The following positions within JBCA are currently open for applications.
As 2017 draws to a close, it’s useful to look back on our accomplishments over the year, and to also look forward to what 2018 holds. JBCA continued to be successful in attracting significant amounts of external funding via various STFC, EC and ERC sources. Three of our staff received individual ERC awards - Ben Stappers, Rene Breton and Jens Chluba. We also continued to participate strongly in the SKA design efforts led by Keith Grainge – this is now well-funded through to March 2019. Anna Scaife was instrumental in attracting major funds for Data Intensive Science projects, engaging with the particle physics community and industry, in addition to astronomy partners located throughout the world. A new 3-years Consolidated Grant award from STFC (led by Associate Director Richard Battye) also faired well in what has become an extremely competitive process – the number and size of astronomy groups in the UK continues to rise but the funding pot is still limited.
Many of our staff have also been active in supporting other externally funded projects, such as the Newton funded activities in Africa and Thailand, plus the new initiative from JIVE – Jumping JIVE. As a result of these successes, the total number of JBCA staff rose to almost 200 people with a significant increase recorded in the number of graduate students. This naturally puts a significant strain on our PSS admin staff, including ICT. The support we receive from PSS staff within JBCA is outstanding - this is particularly impressive given the huge changes that are taking place within the University but also locally at the Observatory. The patience of our staff has been exemplary, as they work under very difficult conditions, as the site infrastructure at Jodrell Bank is renewed and the SKA extension (which the University calls SKA2!) is under construction. A good example of the dedication of our staff was the recent network upgrade works between JBO and Manchester – they were completed over the weekend, and normal service resumed on the internet link almost immediately. At the same time, a dedicated 100 Gbps network interface was also installed for the SKA AENEAS project – these high speed links will be essential in the future for connecting JBCA to the SKA telescope sites in South Africa and Western Australia. In addition, they strengthen the case for JBCA to play a major role in the UK’s contribution to the European SKA Regional Centre which will be distributed across the continent.
In terms of our research output, the steady increase in refereed papers looks likely to continue through 2017 – by the middle of December we had already published 184 refereed papers with many more still in the pipeline. The publication statistics are a testament to the energy of our researchers, many of whom have heavy teaching loads as the number of first years students in the School of Physics & Astronomy rose to 320. You can find an up-to-date listing of all JBCA publications at: tinyurl.com/jodrell-pubs-2017. In 2018 we will begin to prepare with the rest of the School for REF2021 – this is an exercise that reviews the quality of our research output and is important in determining future funding levels. A selection of our science results are presented in this issue of the Newsletter, they cover a small fraction of the enormous range of research topics JBCA addresses. A key contribution to the excellent research environment enjoyed by our staff and students, is made by the post-graduate committee, led by Andrew May and later in the year Luke Hart. The committee continues to organise an impressive range of activities within the institute, including many social events such as the recent Christmas party, Student Welcome Party, JBCAles, JBCAmusements etc. Members of the committee also organise the annual internal symposium, and weekly events such as arXiv coffee and internal seminars. Another important contribution is the JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS) - this introduces our new students to the computing and software environment that they will use during their masters or PhD. The success of all these activities, including a fantastic Outreach record that includes the ever popular Jodcast is one of the major assets of our organisation, and it makes JBCA a great place to work (and play!).
Our sister organisations that share the Jodrell Bank site also had a great 2017 – the extension to the SKA Headquarters made excellent progress and the Discovery Centre (working together with JBCA Associate Director Tim O’Brien) was successful in having the site listed as the UK’s next nomination to UNESCO as a potential World Heritage Site. In addition, extra support in the UK government’s budget for our planned Heritage Lottery Fund project, means the Discovery Centre’s ambitions to build a new First Light Pavilion are given a tremendous boost. There are more articles in the newsletter covering these great successes. The Jodrell Bank site was also the venue for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Pulsars – Pulsar Astrophysics: The Next Fifty Years. The meeting led by Ben Stappers was a huge success with many people declaring it to be the best scientific meeting they had ever attended! JBCA also hosted several other meetings on Star formation (led by George Bendo), the e-MERLIN and VLBI workshop (led by Rob Beswick) and last but not least (see elsewhere in this newsletter) the Introductory PhD Summer School in Astronomy. As always, a steady stream of VIPs visited Jodrell Bank Observatory through the year, including Jo Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation), Prof. Sir Mark Walport (UKRI CEO) and Dr. Brian Bowsher (STFC CEO).
|Credit: SKA Organisation / Dragons Eye Filming|
Plans to replace the original 1957 surface of the Lovell Telescope as part of the so-called Jodrell Bank Master Plan, also moved forward into a new phase with tender responses expected in January next year. This is a challenging project for all concerned but it will ensure the continued operation of the great telescope well into the next decade. There was huge pressure on observing time towards the end of the year, after a long break in operations, as painting and various associated repairs were made. The telescope returned to full-time operation in mid-November after huge efforts made by our own staff and external contractors. The dedication of our telescope maintenance staff throughout the year (a team led by Phil Clarke) meant that the telescope could start operations almost immediately after the repair scaffolding was removed. The telescope was therefore ready just in time to observe PSR J2032+4127 as it approached periastron, plunging through the wind/disk of the associated Be star. We’re looking forward to seeing the results of that in 2018. We can expect the pressure on Lovell Telescope observing time to rise even further over the coming 12-24 months, and the JBCA directorate is considering ways in which this can be optimally managed. Many large e-MERLIN legacy projects are also looking forward to considerable access to the telescope, including exciting new areas of research such as the detection and imaging of proto-planetary disks around nearby stars. New technology developments also require telescope time - a few days ago, a Phased Array Feed (PAF) purchased from our colleagues in Australia arrived at the observatory – the instrument will be commissioned in 2018 with full operations expected in 2019.
Several changes occurred within the JBCA organisation this year – Michael Brown was appointed as Head of the Cosmology Group, joining the other seasoned JBCA research group leaders – Ben Stappers (Pulsars and Time Domain Astrophysics) and Clive Dickinson (Sun, Stars and Galaxies). Several prominent retirements also occurred this year – at the observatory Angela Bailey, Paul Burgess, Christine Jordan and Roger Noble all retired. With a combined Observatory experience of around 130 years, all four made remarkable contributions to JBCA in the areas of telescope control and operations, software development, data processing, data analysis, Pulsars and VLBI. Dr. Mitchell Mickaliger and Dr Eskil Varenius were appointed at the Observatory as Operational Support Scientists for Pulsar, time domain and VLBI observations.
The year ahead
2018 promises to be an interesting year. In January we expect to hear the outcome of our bid to renew e-MERLIN operations funding for a further 5 years. We should also find out how an ambitious upgrade plan has faired. The extension of the array to include telescopes at Goonhilly (doubling our resolution and improving our coverage of sources in the south) would occur within the normal operations plan. STFC evaluated our proposal this year (see PPRP newsletter article), culminating with a visit from a panel of experts in October. This process is running alongside a national review of radio astronomy in the UK – both reports will have an influence on future funding in the field. We’re confident that our proposal was well received by the selection panel, and we have provided significant input to the radio astronomy review on the importance of maintaining a state-of-the-art radio astronomy national facility in the run up to SKA science operations (sometime in the latter half of the next decade). The efforts of all our staff in preparing and supporting the proposals preparation process, not to mention the presentations and Q&A sessions with the PPRP panel was magnificent - Simon Garrington, Rob Beswick and Jenny Lockhart deserve special mention in this regard. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome early in the new year!
The future structure of the Faculty of Science and Engineering should also be known early in the new year – proposals include the reduction in the number of schools which could see the School of Physics and Astronomy merging with another school. While there are some reservations about the merging of some schools, the opportunity for more multi–disciplinary research also represents an interesting opportunity for JBCA. In March, we should have a good idea of the final costs of the main elements of the Jodrell Bank Master Plan. This will permit us to see how much is left to invest in the upgrade of the Observatory Control Building. It’s already clear that there will be insufficient funding to build the new extension that was originally proposed some time ago, and when the final figures are in, we will need to make a new integrated plan for how to develop the site and its buildings as they currently exist. I’m confident we can arrive at a plan that satisfies the needs in the short-term, in the longer-term we need to identify new funds to substantially upgrade the observatory control building and the other buildings around the green. That will be one of the major challenges for 2018 and the next few years to come. In principle, work on replacing the original surface of the telescope could start as early as the end of March, and we hope that it will be possible for work on the wheel girder and foundations to run in parallel to that. However, it is undoubtedly the case, that the Lovell Telescope’s availability will be greatly decreased in the coming year.
One goal that remains unaffected by this work is the need to get e-MERLIN fully integrated into the European VLBI Network (EVN). We made good progress on this in 2017 but 2018 is the year where this has to become operational. The joint capabilities of the e-MERLIN/EVN combination already has the community licking its lips – with baselines sensitive to a wide range of different angular scales, we expect some fantastic images to be generated by this array. A special meeting on a European vision for the future of VLBI science to be organised at the EWASS in June (EWASS is located in Liverpool this year) will be a good place to consider how the EVN, together with e-MERLIN, move further forward. The commissioning of the new CSIRO PAF will also take place in 2018 – this will no doubt be a difficult but very rewarding exercise - the PAF will greatly extend the field of view of the Lovell Telescope, and together with e-MERLIN it will be a formidable array to detect and localise transients with the LOFT-e system – the latter will include the realtime follow-up of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and the detection of radio emission associated with Gravitational Wave events – we might even do a little bit of SETI in collaboration with our colleagues at Breakthrough Listen in Berkeley!
Sean replaced Prof. Steve Watts who was HoS since 2010, and continues to act as project sponsor for the SKA building extension. Steve was a familiar face around Jodrell Bank, playing a major role in securing the site as the SKA HQ. Sean visited the Observatory shortly after his appointment, and enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the facilities with plenty of time to also chat informally with staff and students. We look forward to interacting with Sean over the coming years, and wish Steve all the best for the future.
|Prof. Sean Freeman meeting staff in the Jodrell Bank control room|
On 3 October, the visiting panel of the STFC Projects Peer Review Panel (PPRP) visited Jodrell Bank Observatory for a day of presentations on our e-MERLIN Operations and Development proposal - the last step before making their final recommendations. Their day at Jodrell Bank included a behind the scenes tour of the Lovell Telescope.
|Prof. Martin Hardcastle (University of Hertfordshire), Chris Woolford (STFC), Prof. Catherine Heymans (University of Edinburgh), Dr. Victoria Martin (University of Edinburgh), Prof. Andrew Blain (University of Leicester), Kim Burchell (STFC), Tahmina Aziz (STFC).|
At the end of this year, Prof. Richard T. Schilizzi (RTS) retires as JBCA Associate Director without portfolio. Richard joined JBCA in 2012, and he has served on the JBCA directorate (see photo) and its predecessor, the JBCA Executive, for the last 6 years. He joined JBCA after retiring as Director of the SKA Project, a post he held for 9 years. During his 6 years in the JBCA, Richard was involved and supported many key developments within the institute – these included important contributions to the SKA Design Phase, a review of JBO, and the successful bid of the UK to host the SKA Organisation. Richard will be not be leaving us however, in 2018 he will take up a position as emeritus professor. He promises to be around quite a lot – on Tuesdays at the Observatory and Wednesdays in the Alan Turing Building. We look forward to working with Richard over the coming years but also wish him well in his “retirement”.
The University of Manchester’s site in Cheshire has been selected as the next UK candidate to go forward for nomination to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a World Heritage Site. Other notable sites across the world include the Grand Canyon in the United States and Machu Pichu in Peru.
The Observatory, which has just celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the iconic Lovell Telescope, and has recently announced new listed buildings, is now preparing the papers for nomination, which will be submitted to UNESCO in January 2018.
Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said: ‘We have been preparing the case for the World Heritage Site inscription for Jodrell Bank Observatory for some years now, so it’s absolutely fantastic to reach this milestone. The Lovell Telescope in particular has become an icon for science and engineering, and we look forward to showcasing the rich scientific heritage of this and the wider site on an international stage.'
In preparation for inclusion in the World Heritage List, the site is also improving its visitor facilities, and working on a project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to create a spectacular new gallery space that will celebrate the ‘can do’ story of the creation of the new science of radio astronomy.
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor of the University, said: ‘The University is very proud that our Jodrell Bank Observatory is going forward to UNESCO for inscription as a World Heritage Site. As an institution that is known for its internationally leading research, it is very fitting that our rich heritage in science has received such acclaim.’
Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, added: ‘Jodrell Bank is the one remaining radio astronomy site, worldwide which dates from the early days, so it is very important that we protect and celebrate the physical record of our involvement in the creation of a new science’.
Professor Michael Garrett, Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and holder of the Sir Bernard Lovell Chair in Astronomy & Astrophysics, said: ‘Jodrell Bank has played a leading role in radio astronomy for over seventy years, work which is reflected in the landscape of the site. This rich history is still being written with the execution of state-of-the art astronomical research programmes on the Lovell Telescope and the e-MERLIN array of national facility radio telescopes, plus our hosting of the international headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array.'
Subject to the approval of a business plan, the £4m completes the fundraising for the £20.5m ‘First Light’ project which combines a celebration of scientific heritage with an enhanced educational programme. The development will include construction of a new gallery, incorporating a spectacular exhibition and immersive auditorium.
‘First Light’ is supported by an offer of £12M from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with generous support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Denise Coates Foundation, the University of Manchester Alumni and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
|Artists' impression of the new 'First Light' Pavilion|
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre currently attracts around 185,000 visitors each year, including 26,000 school pupils on educational visits. The new project is expected to increase the overall visitor numbers to 250,000, and reach an additional 6,000 school pupils each year.
The new facility will help people learn more about the history of the Observatory at Jodrell Bank, including it's pivotal role in the development of radio astronomy, it's work in space tracking and its contribution to defence during the cold war.
In October 1957, the Mark 1 telescope was used to track the carrier rocket of Sputnik 1 at the dawn of the space age. In the following six decades, Jodrell Bank has changed immeasurably, but still works at the cutting edge of radio astronomy.
On 5 October 2017, the staff and students of Jodrell Bank, both past and present, and the family of Sir Bernard Lovell came together to celebrate the 60 years of the Lovell Telescope.
|Photos by Ian Morison.|
On 11-12 September 2017 we welcomed over 60 delegates from around the world to Jodrell Bank Observatory to attend the second annual e-MERLIN science community meeting. The aim of this workshop was two-fold: to give the user community an opportunity to feedback to the e-MERLIN/VLBI National facility on a wide range of different issues from user access to potential areas of development that the user community desire from the instrument; and to invite ideas and visions for the strategic development of the UK's National Radio Astronomy Facility and the European VLBI Network.
The centrepiece of this meeting was a series of updates on the planned future operations and upgraded capabilities for the e-MERLIN array. These are part of a hugely exciting and ambitious series of plans submitted to STFC (led by Manchester, Cambridge and Oxford Universities), which will significantly enhance and extend the science that can be undertaken with e-MERLIN. Many of these upgrades utilise many of technology developments being made in the UK and elsewhere as part of the SKA development phase making them cost effective and incredibly timely in the run up to the SKA, as well as hugely beneficial to the e-MERLIN scientific community. These developments include new receiver bands at S- and X-band, effectively providing continuous frequency coverage from 1-26GHz for e-MERLIN; broad-banding of the data network and correlator to permit up to 8GHz of bandwidth using SKA developments to significantly enhance sensitivity; the replacement of the Defford telescope with a new, high-performance SKA1-mid telescope; the development of a new cooled Phased-Array Feed for the Lovell telescope; and the adoption of the SKA Science Data Processor analysis environment.
|Group photo of the e-MERLIN and EVN in the SKA Era attendees in front of the Lovell Telescope. Credit: N. Wrigley.|
Throughout the whole meeting extensive and hugely productive discussions were held allowing the community to comment on the planned upgrades and share their scientific prioritisation. The community input from this meeting is being used to guide the scientific priorities as this upgrade ambitious project so that e-MERLIN continues to develop in line with the community’s needs.
Additionally, during this meeting a dedicated session was assigned to Prof. Ian Robson, Chair of the Radio Strategy Review Panel at STFC, to allow him to feedback on the work of this review. During this session the e-MERLIN and VLBI user communities engaged in deep discussion about this review, making many significant contributions.
|This event received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730562 [RadioNet] and we are grateful to RadioNet for their support.|
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of pulsars, which was celebrated in September this year by hosting Symposium 337 of the International Astronomical Union -- Pulsar Astrophysics: The Next Fifty Years.
Ever since the discovery in 1967 pulsars neutron stars have provided an unprecedented opportunity to study the extremes of physics. This started with the very rapid identification of pulsars as rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields and, selecting just a few highlights from the following decades, was followed by the discovery of the Hulse-Taylor binary, millisecond pulsars, the first pulsars in globular clusters, the pulsar planets and the double pulsar.
|Conference photo showing the participants of IAU symposium 337 in front of the iconic Lovell radio telescope.|
Jodrell Bank hosted over two hundred world-leading in Researchers Jodrell Bank to reflect on what we have learnt from these remarkable physical laboratories and to cast our eyes forward to the exciting opportunities they provide for physical and astrophysical studies in the coming decades. This event took place next to the iconic Lovell Telescope, which has been observing pulsars for the entire 50 years and therefore seamlessly connects the past, present and future of pulsar research. There were excellent contributions (including 17 invited talks, 74 contributed talks and 91 posters) covering topics such as "Current and Next Generation Pulsar Surveys'', "Gravity tests with pulsars'', "Gravitational Wave science with pulsar timing arrays'', "Neutron Star Masses, Glitches and Equations of State'', "The Neutron Star Zoo'', "The multi-messenger view of Pulsars'',"Pulsar emission physics across the electromagnetic spectrum'', "Neutron Star Binaries'', "Constraining the magneto-ionic properties of the ISM and local IGM using pulsars'' and "The future of pulsar research and facilities''.
|Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell plants the tree near the Lovell telescope to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her discovery of the first pulsar|
To commemorate the anniversary of the discovery of pulsars and the symposium a sustainable, permanent memorial in the form of a Crab Apple tree, Malus ‘White Star’ was planted near the Lovell telescope by Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell. At the same location each of the participants in the meeting were invited to plant a Daffodil, Narcissus ‘Woodland Star’ as their own memorial to the meeting and anniversary.
Overall the meeting was a fitting occasion to commemorate 50 years since the discovery of pulsars.
|||This event has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730562 [RadioNet].|
Earlier this month, on 2 November, staff and students from across the department reported on their latest research. The annual JBCA Internal Symposium is an opportunity for members of the department, from postgraduate students all the way up to the Director, to present to their colleagues their work over the last 12 months.
The day kicked off with the Director’s address from Prof. Michael Garrett. This was followed by a broad overview of the science interests covered in the department from Prof. Richard Battye (Associate Director, Science), as well as the “bottom-up” activities including the hugely successful Jodcast and JBCA Autumn Computing Sessions (JACS).
The symposium then continued with talks from the group heads of Cosmology, Pulsars and Time Domain Astrophysics, and Sun, Stars & Galaxies (Profs Michael Brown, Ben Stappers and Clive Dickinson respectively), along with updates on the SKA (Prof. Keith Grainge), operations at Jodrell Bank Observatory and e-MERLIN (Prof. Simon Garrington), public engagement activities (Prof. Tim O’Brien), ALMA (Prof. Gary Fuller), computing (Dr Ant Holloway) and the myriad departmental social activities (Dr Ian Harrison).
|The staff and students of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (mostly looking at the camera!).
Credit: Anthony Holloway.
The bulk of the day, however, was given over to 80+ individual talks of one minute, each using a single slide, given by researchers from across JBCA. The topics ranged from theory through observation to computation and instrumentation, demonstrating both the variety and high quality of work being done in the department.
The day concluded with drinks and prizes, voted on by the audience, for the best postdoc and best student talks. Given the caliber of presentations throughout the day, massive congratulations are due to the winners, Dr Stuart Harper and Mr Nialh McCallum!
JBCA hosted this year’s STFC Introductory Summer School in Astronomy, from 28 August to 1 September. The week was a great success, with 115 first year PhD students from Universities across the UK attending the Summer School, including 15 from the new Data Intensive Science CDT program.
|Astronomy: The Next Generation. Attendees, speakers and LOC members of the STFC Introductory Summer School in Astronomy 2017.
Photo credit: Anthony Holloway.
The week consisted of a programme of 16 lectures designed to give the attendees experience of the full breadth of the UK’s multi-wavelength and multi-messenger astronomy programme. In addition, our own PhD students and postdocs prepared a program of workshops on Wellbeing, Careers, Computing and Science Papers. A special thank you to Sally Cooper, Luke Hart, Andrew May, Tom Armitage, Minnie Mao and George Bendo of the LOC for bringing these together. A public lecture was held on the second day of the Summer School, with Prof Philip Diamond, General Director of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation, providing an overview of the SKA's achievements to date and future plans.
A talk on Outreach and Public Engagement was given by Prof Tim O’Brien (Associate Director Outreach, JBCA), with an introduction by Prof Teresa Anderson (Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre). A “behind-the-scenes” tour of Jodrell Bank Observatory was also organised, including tours of the control room, VLBI room and e-MERLIN correlator
|A special thank you to all of our guest speakers - feedback on the lectures has been exceptionally positive!|
Around the lecture/workshop programme, we held a number of social events including a welcome reception, pub quiz and a special conference dinner at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry.
We wish all the students who attended the very best with their PhD, and hope they all learned something valuable during the Summer School!
Contributed by Dr Anthony Holloway, Head of Computing
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the link was run over telephone lines using modems at 9.6 or 19.2 Kbps. It then moved to run over a radio link from a dish on the 150ft mast to a remote location where the data could then proceed on fibre into Manchester. Two iterations of such systems were used in the 1990’s and 2000’s running at 2 Mbps and then 155 Mbps before the advent of the e-MERLIN project.
As an extension to the provision of dark fibre cables to the remote e-MERLIN telescopes, an additional connection was made to the main campus. This also enabled VLBI observations to be made in real-time, streaming the data to JIVE in the Netherlands. With a fibre in place the available bandwidth becomes a function of the equipment placed at each end and over time this has been upgraded by NetNorthWest and UoM IT Services enabling us to go from 1 Gbps for our everyday traffic to 10 Gbps.
In this latest upgrade we now have equipment provided by JISC (who run the JANET network) which provides two 10 Gbps connections for production traffic and two 10 Gbps connections for VLBI. The unit has the capacity to provide another six 10 Gbps connections in the future.
Also visible in the rack is a 100 Gbps card, which will be used on an experimental basis for the AENEAS (Advanced European Network of E-infrastructures for Astronomy with the SKA) project, testing data transfer in support of developing a concept and design for a European Science Data Centre, initially linking to an identical unit in London.
This Log scale plot shows the link speed has a doubling timescale of about 2.5 years but has taken steps forward on a generally longer period.
2017 saw the launch of the new Newton Fund DARA: Big Data program. This program will build a UK-Africa Data Science Network by providing PhD and MSc studentships for students from countries across southern Africa to study in the UK. Leadfrom Jodrell Bank, the DARA: Big Data program builds on the very successful Development in Africa through Radio Astronomy (DARA) training program to focus on thedata intensive aspects of radio astronomy - and to support the translation of big data techniques between radio astronomy and other research areas.
With a revolution in digital processing over the last decade, radio astronomy has become one of the most data intensive research areas in science. Historically, radio astronomy has been at the forefront of technological development for data and the future of radio astronomy looks no different, with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) forecast as one of the world's biggest Big Data engines.
The DARA: Big Data programme will focus on the data intensive aspects of science: data analysis, data visualisation & data systems and tools. However, we predict that developments in these areas will not only provide advances for astronomy science (AstroBig Data) but can have impact across a range of research fields. Consequently, DARA Big Data will also look at translating data intensive techniques between different fields where Big Data expertise is needed. This first round of the DARA: Big Data program will therefore also offer projects in Food Security/Sustainable Agriculture (Agri Big Data) and in Healthcare (Health Big Data). The cohort will be encouraged to collaborate across research areas in order to maximise the translation of expertise between fields. To achieve this translation, DARA has teamed with the STFC Food Network+, N8 AgriFood, the Manchester Cancer Research Centre and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in the UK, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Zambia, the Centre for Agricultureand Biosciences International (CABI) in Kenya and the South African Tuberculosis Bioinformatics Initiative (SATBBI) in South Africa.
We are now inviting applications for the first UK round of DARA Big Data studentships, which will fully fund four 3-year PhD studentships and two 1-year MSc studentships in the UK for students from AVN countries. Students will be expected to start their research projects before 31 March 2018.
Interested applicants should contact Dr Sally Cooper. The bursary includes all tuition fees, bench fees and maintenance allowance, and for PhD students it also includes an annual trip back to their home country to build links with institutions and industries that are looking to develop data intensive methodologies. This will encourage the students and hosts to work together to ensure that positions are available once they are qualified to return to their home countries and help drive development. Applications close on 30 November 2017.
|These activities are supported by the £1.45M STFC Newton funded ‘UK-Africa Data Science Network: Capturing the SKA-Driven Data Transformation’, UK PI: Prof Anna Scaife (JBCA), SA PI: Prof Russ Taylor (IDIA).|
Large scale distribution of the hot, X-ray emitting gas (purple) and stars (yellow) in one of the C-EAGLE cluster regions.
The filamentary structure surrounding the cluster halo can clearly be seen. The image is approximately 10 Mpc across. Credit: David Barnes.
JBCA’s Dr Scott Kay, along with Drs David Barnes (formerly JBCA, now MIT), Yannick Bahé (Leiden) and Claudio dalla Vecchia (IAC Tenerife) are leading the Cluster-EAGLE (C-EAGLE) simulation project, and have recently published the first results from their work in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. C-EAGLE is a project of the Virgo consortium, an international collaboration of astrophysicists who use numerical simulations to study the formation of cosmic structure, and makes use of STFC’s 6740-core DiRAC Data Centric Cluster. It is based on Virgo’s ground-breaking EAGLE simulations of galaxy formation, one of the first of their kind to reproduce a number of key observational properties of the present-day galaxy population, such as the stellar mass function and the galaxy-black hole mass relation. The EAGLE simulation volumes are too small to contain galaxy clusters so C-EAGLE addresses this with a set of 30 cluster regions, extracted from a much larger simulation that was previously run with dark matter only. The C-EAGLE simulations use the same resolution, simulation code and one of the core galaxy formation models adopted for EAGLE, so can be a viewed as a prediction of this model for the properties of galaxies and gas in cluster environments. The first C-EAGLE papers compare the properties of both the low redshift galaxy population (Bahé et al. 2017) and the hot, X-ray emitting gas (Barnes et al. 2017) to observational data. Many additional projects are underway, within JBCA and elsewhere, as are further developments of the cluster simulations, in preparation for the next generation of computer hardware and large-scale surveys such as those that will be done with Euclid, LSST and the SKA.
Barnes D.J. et al., 2017, MNRAS, 471, 1088-1106
Bahé Y.M. et al., 2017, MNRAS, 470, 4186-4208
In October, the radio telescopes of the UK’s National Radio Astronomy Facility, e-MERLIN, were directed low in the southern sky - their target, the aftermath of a collision between two neutron stars 130 million light years away.
The collision between these two super-dense remnants of exploded stars produced ripples in space-time which were detected by the LIGO gravitational wave observatory. Remarkably, other telescopes working across the spectrum from radio to gamma-rays were also able to detect the collision and its aftermath – the first time any cosmic event has been seen in both gravitational waves and by its electromagnetic radiation.
The power of e-MERLIN, working alone and in combination with the wider European VLBI Network of telescopes (EVN), is the ability to zoom in on the fine detail of these gravitational wave events and help pinpoint their precise locations. Observations with e-MERLIN began on August 23, just 6 days after the gravitational wave detection.
As Rob Beswick, Head of e-MERLIN Science Support at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, explains, the observations of this particular event are challenging:
"We are reporting today on 22 epochs of observation extending over the period from 6 to 36 days after the collision. This particular source is very low in the southern sky as seen from the UK, which means it only rises above the horizon for a few hours a day, limiting the time we can spend on it and hence making it harder to detect its very faint radio emissions."
"Even so, we are tantalisingly close to obtaining a detection. At the moment, our 1-sigma noise level is about the same as the faint transient signal detected by the Very Large Array 16 days after the outburst. Nevertheless, this places very useful stringent limits on the radio emissions over this period."
"We are continuing to obtain e-MERLIN and EVN observations. In the near future, we will also be able to include the giant Lovell Telescope in our array, greatly increasing its power. As the source evolves and potentially brightens in the coming weeks, this will make a detection far more likely."
Simon Garrington, Director of e-MERLIN and Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, added,
"This discovery is hugely exciting and will be the first of many electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational wave sources in the coming years."
"e-MERLIN is a powerful instrument capable of providing rapid and extremely sensitive radio observations of these events with high magnification imaging that rivals that of the Hubble Space Telescope. The detection of radio emissions from these gravitational wave sources is right at the limit of our current capabilities; however planned enhancements to e-MERLIN over the next few years will make future follow-ups routine."
"e-MERLIN and EVN will be crucial tools to zoom in at radio wavelengths, enabling precise (millisecond) localisation of GW events in space. Detailed localisation is likely to prove fundamental to our understanding of the energetic processes at the heart of these titanic events."
The JBCA Interferometry Centre of Excellence Open Science Champion, Dr Rachael Ainsworth, has represented JBCA and the University of Manchester at a number of open science conferences and events in 2017 : the first Open Science Fair in Athens, the first Open Research Forum organised by the University of Manchester Library, the 8th Mozilla Festival in London and the 4th OpenCon in Berlin. Each of these events highlighted the current progress of the Open Movement; demonstrated platforms, tools, resources and projects aimed at making it easier to research openly; and focused on promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.
Rachael will be working to support our students and staff in learning how to work openly - you can read her insights from each of these experiences in her blog post Reflecting on the Open Science Conferences of 2017."
On 10th August and 19th October, 15+ students and postdocs got together in the Lovell Seminar Room for the first JBCA Machine Learning Hack Nights. The ‘Hack Night’ as it is known, is an evening (with pizza) where teams of three work on solving a real world data science problem in three hours using Machine Learning, statistical analysis and visualisation. At the end, the teams present their project and the best is awarded the coveted JBCA Datamonkey trophy.
Left: The coveted JBCA Datamonkey trophy!
Right: JBCA Students and postdocs taking part in the 1st Hack Night
The main aim of the Hack Nights is to provide an opportunity for students and staff to learn and practice Machine Learning/Data Science techniques for their own research project or develop skills for a different career path. The Hack Nights were started by postdocs Drs. David Mulcahy, Hayden Rampadarath and PhD student Philippa Hartley as a way to bridge the gap between Astronomy and Machine Learning/Data Science skills that are much sought after in industry. With ever-increasing datasets it will become more important to find automated methods so that we can exploit the scientific potential of our data.
The next Hack Night will be held on the 14th December and will be sponsored by the Manchester technology recruitment agency Cathcart Associates. For more information contact Hayden or Philippa and have a look at the github repositories for the previous Hack Nights:
Members of the strong gravitational lensing group at Manchester have used machine learning techniques to develop a novel image classifier for the automatic identification of strong lens systems. Formed when the light from a background object is multiply imaged by a foreground mass, strong lenses provide a direct measurement of the distribution of the intervening matter, both light and dark. The work was undertaken as part of preparations for the Euclid mission, which, when launched, will map out vast areas of the sky in order to measure the geometry of the dark Universe. During the mission, Euclid will observe over ten billion galaxies, creating a source catalogue of unprecedented size. The Euclid Strong Lens Legacy Science group will search within the catalogue for brand new strong lens systems, adding hundreds of thousands to the few hundred currently known.
With such a large sample of strong lenses, astronomers will be able to extract new cosmological constraints, providing independent measurements of dark energy, of the expansion of the Universe, and of galaxy evolution over cosmic history. However, finding all such rare objects will be impossible using traditional methods of visual inspection, and automated processes will be essential. The Euclid strong lens group designed an international Strong Lens Finding Challenge in order to find the best algorithms for development of lens-finding pipelines. Performances were evaluated by considering the ability of each algorithm to provide a complete and pure sample of lenses from a simulated data set, and the Manchester team was awarded the prize for the highest number of detections without a false positive.
New strong lens candidates and an exotic 'smoke ring' galaxy, found using the Manchester lens-finder to search through more than a millions galaxies from the Kilo Degree Survey.
The Manchester lens-finder has subsequently been applied to real data from the Kilo Degree Survey, finding over one hundred new lens candidates. The method and its application is described in full by Hartley et al. 2017.
Manchester Science Festival 2017 took place in October and JBCA took part in two activities. http://www.manchestersciencefestival.com/
On 21 October, several staff and students from the JBCA (Shruti Badole, George Bendo, Tracy Garrattnee, Joseph Fennell, Ian Harrison, Xiaojin Liu, Hongming Tang, Max Thapa, and Charlie Walker) set up a stand with the theme "Making Light of the Universe" at Manchester Science Spectacular in Whitworth Hall. The event featured a range of activities. The most popular was the "create your own Solar System" craft activity for young children, but the stand also featured a multiwavelength universe virtual reality activity, multiple touchscreen computer demonstrations of radio interferometry, and a hands on demonstration of interferometry using microphones and sound. Visitors could take away free coasters with astronomy information on eMERLIN and ALMA and colouring sheets.
The JBCA Pulsar Group took part in the #CitizenScience Showcase at MediaCityUK campus, University of Salford on 21st and 22nd October. Here the public could help identify pulsars through the Zooniverse project Pulsar Hunters. You can still take part in this citizen science experiment (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/zooniverse/pulsar-hunters) and follow on twitter @PulsarHunters. Participants included: Manisha Caleb, Sally Cooper, Laura Driessen, Mateusz Malenta, Kaustubh Rajwade, Tom Scragg, Ben Stappers and Chia Min Tan.
Geoff loved Jodrell Bank and had great respect and admiration for Sir Bernard Lovell, with whom he shared a passion for music. His colleagues remember him as cheerful and welcoming to staff and students with a great sense of humour.
After Geoff started at Jodrell, he was summoned to Sir Bernard’s office to meet him. As he left, Geoff shook Sir Bernard’s hand and said “It’s been a privilege for you to meet me.” He didn’t realise his mistake until later and decided to leave it, hoping Sir Bernard hadn’t noticed. Sir Bernard never mentioned it until he was giving a speech at Geoff’s retirement, 32 years later, confirming that it had indeed been a privilege and a pleasure.
Geoff was the first Controller to volunteer to run the telescope over Christmas. To say thank you, Sir Bernard’s wife prepared a handsome food parcel which Brian Lovell delivered to Geoff at Jodrell on Christmas Day. Sir Bernard never forgot that commitment and thanked Geoff for it again at the celebrations for 50th anniversary of the Lovell Telescope.
Geoff was involved in several historic events, picking up the Moon landing signals in 1969 a few seconds before NASA and discovering the second pulsar. After Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered the first pulsar in 1967, Jodrell was determined to observe the second. Geoff controlled the telescope through repeated 10 minute scans over the course of three hours without success. Under protest from scientific colleagues, he locked the telescope into position and took a comfort break. The telescope was still observing and as the earth rotated, the second pulsar to be discovered came into view.
Geoff and Irene celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary the day after the 60th anniversary of the Lovell telescope. They had two daughters, Tracey and Bev, and two grandchildren, Ben and Sammy. Tracey was one year old when Geoff started working at Jodrell and remembers growing up with the telescope, meeting the controllers and having tours of the Control Building.
After retirement, Geoff was an active singer, lending his tenor voice to several choirs including St Mary’s Church Choir, Sandbach (his local church), singing everything from Verdi’s Requiem to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Geoff also stayed in touch with his Control Room colleagues, regularly meeting up with Ian Freer, Ian Manfield, Mark Roberts and Andrew “Jock” McKay, John Wheatcroft, Bill Dunston and John Hulse for fish and chips at the Red Lion in Goostrey.
Geoff will be deeply missed by his family, friends and former colleagues.
Set against a backdrop of the iconic Lovell Telescope, bluedot combines a truly stellar line-up of music with a ground-breaking programme of live science experiments, expert talks and immersive artworks.
“A boundary-breaking blend of science, music, and technology” The Guardian
To inspire and entertain.
To explore the frontiers of human advancement.
To celebrate science and the exploration of the universe.
To explore the intersections of science, culture, art and technology.
To highlight the fragility of planet Earth.
2-6 July 2018
Lake Windermere, UK
Developing a comprehensive understanding of the varied and complex processes associated with the formation of massive stars requires connecting a wide range of environments and physical size scales from galactic disks down to individual massive sources. Combining large scale surveys of our galactic plane with the sub-arcsecond images in the millimetre and sub-millimetre which ALMA now routinely produces, in principle allow us to map the flow of material from galactic environments through clouds to protostars. Increasingly these observations probe not only the structure and kinematics of regions, but also their chemistry and magnetic fields. Wide field surveys also help to place massive star formation in the wider context of the environment of our galaxy as well as other, more extreme, galaxies.
With the massive increase in spatial dynamic range and the volume of data now becoming available this meeting will provide the opportunity to assess the current state of our knowledge of massive star formation. In addition, it will help identify the key issues for future work and look forward to the expanding opportunities ALMA will continue to offer in the fields of galactic and extragalactic massive star formation as well as those provided by JWST, ELTs, SKA, ngVLA and other facilities in the future.
This meeting is the next in the series of high-mass star formation meetings which have included:
- The Soul of High-Mass Star Formation Conference, 2015
- Great Barriers in High-Mass Star Formation, 2010
- Massive Star Formation: Observations confront Theory, 2007
- Massive Star Birth: A Crossroads of Astrophysics, 2005
Observations with the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR), investigating a newly discovered giant radio galaxy and the merging galaxy cluster Abell 1682
I’ve recently completed my PhD with Prof. Anna Scaife at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. My research focussed on observations with the LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR), investigating a newly discovered giant radio galaxy and the merging galaxy cluster Abell 1682.
Left: Dr Alex Clarke. Right: New LOFAR image of a 2.5 Mpc Giant Radio Galaxy
A radio galaxy (or giant radio galaxy in extreme cases) is powered by a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s centre, producing relativistic jets extending well beyond the host galaxy. The new one I have been investigating has an angular size on the sky of 40 arc minutes (it would appear just a bit bigger than a full moon if your eyes could see radio waves!). LOFAR's excellent sensitivity to large angular scales and operation at low frequencies (around 150 MHz) was essential in being able to image this huge structure. It is associated with a small galaxy group, within which one is identified as a broad-line galaxy in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at a redshift of 0.054 (placing it approximately 800 million light years away from us). This means its physical size is ridiculously large, being at least 2.5 Mpc - just over 8 million light years from end to end! You can read about it in our first paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1702.01571.pdf
I’ve also been looking at new observations of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 1682. Galaxy cluster merger events are some of the most energetic processes in the universe. I have been researching the non-thermal energy released as a result of the collision. Our observations tell us about the populations of relativistic electrons present in the cluster, and also the cluster-wide magnetic field. The radio emission we detect from this system (and others) is extremely complicated to interpret. We see jets from radio galaxies in the cluster mixed together with diffuse emission over the entire cluster. We are particularly interested in the diffuse emission, which we believe is coming from electrons that have been excited to ultra-relativistic energies as a result of magnetohydrodynamical turbulence.
More recently I have been investigating machine learning techniques for JBCA hack nights, and how we apply them to data sets across various areas in science. In particular, I have been analysing the spectrograms of songs, looking at how to train a computer to recognise different artists, and to cluster similar sounding songs together. You can see some of the results of this project on my Github page: https://informationcake.github.io/music-machine-learning/
Galaxy clusters are the most massive bound structures in the Universe, consisting of thousands of galaxies held together by gravity. Clusters provide an intense environment that offers insights into both galaxy evolution and the nature of dark matter. Yet, I'm interested in galaxy clusters for an entirely different reason - cosmology. It turns out that the abundance of galaxy clusters is sensitive to the late time evolution of the Universe.
In practice, using cluster abundances for cosmology requires accurately constraining the masses of large numbers of galaxy clusters. This means that it is crucial to understand both the physics that affects the large-scale mass distribution within clusters, and the effectiveness of observational methods used to infer cluster masses.
In my PhD I worked with Scott Kay and David Barnes to shed a light on these topics using the MACSIS and C-EAGLE simulations. These hydrodynamic simulations account for a range of baryonic effects, including star formation, black hole growth, stellar feedback and feedback from active galactic nuclei. Using these simulations, we found that the total mass distribution in galaxy clusters is largely insensitive to baryonic effects, which means that dark matter simulations (that don't account for these baryonic effects) are sufficient for studying the bias in weak lensing mass estimates.
Mass maps of a galaxy cluster in the C-EAGLE simulations, showing the gas, stars and dark matter separately. These simulations were developed and run by David Barnes.
Left: Dr Monique Henson (Credit Rhys Archer, Women of Science)
Right: Mass maps of a galaxy cluster in the C-EAGLE simulations, showing the gas, stars and dark matter separately. These simulations were developed and run by David Barnes.
It is theorised that the very early Universe underwent a period of nearly exponential expansion in a process known as inflation. This expansion provided the initial conditions for the Big Bang and is required to explain several aspects of the Universe which we observe today. By examining the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) emitted when the universe was only 400,000 years old, we can search for clues as to whether inflation really did occur. Gravitational waves generated by inflation would have distorted the fabric of space-time, imprinting an extra signal onto the polarisation of the CMB. This signal is known as the ‘B-mode’, and its detection is the current goal of many cosmological experiments.
The weakness of the B-mode signal means that it is extremely difficult to detect. Furthermore, it must be separated from stronger foreground signals emitted from the Milky Way. To combat this, an experiment looking to detect the B-mode must have an extremely high sensitivity. Sensitivity can be increased by simply adding more detectors, however, if each of these detectors is accompanied by a single-mode antenna feed horn, the instrument quickly becomes too heavy and difficult to manufacture.
My PhD has looked to solve this problem by developing multi-mode antenna feed horns. Multi-mode horns permit extra electromagnetic waveguide modes, imitating the sensitivity increase of having many single-mode horns. The drawback of the multi-mode horns is an increased complexity in their operation, something which I have aimed to understand. Furthermore, I have worked on the implementation of the multi-mode horns onboard the Large Scale Polarisation Explorer (LSPE) experiment based in Italy.
Multi-mode horn prototype.
Left: Dr Stephen Legg.
Right: Test set-up used to measure the multi-mode horns.
One of our new PhD students at JBCA, Laura Driessen, was recently awarded the 2017 De Zeeuw–Van Dishoeck Graduation Prize for Astronomy. The cash prize of 3000 euros, is awarded annually to the best master’s thesis in the field of astronomy written by a student studying at a Dutch university. Laura received the prize for her master’s thesis study on supernova remnants and pulsar wind nebulae - congrats Laura!
Rocky bodies are operating in this area! In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Romain Tartese about the upcoming PROSPECT lunar mission, Jake Morgan rounds up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the December night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.
Pulsars and beyond. In the show this time it is almost all about pulsars with most of the interviews from IAU 50 Years of Pulsars conference in September 2017 but first Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell joins to talk about Advocating for women in science, Rob Archibald and Emily Parent tells us about Pulsars,Rebecca McFadden talks about identifying pulsars with machine learning, Emma Osborne tells us about mountains on Neutron stars, Anne Archibald also talks about pulars, and your astronomy questions are answered by Prof. Anna Scaife in Ask an Astronomer.
... and under new management, but still not on time! In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Premana Premadi, Dr. Hesti Wulandari, Dr. Taufiq Hidayat and Dr. Mahasena Putra about recent highlights in Indonesian astronomy, Josh Hayes rounds up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the November night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.
The Parting Of The Ways. In the show this time, we bring you a second whistlestop tour of the amazing science that came to the 2017 Bluedot festival at Jodrell Bank. Dr. Beth Rogers tells us about Guerilla archeology, Jon Spooner tells us how he hacked his way into space, Dr. Grant Munro talks about the hidden heroes of astronomy and Dr. Amy Vincent tells us all about mitochondrial diseases.
Blown Away. In the show this time, we talk to Dr Federico Urban about bigravity, graviton and dark matter, Beth Jones rounds up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the October night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.
Measuring Star Formation. In the show this time, we present a series of interviews with Sarah Leslie, Jacinta Delhaize, Dillon Dong, and Anna Kapinska from the Measuring Star Formation in the Radio, Millimetre, and Submillimetre meeting.
To infinity. In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Jason McEwen about next generation radio telescopes, Ian and Fiona round up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the September night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.
Bluedot 2017. In the show this time, Fiona and Monique take you on a whistlestop tour of the 2017 bluedot festival. We talk to Vicky Dewar-Fowler about zoo-plankton, Abi Stone about the anthropocene and Kat Presland about the life of water. We also have interviews with Isabel Large about beekeeping and Paul Denton about seismology.
Summer Patchwork. In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Caitriona Jackman about adventures in the outer Solar System, Josh Hayes rounds up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the August night sky from Ian Morison and Claire Bretherton.