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2023 / 2024

Friday at ICE-CSIC means #PizzaSeminar!

These seminars have been going on for 10 years now. We gather at the patio of the institute to eat pizza after the seminar as a nice way of ending the week. Since the last few months, the seminars are a hybrid event and we're happy to see you every Friday at 12 pm online.


Optical technologies for astrophysics, Earth and planetary sciences

Felipe Guzmán (University of Arizona)

Novel technologies and measurement principles find application in areas that are paradigm-changing; not only in fundamental science, but that directly impact the global economic and political stage. Detections from ground-based gravitational-wave observatories, like LIGO and VIRGO together with measurements of their electromagnetic counterparts, have opened a new window to observe the universe’s gravitational spectrum and have reshaped astronomy and astrophysics through Gravitational Wave and Multi-Messenger observations. Plans for future observatories in space, such as LISA, are well underway with the extremely successful LISA Pathfinder mission and the formal adoption of ESA. Moreover, GRACE follow-on continues GRACE’s legacy of providing information regarding climate change and our planet’s geo-dynamics through valuable observations of the Earth’s gravitational field, and developments are well advanced for subsequent missions both in the USA and Europe.


A link to the past: Searching for wandering intermediate-mass black holes in the Milky Way

Julen Untzaga (ICE-CSIC)

Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs), with masses in the range 100 – 1.000.000 M⊙, are the link between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and the possible seeds from which SMBHs in the early Universe grew via accretion and mergers. Theoretical models support that a fraction of these IMBH seeds did not grow into SMBHs, and instead remained in the intermediate-mass regime up until z = 0. Therefore, characterizing the properties and formation mechanisms of the seed IMBHs found in the local Universe is essential for a complete understanding of the IMBH and SMBH populations throughout cosmic history. My research focuses on improving the general understanding of the long predicted wandering black hole (WBH) population in the Milky Way (MW) by combining both observational and computational work. On the observational side, I have utilized data from the Pan-STARRS-1, Hyper Suprime-Cam, and Gaia surveys to search for hyper-compact clusters of old, low-metallicity stars in the MW halo, which are potential indicators of the presence of WBHs. On the computational side, I have employed the L-Galaxies semi-analytic code that is built upon the dark-matter simulation Millenium-II to characterize the WBH population in MW-type galaxies at z = 0. By integrating observational and computational techniques, this work aims to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the WBH population in the MW and its implications for the broader field of astrophysics.


Exploring the Universe with LISA

Carlos F. Sopuerta (ICE-CSIC, IEEC)

LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, will be the first space mission ever to survey the Universe by detecting low-frequency gravitational waves. The LISA mission, led by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has recently being adopted and enters the implementation phase with a launch expected in 2035. The science of LISA is very broad and has implications for Astrophysics, Cosmology, and Fundamental Physics. In this talk, I will describe the main characteristic of the LISA mission, its science case including opportunities for multimessenger and multiband astronomy, and the main scientific challenges ahead of us.


Meta-materials and Meta-surfaces: Exploring Applications and Research Opportunities in Radio Astronomy

Arshad Karimbu Vallappil (ICE-CSIC)

Metamaterials (MTMs) are artificial electromagnetic structures with unconventional properties not typically found in nature. These synthetically engineered composite materials possess a unique ability to control electromagnetic waves across various spectra, including visible light and microwaves, in unprecedented ways that cannot be achieved with natural materials. Beyond their electromagnetic capabilities, these materials are poised to redefine technology, addressing challenges such as size, weight, bandwidth, tunability, and reconfigurability. This exploration provides a comprehensive overview of MTMs and meta-surfaces (MTS), covering fundamental concepts, structures, and applications. It emphasizes their integration into antennas, beamforming networks, radio frequency components, and beam shaping analyses, highlighting their potential as game-changers in technology innovation.


Isolated pulsar population synthesis with simulation-based inference

Celsa Pardo Araujo (ICE-CSIC, IEEC)

Many challenges in astrophysics involve the task of constraining free parameters of a physical model to match the observed reality. Often, these models are highly complex, making Bayesian inference through traditional approaches impractical due to intractable likelihoods. To overcome this issue we can use so-called simulation-based (or likelihood-free) inference. This approach is particularly powerful when combined with deep learning, wherein a neural network learns to map from the simulated data onto the posterior distribution of the underlying parameters. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of simulation-based inference methods and explore the possibility of using one of these within the context of pulsar population synthesis to constrain the magneto-rotational parameters of the isolated pulsar population in the Galaxy. Specifically, I will present recent results that show how we successfully train neural networks on simulated data to infer the initial period distributions and magnetic-field properties of neutron stars without the necessity of assuming a simplified likelihood.


White dwarf stars in the Gaia era

Maria Camisassa (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

White dwarf stars are the most common endpoint of stellar evolution. Therefore, these numerous, old and compact objects provide valuable information on the late stages of stellar evolution, the physics of dense plasma and the structure and evolution of our Galaxy. The ESA Gaia space mission has revolutionized this research field, providing multi-band photometry, synthetic spectra, proper motions and parallaxes for these stars. Specifically, this mission has allowed the identification of nearly 360.000 white dwarfs, revealing some unexpected features on the white dwarf sequence in the color-magnitude diagram, and raising new questions on the nature of these stars. Furthermore, this data combined with spectroscopical and spectropolarimetric observations, have provided new information on chemical abundances and magnetic fields of these stars, demanding a thorough understanding of their physical processes. In this talk, I will summarize these questions and I will describe possible explanations for them, on the basis of detailed theoretical evolutionary models and population synthesis studies.


The Magnet alliance: bringing astronomy to the classroom to fight scholar segregation

Alba Calejero (ICE-CSIC Communications & Outreach office)

School segregation is a growing problem throughout Europe that tends to create schools with a very high socioeconomic complexity. We’ll present our experience within the Magnet alliance, in which the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) collaborates in the 2021-2025 period with the Gabriel Castellà i Raich school in Igualada (Barcelona province, Spain). Advised by an expert in didactics, we have co-created with teachers and implemented inquiry-based astronomy activities for 3 to 11 year-old students. The goal is to provide the school with added pedagogical and educational value, which can attract local families, in order to balance the demographics of the student body and promote inclusion in current and future society. In this talk, we will present the activities developed during the first half of the program, plans for the future and lessons learnt.


Explosions of white dwarfs as novae and their role in the origin of Lithium-7 and cosmic rays

Margarita Hernanz (ICE-CSIC, IEEC)

White dwarf stars in binary systems can explode as novae and as type Ia supernovae. Nova explosions are the result of hydrogen burning on top of the white dwarf, leading to mass ejection but not disrupting the whole white dwarf, contrary to type Ia supernova explosions, that affect the whole white dwarf star. Nova ejecta contribute to the origin of some interesting isotopes in the Universe, like Lithium-7, whose origin is in fact not yet clear. The production of Lithium-7 and other isotopes in novae implies the emission of gamma-rays in the MeV energy range, only detectable with satellites like the current INTEGRAL from ESA and the future COSI from NASA. Last but not least, mass ejection from novae is also responsible of the origin of cosmic rays, because novae can accelerate protons and electrons that produce High-Energy (HE) gamma-rays in the GeV range - detected from space with the NASA Fermi satellite in several novae - and Very HE (VHE) gamma-rays, detected from ground with current Cherenkov telescopes like MAGIC and HESS in the RS Oph nova.


Nuclear Physics from Neutron Star Mergers

David Tsang (University of Bath)

Neutron stars are the universe’s best natural laboratories to study dense nuclear matter. At high densities and low temperatures inaccessible in terrestrial collider experiments, neutron stars host the most extreme matter in the universe. Different regions of neutron stars will probe different physics, with some observables dominated by the poorly understood physics at supranuclear densities, while others can be used to constrain properties of nucleonic matter, such as the nuclear symmetry energy. I will discuss our latest work on Resonant Shattering Flares, multimessenger signatures which can be used as a powerful constraint on nuclear physics. Studying the spectrum of asteroseismic modes in a neutron stars can provide probes at different densities, and hence of different physics.


The ngVLA, its science cases, and the current role of Mexico

Alfonso Trejo Cruz, Instituto de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica (IRyA-UNAM)

The ngVLA, led by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), will be the largest radio interferometer ever built in the northern hemisphere. With more than 200 antennas distributed across the US, Canada, and Mexico, the array will reach spatial resolutions and sensitivities without precedents. The ngVLA will open a new window on the universe through ultra-sensitive imaging of spectral lines and continuum emission with milliarcsecond resolution. We will summarise the main science goals, from the initial conditions of planetary systems to understanding the origin and evolution of black holes. For Galactic science, synergies between ongoing efforts with the current VLA and the ngVLA will be provided, in particular for AGB stars. In the second part of the talk, we will describe the current ngVLA efforts being pursued in Mexico. The MID Array of the ngVLA will provide some of the longest baselines of the new observatory, with a large fraction of those enabled by the antennas in Northern Mexico. We will discuss the work to select the final MID sites in Mexico, including synthetic observations to characterise the array performance. We’ll finalise with the observatory designs that Mexico is leading, such as antenna base foundations, antenna site layouts, and antenna supporting buildings. Finally, we outline the next steps in the coming 2 years, including workshops and conferences.


The wickedly cool and bursting stellar zombies

Nanda Rea, ICE-CSIC & IEEC

I will give a very general review on our group's research on neutron stars in a cauldron of boiling multi-band observations and theoretical simulations. I will then report on two recent results: the first related to a new creepy class of periodic radio bursters, and the second to a few super cold rotating jack-o'-lanterns... and how those are changing our understanding of these wicked stellar zombies.


Current flow in pulsar magnetospheres and the role of twist

Kostas Gourgouliatos, University of Patras (Greece)

He will discuss some properties of the axisymmetric force-free pulsar magnetosphere focusing on the inner edge of the current sheet, the so-called Y-point. While it is usually postulated that it is located at the intersection of the equator with the light-cylinder, we propose that it is energetically favourable to be located within the light-cylinder. Should this be the case, the spin-down dipole magnetic field is likely to be an overestimate of the star's actual field. Furthermore, he will discuss the impact of currents flowing within the closed field lines: in this case, the spin-down power is higher than the one corresponding to the dipole field and for sufficiently high twists the field adopts the structure of a split monopole.


B-field Orion Protostellar Survey: Magnetized Envelopes in Orion

Bo Huang (Institute of Space Sciences, ICE-CSIC)

B-field Orion Protostellar Survey (BOPS) used ALMA to observe 870 um dust polarization toward 61 young low-mass protostars in the Orion molecular clouds. Its main objective is to investigate the role of B-fields from 400 to several thousands au scales, corresponding to the size of molecular envelopes about the youngest (predominately Class 0) protostars. This survey uniformly probe the B-field structure within the envelopes surrounding the protostars to help remove biases based on resolution and different environments. Both the polarization and outflow were successfully detected emission in 56 sources. In 16 of them the polarization is likely produced by self-scattering, most of these are Class 0, suggesting that grain growth appears to be significant in disks in earlier protostellar phases. For the rest sources, the dust polarization traces the magnetic field, whose morphology can be approximately classified into three categories: standard-hourglass, inverted-hourglass, and spiral-like morphology. Two-fifth of the sources exhibit a mean magnetic field direction approximately perpendicular to the outflow from several hundreds to thousands au scales, but for the rest of protostars, this relative orientation appears to be random, probably due to the complex set of morphologies observed. Furthermore, the protostars are classified into three types based on the velocity gradient traced by C17O (3--2): PerpType (gradient perpendicular to outflow), RandType (gradient randomly aligned with outflow), and UnresType (unresolved gradient, less than 1 km/s/arcsec). In PerpType, field lines are preferentially perpendicular to the outflow, and along the collapsing direction, most of them are inverted-hourglass, suggesting that magnetic field have been overwhelmed by gravity. The spiral-like magnetic fields are associated with sources with large velocity gradients, indicating that the rotation motions is strong enough to twist significantly the field lines. All the sources with a standard-hourglass field morphology show no significant velocity gradient probably due to the strong magnetic braking.


Pulsar science with the MeerKAT radio telescope

Miquel Colom i Bernadich (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie)

Radio pulsars are highly magnetised, fast-rotating neutron stars born from the collapse of massive stars at the end of their life cycle. Pulsar timing is the technique of modelling a pulsar’s rotation down to every single revolution and comparing it with the times of arrival of radio pulses as recorded by telescopes on Earth. When found in binary systems, this technique is used to track the orbital motion of pulsars in their system. This allows us to investigate a wide range of fundamental physics and astrophysics, such as light propagation physics, alternative theories of gravity, equation of state models of neutron stars and binary evolution. The MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa is currently the most sensitive facility in the Southern Hemisphere, constituting a great leap forward in the search for and study of pulsars in the Southern Sky. In this talk, he highlights recent science results from pulsar observations with MeerKAT and showcase some of the currently ongoing science projects, such as the TRAPUM pulsar surveys and the RelBin pulsar timing programme.


Closing down the observation gap on millisecond to second timescale relativistic X-ray and radio transients

Sujay Mate, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai

Over the past few decades, transient astronomy has boomed with discovery of different types of transient phenomena (e.g. Gamma-ray Bursts — GRBs, Fast Radio Burst — FRBs, compact binary coalescence in gravitational waves — CBCs). Most of these transients are highly relativistic events and key to understanding them is to do multi-wavelength and multi-messenger observations. In this talk, I will present our efforts to build instrumentation to detect milliseconds to second timescale relativistic transient phenomena at X-ray and radio wavelengths. I will present the proposed Indian mission Daksha that aims to detect GRBs and electromagnetic counterparts of GW events. Once launched, Daksha will be one of the most sensitive X-ray/gamma-ray telescope. In particular, I will talk about the prospects of measuring hard X-ray polarisation of GRBs using Daksha, which is a key to understanding emission mechanisms and geometry of GRB jets. For this analysis, we have carried out detailed simulations and have developed a pipeline to measure the polarisation. We estimate that Daksha will have Minimum Detectable Polarisation of 30% for a GRB with fluence 10^-4 erg/cm^2. With this sensitivity, Daksha will be able to measure polarisation of at least five GRBs per year. Towards the end, I will briefly talk about the CHIME/Slow search, that involves our novel efforts to detect radio transients at seconds timescale with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope. This parameter space is as-yet unexplored and could harbour interesting transients such as "slower" duration or extremely scattered FRBs, radio counterparts of GRBs or binary neutron star mergers, flaring stars, magnetized white dwarfs and radio emission from X-ray binaries.


Supporting a culture of public engagement at ICE-CSIC

Jorge Rivero, Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC)

Astronomy allows us to study the far reaches of the universe but also gives us a different perspective on our planet, showing us its fragility and fostering a sense of global citizenship. In this sense, astronomy is in a unique position to engage citizens on scientific topics, make them reflect on their place in the universe, and encourage their critical thinking. Several studies show that citizens consider that professional scientists are best qualified to explain the impact of scientific and technological developments on society. And even though astronomers are quite involved in public engagement in comparison with scientists in other fields, they often rely on individual endeavours with approaches with little engagement and/or lacking goals for deeper interaction beyond one-off events. In this respect it is important to work together with the institution's communication professionals in our common journey to share the wonders of the universe with society while we establish a culture of public engagement at the institution. In this talk, he will present his thoughts on why public engagement is important, why researchers should get involved and work together with science communication professionals as well as showcase the opportunities we offer through ICE-CSIC's Communication and Outreach Office to participate in communication and public engagement activities.


The MagMAR project: First Results

Paulo Cortes, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)

The process governing the formation of high-mass stars, those exceeding eight solar masses, remains enigmatic, despite their pivotal role in regulating chemical, radiative, and energetic feedback within our galaxy. Of all the pertinent parameters influencing high-mass star formation, the magnetic field stands as a predominantly uncharted territory, its presence inevitable yet exploration limited. Endeavoring to bridge this knowledge gap, the MagMAR project leverages the unparalleled mapping capabilities of ALMA. In this presentation, he will introduce the MagMAR project and showcase its initial results.


Is cosmic expansion really accelerating?

Enrique Gaztañaga, ICG (UoP), ICE-CSIC & IEEC

He will show that deceleration (and not acceleration) is the correct interpretation for current measurements of cosmic expansion. The concept of cosmic acceleration, q, that we commonly used is based in the comoving distance. This is a 3D space-like coordinate, which corresponds to distance between events that can not be observed and are not causally related. For a correct interpretation cosmic expansion should be measured using the distance between (4D null) causal events. This is implemented here using a new definition, q_E, for cosmic acceleration. We present a comparison of the two alternative definitions, q_E and q, against data from supernovae (SN) and radial galaxy/QSO clustering (BAO). The standard q analysis reproduces some known tension between SN and BAO, but this tension disappears for q_E, indicating that this definition better fits observations. Data clearly shows that cosmic expansion is decelerating so that cosmic events are trapped inside an Event Horizon, like in the interior of a Black Hole (BH). Rather than a new form of dark energy or modified Gravity, this corresponds to a boundary force that causes friction, i.e. an attractive force, similar to a rubber band that prevents further expansion.

Find previous #PizzaSeminars at our YouTube channel