Vanishing September

Time waits for no man – especially true of this last month.

When I started this blog back in July, my original aims were to blog about

(1) astronomy, ✔
(2) computing, ✔
(3) and the daily life of a postdoc, ✔
(4) on a weekly basis… d’oh!

I’ve been so busy this past month, blogging was firmly pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. Here’s a short update of what I’ve been upto.

Resolved dust analysis of NGC 891: My main endeavor over the summer has been the analysis of Herschel PACS/SPIRE observations of the nearby edge-on spiral NGC 891, obtained as part of the Very Nearby Galaxy Survey. I’ve just finished writing the first draft of the paper – an interesting experience in itself, since this is the first time I’ve focussed an analysis on one object rather than a large sample of galaxies. We are still at an early stage of internal peer review, so I’ll wait till the paper is published before blogging about our conclusions.

ESA Presentation Meeting of the L2/L3 Science Themes: I attended an open meeting in Paris in which scientists presented the potential science themes to be included the next phase of ESA’s Science Programme, part of the process that will lead to the selection of the science themes and associated questions for two Large class missions, expected to launch in 2028 and 2034. The suggested science themes up for selection were drawn from thirty two white papers submitted following a Call for Proposals last March. The meeting was fascinating as the themes covered a broad range of interesting science, all aimed at addressing the four main questions in ESA’s Cosmic Vision (which can be broadly summarized as the attempt understand everything in our Universe!). The presentations highlighted open questions and shortcomings in our current understanding and discussed methods for addressing these problems. Professionally, I was mostly interested in the themes linked to understanding galaxy evolution – especially the case for a far-infrared space observatory operating at sub-arcsecond resolution, and a survey of galaxies in the universe at redshifts around the peak of star formation activity, AGN activity and the galaxy merging rate etc, which could be delivered by the proposed near-infrared space observatory, Chronos. However, some of the missions would have appealed to anyone curious about the universe. For example, I found myself drawn to a mission to Saturn and Titan that could study the water and ice plumes erupting from the surface of cryovolcanic Enceladus, in order to search for evidence of organic compounds and life. I eagerly await to see which science themes ESA will select.

Metallicities of dwarf galaxies: I calculated the oxygen abundances of around 100 dwarf galaxies linked to the Herschel Virgo Cluster Survey. More to follow shortly!

VLT/FORS2 spectroscopic data reduction: We’re trying to obtain metallicity gradients from observations of a subsample of galaxies in the Herschel Reference Survey, and I’ve been tackling the data reduction of the FORS2 observations. Spectroscopic data reduction has so far been something I’ve done “by hand”, using IRAF or python scripts, but FORS2 observations can be reduced using the ESO Reflex pipeline. I’ve recently started playing around with the environment in order to customise the pipeline.

Add into all this the submission of observing proposals, the making of a poster for a conference next month and ongoing extracurricular work with MethylCalit’s definitely been a productive month!

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