“We are sorry to announce this train has been cancelled”
… are perhaps the 10 most dreaded words in the English language when you are trying to commute to/from work. Although, for anyone who has lived in south London in the past 12 months, these words are not at all unfamiliar and like an good south Londoner I had a back up plan: the Tube. Yes, I was back in London, having travelled down from Leeds for a 2-day StarFormMapper (SFM) project meeting.
As explained in my first post, the SFM project is an EU funded collaboration between the University of Leeds, University of Cardiff, Grenoble Alpes University and Quasar Science Resources SL whose objective is to better understand the mechanisms that underlie both how massive stars themselves form and how their natal star clusters form and evolve around them. To do this we need to take a multiple-attack approach, combining both theoretical and observed data to get a full-picture of what is physically going on. So Leeds and Grenoble handle the observational part, Cardiff the theoretical part, and Quasar the hardware & software architecture part of the project.
As you can imagine, when multiple institutions are working towards a common goal, continuous good and open communication is essential. Hence every 6 months all the people working on the project get together for an in-person meeting. The one I was attending was the second since the start of the project, and the first which included all the newly hired researchers/developers.
And I’m pleased to report the meeting was a great success! There was a talk from each of the partners on what they had been up to (all very promising and interesting might I add). For my contribution I discussed my research on finding substructure within star clusters. Essentially, the structure of young and old star clusters are quite different. In older star clusters (such as those you see if you type ‘star cluster’ into google images) the stars are pretty nicely radially distributed, with a high density towards the centre of the cluster which decreases with increasing distance from the cluster centre in any given direction. However in younger clusters you do not necessarily get this central concentration of stars, and instead get multiple smaller concentrations throughout the cluster (this is called ‘substructure’). One of the big challenges of this field up until now has been lack of data, but with GAIA and Herschel we hope to make some major head-way!
If you are interested in seeing a star cluster with your own eyes (rather than just through google) here’s a seasonal guide to keep you busy until my next blog post 😉 www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/celestial-objects-to-watch/open-clusters-by-the-season/