Accreting neutron stars and black holes
Energy release by matter flowing into the potential wells of compact stellar remnants is the key process behind almost all energetic sources in our galaxy. Such accreting objects emit radiation right across the electromagnetic spectrum allowing us to study a wide variety of astrophysical processes. Apart from producing copious amount of energy, these objects can also be used to study the properties of the most dense objects in the universe; neutron stars and black holes. Studying the properties of the hot gas that swirls around these objects allows us to constrain the physics that governs matter at extreme densities and gravity. Often, the energy release as set by the rate of accretion from a nearby companion star is not stable but undergoes short-lived episodes when individual sources can brighten by a factor of a million in flux. Many of these outbursts are now spotted thanks to X-ray cameras in space that continuously scan the skies for new events. We have a follow-up program that targets such newly discovered sources using a variety of techniques and wavelengths. Given the unpredictability of these events the project requires flexibility and rapid response. With the advent of robotic telescopes on the ground as well as satellites that can be pointed to such sources on short notice, we can now form a more complete picture of these outbursts, making sure that such new sources are studied before they fade away.
The Ph.D research would involve the analysis of both target of opportunity data sets as well as more systematic surveys acquired from both ground-based telescopes as well as from space. Where suitably bright counterparts are detected, more detailed follow-up studies will be pursued.
For further information please email Danny Steeghs
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