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Searching for ripples in the cosmic Niagara Falls: Cataclysmic Variable Stars

Friday 23rd October 2020 - 7:30pm
Topic: Searching for ripples in the cosmic Niagara Falls: Cataclysmic Variable Stars
Speaker: Ian Kemp (ICRAR, ASNSW)
Venue: Online meeting using ZOOM
Abstract: This talk is about “UGSU cataclysmic variables” - one of the most interesting species in the variable star zoo (in my opinion). They’re actually not variable stars at all, because they are binary systems, in which a red star spills material onto a white dwarf, giving rise to periodic massive eruptions which can brighten the star from mag 15 to mag 9, easily within the range of a backyard telescope. They are very important systems in astronomy, because they are the precursors of the type 1a supernovae, which are used to measure the Hubble-Lemaître constant, and the accelerating expansion of the universe. The light curves of these systems are very interesting - they show ‘wobbles’ which reveal a lot of what’s going on in the binary system and the accretion disk. Last year, I observed a southern sky system called VW Hyi, which was first characterised by astronomers from New Zealand and Australia. In addition to the ‘usual’ variations - known as ’superhumps’, I found hints of a different type of variation, but the data were not conclusive enough to confirm it. So this year, with some partners in crime, I’m collecting and analysing data on a number of similar systems to look for extra detail in the light curves of these interesting systems. If you are inspired by this talk you can join the hunt!
Biography: Ian Kemp started his professional life in academic research - with a degree, PhD and postdoc in Materials Science. He then went off to work in Industry and government for a while (25 years) before getting back to research and obtaining a Masters degree in Astronomy. He currently works as a research scientist at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth - working partly on ‘big data’ (i.e., extremely big, massive data) and partly on astrophysics research.

Event Date: 
Friday, 23 October, 2020 - 19:30
Online meeting using ZOOM

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