Plus points for astronomy

I now have 9 months left until my PhD funding runs out, and I start paying additional fees to the University. My plan is to have submitted a thesis by then, but that will require a colossal shift in work habits and a drastic reduction in distractions. If anyone has any tips for increasing productivity please feel free to send them my way!

Sunset beside the WHT dome

Sunset beside the WHT dome

Right now I’m in La Palma, at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos. It’s night 4 of 7 at the WHT, observing a bunch of other people’s science with ULTRACAM. I’m here with my co-supervisor Stuart, who is humorous on good days and grumpy when everything breaks.

So far it’s been a good chance to fix a few bugs with the pt5m, which have held me back from finishing the instrumental paper about it. It’s also given me a helpful dose of motivation to get on and work a bit harder when I get back to Sheffield. Just being out here in the stunning landscapes is a good start, but recalling the exciting parts of astronomy – data collection, problem solving, networking, and looking at Jupiter and its moons, is helpful too.

Jupiter and Io through the eyepiece on pt5m

Jupiter and Io through the eyepiece on pt5m

We’ve been observing an exciting transient this week – the black hole candidate V404 Cyg. The system is thought to comprise a black hole and a solar-type star in a close binary orbit. The black hole is accreting gas from the donor star, and has entered a bright outbursting phase. The outburst has been seen at all wavelengths, from gamma-rays, through x-rays and optical to radio emission. We’ve been monitoring it with pt5m (see my first ever first-authorship: ATel #7681), and also with ULTRACAM, whenever the schedule allows (see ATel #7686). I don’t claim to understand the physics of what’s going on here, but it’s certainly an interesting outburst, being much brighter and more variable than ever before.

pt5m observations of the outbursting black hole binary V404 Cyg

pt5m observations of the outbursting black hole binary V404 Cyg

After we dismount ULTRACAM on Friday, I’ll be staying in La Palma for a week’s holiday. I’m looking forward to some hiking, diving, beach trips and good food. When I get back to Sheffield I’ll need to really knuckle down, finish off the pt5m paper and get a move on with the eclipsing CVs paper too.

Until the next time, hasta la proxima.