Friday, February 8, 2013

Long nights observing...

It's been a while since my last post, but I think I'll be excused for this :p Now though I have some spare time to get back to the blog. Two major things have occurred since the last blog post. The first was a Kepler observing proposal deadline sometime mid January. This is a great opportunity for me, and people I work with to get the exquisite lightcurves of the cataclysmic variables I've discovered in the Kepler field-of-view (some of which have been mentioned in the previous post and here is one more). Hopefully the proposal will be accepted (first time I propose to NASA, so fingers crossed on that!), and if it does we will be able to obtain lightcurves of about 15-20 cataclysmic variables throughout a whole year at least, uninterruptedly! The great thing about these lightcurves is that it will allow us for the very first time to look at the variability properties of a sample of cataclysmic variables, allowing to infer properties of the cataclysmic variable population in general, instead of only single objects as I have been pursuing in the last year or so (see this post). If indeed all cataclysmic variables show similar variability properties in their optical lightcurves (as observed by Kepler), and that these properties resemble those observed in X-rays for X-ray binaries (accreting black holes or neutron stars), then we will be a step closer in unraveling what is the physical mechanism which drives the growth of these objects, eventually shaping the stellar populations we observe in our Galaxy. At the moment Kepler is the only observatory which allows to pursue this study, and I really hope it gets to observe my targets :)

The second task I've been busy with in the past month or so has been to finish off of a paper and submit it to a journal. In this paper I use the ULTRACAM instrument (amazing by the way!) to study the high-frequency variability properties of two cataclysmic variables (of which one is MV Lyrae). The awesome thing about ULTRACAM is that it is fast(!) and even cooler is the fact that it can simultaneously observe objects in three different filters (red, green and blue). However, before I dive more into this, I'll wait for the paper to be accepted (hopefully), keeping you to wait for my next blog post on this ;)

In the meantime, I am observing at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma (Spain) with the Mercator telescope of K.U. Leuven. The stuff I am observing mainly involves bright(ish) stars, and in particular I am using HERMES to take spectra of them for people in the HERMES consortium. It is the first time I use Mercator (but defiantly not the first at the observatory) and I think it is a very user friendly telescope :) Main issue is that I have to stay here for 2 weeks straight, observing every night until sunset (meaning I'm by myself for about 13 hours per day, with not much else to do for the rest of the time!). On the good side I found some time to update the blog! To show you the real beauty of this place,  here is an amazing time-lapse video made by Péter I. Pápics at K.U. Leuven, showing the Mercator telescope in action, and its awesome surroundings. Enjoy! :D