New Year

Another month went by and we are suddenly close to Christmas time. This last month brought relevant improvements to the project and to the ideas we have in mind. The project is moving forward with good rhythm and we are starting to get some results. In fact, we decided that we have enough new information in order to present a poster at the First Gaia Science Symposium “Astrometry and Astrophysics in the Gaia Sky” that will be held from 24-28 April 2017 in Nice. This will be the first public presentation to the community of project results and I am quite excited about that. After two meetings with both supervisors of the project I have the good feeling that there is still a huge amount of work to do, and, although the more we know the more we need to perfectionate, it looks like we are working the right way.

That is not the only good news that came with this last month of 2016. Alice Perez will be able to join the STARRY project at the very beginning of the next year as another Ph.D. student at Leeds University, which will definitely give more impulse to the research we are doing. In these first four months of my Ph.D. we have built a solid base to the project and I am really looking forward to 2017, year in which I am sure we will achieve several interesting results.

Gaia Workshop at ESAC (Madrid)

After two months of approaching the topic and working with the first data release (DR1) of the Gaia satellite, Professor Rene Oudmaijer and myself went to the Gaia DR1 Workshop at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Madrid, that started on 2nd November. It was three days of intense talks and hands on sessions related to how to understand, treat and work with the brand new Gaia data in order to maximize the quality of the research results. The organization was excellent and the workshop resulted very instructive and useful. I learned new techniques and programs for data treatment as well as how to deal with the sophisticated and sometimes tricky Gaia data. It was impressive to see how much work is behind each of the steps of the data reduction and how carefully the ESA has been treating the data making them easily accessible to the community.

The workshop was not the only good thing about going to Madrid. I had the chance to meet my other supervisor, Dr. Deborah Baines, who works at ESAC and see the environment in which I am going to work in the second part of the project. We had the opportunity to do a project meeting and talk about long and close term future work. I really liked the path we traced and I think I am going to enjoy a lot my secondment there.

In summary, it was a very productive stay in Madrid that in my opinion will bring very good outcomes to the project. I am looking forward to the next data release and to future travels, if they all are as positive as this one.

The Project Starts Here…

I arrived in Leeds on 1st September looking forward to start this STARRY project I heard about for the first time six months before. I did not believe when, in March 2016, Professor Rene Oudmaijer wrote me with the great news that I was accepted in the project. Now that I have been working for a month here I could not be happier. My first impression about Leeds was heartwarming, the University campus is friendly and the installations are excellent. More importantly, the human quality of the University is amazing, from the professors and staff to my Ph.D. colleagues and students around campus. I am really enjoying my daily life which is quite important for a constant and focused research.

Talking about the project, it is exciting that I am starting my Ph.D. working on the new Gaia data that have just been released (14th September) to the whole scientific community. The Gaia project is expected to give important information about one billion stars when finished in 2022, although this first data release just covers a small fraction of that number. The novelty in the information that Gaia gives is the distances and proper motions of the stars with such an accuracy and completeness that the Gaia catalogue will bring lots of unexpected discoveries in the next years. This project is focused on Herbig Ae/Be stars. They are stars with intermediate mass still undergoing the formation process of which we know a lot but too little as it often happens in science. The distances and proper motions to these stars have never been observed as good as it is going to be done with Gaia and our aim is to use this new data to go over new scientific paths that were inaccessible before.

Being a bit intimidated about the huge amount of work to be done, questions to answer and unknowns to resolve, I am highly motivated to go through all the steps of this big scientific project that we have between our hands. Big outcomes are about to come and after this first month I feel ready for it.