NAM 2010Posted: April 16, 2010
I’ve spent this week at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) in Glasgow. It’s a big annual conference for the whole UK astronomical community with the aim of finding out what everyone else has been doing over the past year – this quick post will hopefully be my brief summary of the meeting.
I should start with what some people I know would consider to be the most important news from the week – the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh regained the NAM 5-a-side football championship title after winning all their matches: here’s the victorious team. MSSL came second and the two local Glasgow University teams came third and fourth.
Now that’s out the way, onto the science! As always there were lots of interesting talks and sessions so I thought I’d just cover some of my personal highlights (or rather, the stuff that I find interesting, can still remember now that I’m back on my sofa, and aim to blog about in more detail at some point!)
Andy Lawrence (the e-astronomer) talked about a possible new explanation for the cosmic background radio radiation (i.e. radio signals that don’t come from a particular source but make up a general background ‘hum’) – that most, if not all, galaxies in the early Universe could have had radio-jet emitting, fast spinning, black holes. More info here.
There’s a strange new object that’s appeared in the nearby galaxy M82, said Tom Muxlow from Jodrell Bank. It turned up about a year ago and it’s showing no sign of fading away (in fact it’s getting brighter). It’s probably not a supernova, it may be due to a black hole eating the material from a companion star, or it could be something peculiar. Finding something unexpected like this is one of the most exciting things about astronomy. More data have been taken for this thing so hopefully there’ll be more info on it soon!
Gamma-ray bursts go off all the time, and when they do astronomers like Nial Tanvir swing into action to co-ordinate the follow-up observations from telescopes around the world. He had everyone in his talk surreptitiously peering at their neighbors to see if anyone was getting an alert, when he said that the most distant burst ever seen went off at the end of NAM last year.
One of the most interesting things about NAM this year was following the #nam2010 twitter feed. It was a really useful way of finding out what was going on in sessions I couldn’t be in. Without it, I never would have found out that the UK LOFAR station will be at least partly built by a ‘student army’. No info on how to sign up though! Or that “carrots are useful”, which came, contextless, via @jen_gupta in the ‘Outreach and Public Engagement’ session.
Oh, and I gave two talks as well. Here I am in the magnificent Bute Hall in the middle of talk 1 (photo courtesy of Anthony Smith) I think they went ok!
All in all it was a really good meeting. Thanks to all those who put in the effort to make it so! Fingers crossed that everyone manages to make it home without too much volcanic delay.