Tenure-track position

Apply – deadline Monday, 16 Oct 2017
The School of Physics at the University of Melbourne is seeking the appointment of an outstanding female academic to a continuing (tenure-track) position of Lecturer or Senior Lecturer in astrophysics. The successful applicant will also be awarded an ASTRO 3D Fellowship within the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3-Dimensions (ASTRO 3D), which allows for full time research during the first six years of the appointment.

ASTRO 3D spans six (6) Australian universities, three (3) national infrastructure facilities, and seven (7) international partner institutions. ASTRO 3D combines Australia’s leading optical, infrared and radio telescope technologies with sophisticated theoretical simulations and ambitious new data intensive science techniques to build a comprehensive picture of the evolution of matter, the chemical elements, and ionizing radiation in the Universe from the Epoch of Reionization to the present day.

The position is open to female researchers in any area of ASTRO 3D science. The appointee is expected to attract postgraduate students, engage collaborative links, and secure competitive research funding. The lecturer will supervise research students at MSc and PhD levels. At the conclusion of their ASTRO 3D fellowship, they will also have a core commitment to teaching within the School’s undergraduate and MSc programs.

The University seeks to increase the representation of women in areas where they have been traditionally under-represented. Pursuant to a Special Measure under Section 12 (1) of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), The School will, therefore, only consider applications from suitably qualified female candidates for this position.

Shining a light on planetary processes

Wed 13 Sep, 2017 @12PM, level 7
Dr. Helen Brand, Scientist – Powder Diffraction
Australian Synchrotron

Email: helen.brand[at]synchrotron.org.au


Jarosites and related minerals are of great importance to a range of mineral processing and research applications. They are used in the removal of iron species from smelting processes; they occur in metal bioleaching systems, and in the desulphurisation of coal; they are present in acid mine drainage environments.

There has been a recent resurgence in interest in jarosite and associated minerals since their detection on Mars by the MER rover Opportunity. In this context, the presence of jarosite has been recognised as a likely indicator of liquid water at the surface of Mars in the past and it is hoped that their study will provide insight into the environmental history of Mars.

Acid sulfate soils cover large areas of the Australian coastline and are likely to be a major constituent of the Martian environment. The oxidation of acid sulfate soils, coupled with potential release of heavy metals and acidic groundwaters, can have serious consequences for fragile ecosystems. Understanding these sediments will provide insight into the biogeochemical processes that affect the lifetimes of transient mineral species on Earth, and may be used to better understand soil acidification, contaminant mobility at sites affected by acid and metalliferous drainage, and even constrain past weathering and putative biosignatures on Mars.

Knowledge of the behaviour of jarosite minerals under the actual conditions that they are found in is crucial to understanding their potential environmental impacts on both Earth and Mars. To this end, we are engaged in a program to study the formation, stability and alteration of jarosite minerals using a complementary suite of in situ synchrotron and neutron techniques.

After GW150914: gravitational-wave astronomy in the era of routine detection

Wed 30 Aug, 2017 @12PM, level 7
Dr. Eric Thrane, Senior Lecturer
Monash University

Email: eric.thrane[a]monash.edu


The first detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes (dubbed GW150914) ushered in the era of observational gravitational-wave astronomy. Since this seminal discovery, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has announced the detection of three additional confirmed merger events—four if we include the marginal LVT151012. As the sensitivity of our detector network improves, detections will become routine. Indeed, at design sensitivity, LIGO may be detecting several events every week. This glut of gravitational waves presents us with new opportunities. I discuss a few of the research directions that have emerged in the wake of LIGO’s first detections including observationally-driven analysis of binary black hole formation channels, measurements of gravitational-wave memory, and tests of the famed no-hair theorem.

Modelling thermonuclear supernovae: how to blow up a white dwarf star

Wed 09 Aug, 2017 @12PM, level 7
Dr. Stuart Sim, Lecturer/Associate Investigator (SkyMapper)
Queen’s University Belfast, UK

Email: s.sim[at]qub.ac.uk


Aside from being spectacular displays in their own right, Type Ia supernova explosions have a key role in measuring the expansion history of the Universe and synthesizing the iron group elements. But what is their origin? That Type Ia supernovae arise from exploding white dwarfs is relatively well-established but the manner in which the explosion is ignited and how this can be determined from what we observe remain hotly debated issues.
I will discuss the theoretical modelling of Type Ia supernovae with particular focus on how radiative transfer simulations can be used to test explosion scenarios. I will argue that understanding the diversity of thermonuclear supernovae requires us to investigate a variety of different progenitor scenarios. Specifically, I will present recent results from our work on both Chandrasekhar mass white dwarf explosion scenarios and sub-Chandrasekhar mass models.

Galaxies at Cosmic Dawn: Exploring the First Billion Years with Hubble and Spitzer – Implications for JWST

Wed 02 Aug, 2017 @12PM, level 7
Prof. Garth Illingworth, Professor
University of California Santa Cruz
Email: gedi[at]ucolick.org


Hubble has revolutionized the discovery and study of very distant galaxies through its deep imaging surveys. Together the HST WFC3/IR and ACS cameras have opened up the exploration of the universe in the first billion years after the Big Bang. I will discuss what we have learned about the earliest galaxies during the reionization epoch at z>6 from the remarkable HST and Spitzer imaging surveys (e.g., HUDF/XDF, GOODS, HUDF09/12 and CANDELS), as well as surveys of galaxy clusters like the Frontier Fields (HFF). Lensing clusters provide extraordinary opportunities for characterizing the faintest earliest galaxies, but also present extraordinary challenges. Together these surveys have reliably established the volume density of galaxies in the first billion years down to extremely faint levels around -14.5 mag. The results from deep UV luminosity functions from Hubble, combined with the recent results from Planck, indicate that galaxies dominate the UV ionizing flux that reionized the universe. Some of the greatest surprises have come from the discovery of very luminous galaxies at z~8-11, around 400-650 million years after the Big Bang. Spectroscopic followup of these very rare, bright galaxies has confirmed redshifts from z~7 to z~11, and revealed, surprisingly, strong Lyα emission near the peak of reionization when the HI fraction in the IGM is high. The small sizes of galaxies at high redshifts, from analysis of the HFF cluster samples, reveal objects that, remarkably, are as small as globular clusters and dwarf galaxies. The recent confirmation of a z=11.1 galaxy, just 400 million years after the Big Bang, by a combination of Hubble and Spitzer data, pushed Hubble into JWST territory, far beyond what we ever expected Hubble could do. Twenty years of astonishing progress with Hubble and Spitzer leave me looking to JWST to provide even more remarkable exploration of the realm of the first galaxies at “Cosmic Sunrise”. The latest results on the sizes of distant galaxies, on the star formation rate density at z~10 and from Planck indicating that reionization began around z~10 together have significant implications for the detectability of the “first galaxies” with JWST.

Star formation quenching in cluster galaxies from integrated and spatially resolved spectra

The distribution of galaxy properties such as colors, morphologies, and star formation rates is broadly bimodal, with early type galaxies being statistically red and quiescent, and late type galaxies being blue and actively star forming. When, why and how galaxies become passive is a crucial question in modern astrophysics, and might be related to both the galaxy intrinsic properties, and to the environment in which galaxies live. In particular, the cluster/denser environments are particularly efficient in quenching the star formation and therefore represent an ideal place where investigating galaxy properties. I will present the results that we obtained by studying a large sample of low-redshift clusters for which we have been able to characterize the different populations of galaxies on their way to become passive. I will also report on the Eso GASP Large Program, that is devoted to the study of a sample of cluster and field galaxies that show signatures of gas stripping at various degrees. GASP makes use of the MUSE IFU spectrograph at VLT, and has already observed ~50% of its targets. I will show the results that we have obtained so far for jellyfish galaxies, and I will briefly report on the emerging connection between jellyfish galaxies and AGN activity in cluster galaxies.

HI and metal absorption lines during the Epoch of Reionization

In this work, we study the epoch of Reionization (EoR) with metal absorption lines in quasar spectra at high redshift, using high resolution hydrodynamical simulations (an improved version of GADGET-3). For this purpose, we set up the physical conditions of the intergalactic medium (IGM) at the redshift of the EoR, and we post-process the simulations to implement a uniform UV ionizing background for quasars and galaxies (Haardt-Madau 2012), the metal ions with CLOUDY 8.1 and HI self-shielding prescription (Rahmati et al. 2013). We use Voigt profile fitting to compute the column densities of the ions from the synthetic spectra and obtain a statistical distribution of the absorbers. This procedure allows us to study the evolution of the state of the IGM at high redshift, compute the cosmological mass density of CIV and HI and other ions. Our simulations produce absorbers properties that are in good agreement with observations in the literature, especially for the high ionization species.

Furthermore, we are able to reproduce an observed example of an LAE galaxy-CIV absorber pair at z=5.7, proving a physical insight into such systems beyond the limit of current observations. Finally, we vary of the uniform UVB at z~6, and compare directly with observations of different metal ions, in order to constrain the ionizing background at the tail of Reionization.

Testing for tensions between datasets

In cosmology, as in other areas of astrophysics, we are constrained to make observations of unrepeatable events (such as the Big Bang), and so have to proceed by statistical inference. The Bayesian approach involves treating models and parameters similarly to data, as unknown variables with their own underlying probability distributions. However, as data from cosmological observables increases in constraining power, the opportunity arises for tensions between the different data sets, where the statistical limits on derived on certain parameters appears not to be coincident. This tensions can be generated either by an insufficient model, and so indicates the presence of new physics, by undiagnosed systematic errors, or simply by random statistical chance. In my talk I discuss different methods for diagnosing tensions, and show how these have been applied to the observed parameter tension between the cosmic microwave background data and measurements of the weak lensing shear power spectrum.

OzSKA: radio astronomy in the next decade

The OzSKA meeting will be held in the Hercus Theatre, David Caro building at the University of Melbourne on 8-10 April 2015.

The Square Kilometer Array will herald a new era in radio astronomy, with the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope in Australia and South Africa. The conference will provide an opportunity to explore the new science that will be possible with the increased sensitivity, with a particular emphasis on exploring opportunities for young scientists to become engaged with new projects and ideas. The science themes explored include the formation of the first stars and galaxies, galaxy evolution, cosmic magnetism, the nature of gravity and exploring life beyond the Earth. Other topics will include the impact of enabling technologies, including the processing and management of ‘big data’, new signal processing and detector technologies and the role of ‘blue sky’ science in the education of our wider community. Young researchers are particularly encouraged to attend.

A/Prof Andrew Melatos Awarded

A/Prof Andrew Melatos was recently awarded a 2014 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning by the Federal Government’s Office for Learning & Teaching. The award is specifically for outstanding mentoring of research students. Congratulations Andrew!

2014 CAASTRO Annual Science Conference

The 2014 CAASTRO Annual Science Conference “Supernovae in the local universe: Celebrating 10,000 days of supernova 1987”was held at

Novatel Pacific Bay Resort, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia.

Conference dates: Monday 11th – Friday 15th August 2014

Topics discussed included:

  • Observations and modelling of individual nearby supernovae
  • Observations and constraints on supernova progenitors
  • Progenitor mass loss, pre-supernova activity and supernova “imposters”
  • Theories of core collapse, thermonuclear supernovae and explosion mechanisms
  • Supernova 1987A at 10,000 days
  • Historical supernovae, young supernova remnants and light echoes
  • Wide-field surveys, automated classifications and new types of transients
  • Future instruments: SKA, LSST, eROSITA

Orange Pulsar Meeting 2014

The 2014 Orange Pulsar Meeting will be held at the University of Melbourne on Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th and Friday 28th November, 2014.

The meeting gathers a broad range of people interested in pulsar astrophysics in Australia, including both observational and theoretical aspects. This year, topics will include audio band and nanohertz gravitational waves and neutron star interior modelling. All welcome!

2013 CAASTRO Annual Science Conference

The 2013 CAASTRO Annual Science Conference: “Reionization in the Red Centre: New windows on the high redshift Universe”was held at the Ayers Rock Resort, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, NT.

Conference dates: Monday 15 July – Friday 19 July 2013

Topics discussed included:

  • Redshifted 21cm observations
  • CMB as a probe of reionization
  • Formation of the first luminous objects
  • Starformation in galaxies at high redshift
  • How and when were hydrogen and helium reionized
  • Pollution and thermal evolution in the IGM
  • Methods for simulation of high-z galaxy formation and reionization

For a list of the presentations please go to: http://www.caastro.org/reionization-in-the-red-centre-presentations