Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gamma-Ray Astronomy

Day one of the University of Southampton's School of Physics and Astronomy Tenerife field trip to the University of Tenerife's Physics department. The trip allows undergraduate Physics and Astronomy, and Engineering students studying Space Science to get a taste of international research work.

Students are put into groups and given research topics to explore. By the end of the week the students are to give hour-long presentations, putting forward proposals to the group on new orbiting gamma ray telescopes.

This week-long project is run (from the University of Southampton's side) by Professor Tony Dean. Prof Dean was one of the original proposers for the INTEGRAL satellite mission, which went through the European Space Agency (ESA) selection process in the early '90s. Researchers from Southampton have been active in the mission since then, responsible for aspects of the instrument design, construction and calibration up to and beyond launch.

Students have to decide on a scientific objective for a new telescope, design the instrumentation needed for the space science mission and then work out the logistics - including the orbit of the satellites, mass budget issues (the weight limit imposed by launch constraints) and how to get the equipment into space. Students have to choose which rocket they could realistically use to place the rocket into correct orbit.

Students also have to work 'internationally┬┤ - each group has one Spanish student in it and we have Hungarians, a South American, an Italian, a Mexican, a German and a Welshman - to communicate with.

(Students From Left to Right Illeana Gomez Leal, Jon MacRae, Hector Brown, Tony Pang)

The research topics (which I don't understand yet) are; Active Galactic Nuclei, Gamma-ray bursts, solar flares, fine spectroscopy and Nucleosynthesis, a survey of X-Ray Binaries and Transient Events in Nearby Galaxies. Each group has a member of staff supporting them in their research.

(Students from Left to right: Junayd Alam Miah and Alba Casado)


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