the Theoretical Astrophysics group at the University of Leicester. In 2002 he was awarded a five year Advanced Fellowship of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). In 2003 he took up a position as Assistant Professor at Jacobs University Bremen; since 2008 he is an Associate Professor in Bremen. His main research interests are related to the physics of stellar, compact objects and cosmic explosions, in particular to gamma-ray bursts and thermonuclear supernovae. He is further interested in computational physics and numerical methods.
Professor Tsvi Piran, Racah Institute for Physics, The Hebrew UniversityGRB progenitors
Tsvi Piran holds the Schwartzmann Chair for Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Piran was educated at Tel Aviv University and at the Hebrew University. He was a research fellow at Oxford and at the University of Texas in Austin and a long-term member at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. Piran returned to the Hebrew University in the early eighties where he has been a professor of Physics for the last twenty-five years. Piran has been a visiting Professor at Harvard, Columbia and NYU and a distinguished Moore Scholar at Caltech. Piran’s work that deals mostly with relativistic astrophysics spans a very wide range of topics – from the foundation of numerical relativity and the gravitational wave signature of black holes to voids in the large-scale structure of the Universe. He is best known for his work on Gamma-Ray Bursts as one of the first proponents of their cosmological origin and for his major contributions to our current understanding of how they operate. Piran has published more than 350 papers that received more than 15000 citations. He is the editor of 11 books and the author of two popular scientific books.
Professor Stephen Smartt, Queen's University BelfastChair of Session 2
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 Lars Bildsten, Kavli Institute for Theoretical PhysicsDiverse Energy Sources for Stellar Explosions
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 Brian Schmidt, Australian National UniversityCrossing the Universe with Supernovae
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 High-Z 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 Jens Hjorth, Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of CopenhagenThe Supernova/Gamma-Ray Burst Connection
Jens Hjorth (PhD 1993, University of Aarhus) is a Professor of Astrophysics at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen where he is heading the Dark Cosmology Centre. He is an author of about 200 refereed journal articles and the advisor of numerous past and current students. He led the discovery of the supernova/gamma-ray burst connection in GRB 030329/SN 2003dh as well as the discovery of the first optical transient of a short-duration gamma-ray burst. He has broad scientific interests, including gravitational lensing (e.g., measuring time delays for multiply imaged quasars), relaxation of dark-matter structures, and the origin of dust in galaxies. He was the chairman of the science team which proposed the construction of the first VLT second-generation instrument, X-shooter, and is now a regular user of the instrument for the discovery and characterisation of transient sources such as gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and quasars.
Professor Avishay Gal-Yam, Weizmann Institute of ScienceSuper-Luminous Supernovae
Born in 1970 in Jerusalem, Israel, Avishay Gal-Yam earned his BSc magna cum laude in physics and mathematics in 1996 and his PhD in physics and astronomy in 2003 at Tel Aviv University. He received NASA’s prestigious Hubble postdoctoral fellowship and spent four years conducting research at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2007. His research deals mainly with the physical nature of cosmic explosions. He leads the study of massive star explosions using the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) wide-field variability survey, exploring the diverse manifestations of stellar death, and seeks new physical mechanisms powering stellar explosions, from weak and faint white-dwarf explosions to the most energetic and luminous supernovae. He has recently received the Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research, the Israeli Physical Society (IPS) Prize for a Young Physicist, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research ARCHES prize, the Weizmann Levinson Physics Prize, and the Peter and Patricia Gruber Young Scientist Award. He has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals, including Nature, Science, and The Astrophysical Journal.
Professor Kenneth Pounds CBE FRS, University of LeicesterChair of Session 3
Ken Pounds is Emeritus Professor of Space Physics at the University of Leicester. He has been an active member of the international X-ray astronomy community since its origins in the 1960s, with some 300 publications in the discipline. He is a former President of the Royal Astronomical Society and was Chief Executive of the forerunner to the UK Science and Technology Funding Council. Professor Pounds is currently studying energetic outflows and feedback in Active Galaxies, while retaining a strong interest in the exciting science continuing to flow from the Swift mission.
Professor Rob Fender, University of SouthamptonExploring the transient radio sky: new horizons with LOFAR
Professor Rob Fender is a leading expert in the overlapping fields of black hole accretion and radio transients, linked by his work on the variable production of relativistic jets in black holes and their relation to the accretion flow. He is a Principal Investigator of Key Science Projects for radio transients (of all types) on two of the major SKA pathfinders, LOFAR and MeerKAT. He is also a recipient of an ERC Advanced Investigator award which is funding a team of researchers to develop technieques for automated detection, response and reporting of astrophysical transients detected across a range of telescopes.
Professor Jim Hinton, University of LeicesterVery high energy emission from transients
I received my PhD from the University of Leeds in 1998 after working on a cosmic ray experiment at the South Pole. I moved into the field of gamma-ray astronomy in 2000, taking up a post-doctoral position at the University of Chicago. I 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. I have held a Chair at the University of Leicester since January 2010, pursuing my research in high energy astrophysics using HESS and other observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum. My 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 Sheila Rowan, University of GlasgowGravitational wave astronomy
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.
Professor John Beacom, Ohio State UniversitySupernova Neutrino Astronomy
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 Ralph Wijers, University of AmsterdamChair of Session 4
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 Isobel Hook, University of Oxford, Dept of Physics and INAF-Observatory, RomeSupernovae and Cosmology with future European facilities
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 John Tonry, Institute for Astronomy, University of HawaiiMonitoring the sky with Pan-STARRS
John Tonry received his PhD from Harvard and after postdocs at IAS and Caltech spent 11 years on the 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 Josh Bloom, Dept of Astronomy, University of California, BerkeleyData-Mining and Machine Learning in the LSST Era
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.
Dr Ben Stappers, University of ManchesterThe Square Kilometre Array and the transient Universe
I am a New Zealander and did my undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Canterbury followed by a Phd in Astronomy at the Australian National University in Canberra. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and then had a permenant position as a Senior Scientist at ASTRON. I joined the University of Manchester in 2007 and am now head of the pulsar group there. My primary research interests are radio pulsars, neutron stars and rapid radio transients. I also have a strong interest in hardware and software development. I am a member of the European Pulsar Timing Array project and a co-PI of the pulsar and transient proejcts for the next generation radio telescopes: LOFAR and MeerKAT, and am invovled in technical and science working groups for the SKA. Our group also regularly observes more than 700 pulsars using the Lovell telescope.
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