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  • Writer's pictureLee R. Patrick

Special Issue: A new job studying massive stars

Two weeks ago, I started a new job! Earlier this year, I found out I'd been awarded a new research fellowship here at the Universidad de Alicante. This is a two-year project which I have titled "Unveiling the secrets of massive stars in the near-infrared." In this short article, I will describe what this exciting new job is, the main research topics that I will be working on and what I hope to get out of the next two years.

The funding

The APOSTD2020 fellowship is awarded by the Valencian Government and funded through the European Social Fund. It aims to increase the international impact of institutions in the Valencian region, so specifically includes funding for an extended stay in an institution outside Spain. For me, this means that I'll be working for 12 months at the Universidad de Alicante in Spain working with Prof. Ignacio Negeuruela and 12 months at the Open University in the UK working with Dr. Simon Clark.

Unveiling the secrets of massive stars in the near-infrared

The project that I'll be working on focuses on using near-infrared observations to study stars just before they explode as supernova. Specifically, I'll be looking at massive stars in the centre of our Galaxy (the Milky Way) and in two other galaxies (the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds).

Studying the period before stars explode is uniquely important for two reasons. It allows us to (1) understand how stars release material into their surrounding environments and (2) discover more about the production of black holes and neutron stars. The second point is a particularly 'hot topic' at the moment, with the new discoveries from gravitational wave experiments.

To study this pre-supernova period, I will use near-infrared observations to measure the stellar parameters (look out for my next blog article, which will explain how we measure the stars and what we mean by 'stellar parameters'), and compare these measurements with models and simulations to test our understanding of how binary stars affect the lives of massive stars.

From Alicante to Milton Keynes

Since February 2020, I have been working at the Universidad de Alicante, but this job has meant a new office and moving to a new department. In the next year here, I will focus on studying stars in our nearest neighbour galaxies and, in September 2021, I will begin my next adventure at the Open University in Milton Keynes.

Milton Keynes is somewhere I have visited regularly for the last four years to work with colleagues there on stars in our own Galaxy. Because of this new contract, I will be able to devote much more of my time to these exciting studies!

The next two years look like they'll bring lots of exciting new adventures both in work and out!

The The School of Physical Sciences and nearby cricket field at the the Open University

The campus at the Universidad de Alicante and the castle in Alicante centre

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