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Fri Feb 2, 2024

GOTO at Transients Down Under

This week I attended the Transients Down Under meeting hosted by Swinburne U.. Really nice program and a great bunch of old and new colleagues all interested in various kinds of transients. Testament to the growth of the community here in Australia over the last decade or so. Parallel sessions made it difficult to attend everything I wanted, and the lack of an online option was a little frustrating, as the original presenter for our GOTO talk couldn't make it back to Australia for the meeting.

The program featured a good showing from Monash including PhD student Sergey Belkin presenting his latest result on the first discovery of a GRB optical counterpart with GOTO.

Labels: 2024, meetings

Mon Jan 8, 2024

First GRB optical counterpart with GOTO

Gamma-ray bursts, particularly poorly-localised ones, are a secondary science priority for our GOTO network of telescopes, after binary neutron-star mergers. While we've followed up many such events, up until late last year we'd been unsuccessful in actually discovering an optical counterpart.

This all changed with GRB230911A, detected last September, and for which Monash PhD student Sergey Belkin identified the optical afterglow (reported first in GCN #34681). This discovery was significant in several respects; it included observations from both our northern and southern instruments (the latter was deployed only a few months earlier), and was an emphatic demonstration of the effectiveness of our automated screening, with just one candidate left over for human review. Sergey reported the discovery in a research note, which has now been published by IOP.

Hopefully the first of many more!

Labels: 2024, transients

Tue Oct 17, 2023

Heavy element production in a compact object merger

GRB 230307A was an exceptionally bright long-duration gamma-ray burst first detected by the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on 7 March. Such events are usually understood to arise from the supernova of a massive star; unexpectedly, optical followup indicated behaviour similar to a kilonova, until now associated with short-duration bursts (which are thought to arise instead from compact object mergers, like the famous GW170817).

Andrew Levan and collaborators carried out extensive optical imaging and spectroscopy following the event, which I played an infinitessimally small role in. Most excitingly, the campaign also found a spectral line feature in JWST mid-IR spectrum, possibly arising from Tellurium produced (presumably along with other heavy elements) during the event. The paper has now been accepted by Nature and is also available at arXiv:2307.02098.

Labels: 2023, transients

Wed Jul 12, 2023

Launching Kilonova Seekers

GOTO collaborators Tom Killestein and Lisa Kelsey oversaw the launch at the UK NAM this week of a wonderful new citizen-science initative, Kilonova Seekers. The project provides candidate transients from GOTO and asks users to play "spot the difference" in distingushing genuine transients (or source variability) from various kinds of artifacts that crop up in our differencing procedure. Tom & Lisa had previously set up a platform for use within the collaboration to help vet our templates used for subtraction, but this new effort draws in a much wider pool of potential helpers to contribute directly to the highest-priority science, identifying kilonovae in our transient stream. By the end of the week we'd already had more than 100k classifications by 650 volunteers, an incredible success! The launch was followed by a release from Monash's press office and Lisa was also interviewed on BBC's Radio Solent. The input from this program will soon be directly integrated into our internal tools for identifying high-priority transients for followup.

Labels: 2023, outreach

Thu Jul 6, 2023

Twitter feed is down

You may have noticed the Twitter feed embedded on this page is no longer showing any tweets. Rest assured, I have been assiduously tweeting, it's just that their own tool no longer works, as noted here.

Twitter is my primary professional social media site, and while I have generally not been affected by the recent decline noted by many others, this is more of an irritation than anything. (I'd previously created a Mastodon account and was happily cross-posting all my Tweets there too, but of course that stopped working earlier, sometime in February). Maybe now time to switch completely to Mastodon...

Labels: 2023, outreach

Mon Jun 26, 2023

June is meeting month

Being based for the moment in EU I took the advantage of attending a couple of appealing topical meetings this June. First up was the X-ray Universe '23 meeting in Athens, Greece, held at the lovely Eugenides Foundation Digital Planetarium. It was great to hear about new results from IXPE, launched just over 18 months ago, and now with an impressive set of polarisation measurements on a wide range of sources to report. Excitement is building for the upcoming Einstein Probe and XRISM missions, both planned for launch in 2023. And finally the Athena mission saw frequent mention, following the excessive cost identified last year, which has motivated a reassessment and (moderate) downgrading of some of the capabilities. The "NewAthena" mission will be reassessed in November.

I travelled by bus, ferry and train over the weekend to Italy, for the First Vasto Accretion Meeting held in the lovely Palazzo d'Avalos up on the hill overlooking the marina and beach. A terrific program of talks featured great results on accretion at a wide range of scales, from AGN to white dwarfs and neutron stars. The social program was also first rate with plenty of opportunities for networking and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Hopefully the first of many future meetings!

Labels: 2023, meetings