Last month I went to the Panoramic Radio Astronomy conference held in the Dutch town of Groningen. It was a really interesting meeting with lots of talks describing exciting surveys planned for the radio telescopes which are either coming on line or planned for the next couple of decades. A lot of the talks were on neutral hydrogen surveys, but there were three on hydroxyl (in a session jokingly title "OH: the other emission line"), including mine. After the meeting, I went to England for two weeks to see the folks and catch up with the guys back at Jodrell.
While I was back at Jodrell, I spent some time doing some work on M82 which, after 20 years of not doing much, went bang twice just after my PhD supervisor retired - one of the objects we're studying is turning out to be very interesting indeed... but more on that at a later date. I spent a couple of days in Manchester too. On one day I was there I attended a CASA workshop run in the new UK ALMA centre. It was interesting stuff, quite different to AIPS, and we managed to break it in several different ways! It will take a bit of getting used to I think.
The broken wheel CREDIT: Megan
I spent a fair bit of time at the observatory, including some time talking to random visitors in the Visitor Centre (I can't help it!). Sadly, the telescope was parked while I was there due to another broken wheel - the third one to break in the last few years. The engineers had removed the wheel before I arrived, so the telescope was stuck. On one day I was there, the new first year PhD students turned up for a tour of the telescope. I happened to be in the control room at the time, and ended up taking a group up! I did wonder what the rules were on non-staff taking students up, but nobody seemed to care... It was good fun, quite a while since I'd been up the scope. Given I'd already destroyed the computer running the meteor experiment that week, I'm surprised Taff let me have the keys!
Left to right: the Lovell focus tower, the new eMERLIN correlator in its temporary home, students in the bowl of the Lovell telescope CREDIT: Megan
I stuck my nose in the door of the room currently housing the funky new eMERLIN correlator as well. There has been a proper air-conditioned room constructed for it, but for the moment it's sat in one of the old library offices with portable air conditioners keeping it cool. The upgrade to eMERLIN brings a huge increase in data rate: the old system used a 32 MHz link, the new system uses a high-speed fibre link resulting in over 200 Gb/s at the correlator. The old correlator just can't cope with those sort of data rates, so a new one was constructed by the group in Penticton who are also building the EVLA correlator. The upgrades will result in an enourmous increase in continuum sensitivity, and MERLIN will actually be capable of snapshot imaging for the first time.