NGC 6164  



Astronomy in paradise
2014 December 28 — One of the major perks of being an astronomer is that I get to go to conferences in beautiful remote locations. Case in point: earlier this month I was fortunate enough to attend the IAU Symposium 305 in Punta Leona, Costa Rica. My husband and I arrived early and spent a week traveling to the Arenal Volcano area north of San José and the Hacienda Baru wildlife refuge on the Pacific coast. We hiked through primary rainforest, explored mangrove swamps by night and day, and saw an amazing variety of birds and wildlife. Even getting drenched by a torrential tropical downpour couldn't dampen the experience!
The conference itself featured a lively mix of solar and stellar astronomers, brought together by the shared technique of spectropolarimetry. I gave a talk entitled "Polarimetry as a Window into Supernova Explosions and Progenitors," which will appear in the forthcoming proceedings volume to be published by Cambridge University Press. I also enjoyed a talk by my former Ph.D. student Jamie Lomax and a poster by my former BS student Mike Malatesta building on his undergraduate thesis. And of course I saw many current and former collagues as well as beginning some new collaborations. Happily, we didn't lose any astronomers during the conference outing to view the crocodiles at Rio Tárcoles!
Here are some pictures from the trip. Many thanks to the International Astronomical Union, the High Altitude Observatory, and the DU Office of Internationalization for helping support my participation in this exciting conference!
Sabbatical stories
2014 October 30 — I am currently on sabbatical from DU and enjoying an extended visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I earned my Ph.D. I'll be giving a departmental colloquium on November 6, presenting a public talk at UW Space Place on November 11, visiting East High School, working with local collaborators on research and outreach projects, and writing a grant proposal. My Ph.D. student Manisha Shrestha will also be joining me in November before she heads to present a research poster at the Supercomputing 2014 conference in New Orleans.
I kicked off the sabbatical with another lovely 2 weeks at the Aspen Center for Physics in September (and I discovered that there's a photo of me on their webpage!). I attended a workshop on stellar and AGN winds and spent time finishing up a few ongoing projects.
One of those projects has now borne fruit with an accepted paper by Jamie Lomax, my former Ph.D. student (and current postdoc at the University of Oklahoma). The study combines X-ray spectroscopy and optical spectropolarimetry of the eclipsing colliding-wind binary V444 Cygni; we found evidence from both techniques that radiative braking and Coriolis forces produce a wind-collision region that has a very large opening angle and is offset from the line of centers between the stars. The paper is now out on astro-ph (1410.6117) and will appear in A&A shortly. It's the second paper to appear from Jamie's Ph.D. dissertation.
I'm also hatching plans to spend time at the University of Arizona early next year: stay tuned!
AAS recap
2014 January 10 — My Ph.D. student Manisha Shrestha and I just returned from the 223rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC. We both presented posters and had several productive discussions with colleagues. My recently graduated Ph.D. student Jamie Lomax also attended to present her dissertation talk, for which she won a Doxsey Travel Prize from the AAS. A highlight of the meeting was Neil deGrasse Tyson's plenary talk, for which we got front-row seats!
I was excited by the extent to which the meeting had a virtual component: the AAS set up "Extras" pages (here's mine) where each poster author could archive supplementary information, and the commentary on Twitter was lively and fascinating (cool stats here). There was also lots of meta-discussion of scientific data presentation and education and demographics within the field of astronomy. All in all, an excellent meeting that made me look forward to the next one!