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Speaker for October 2014: Dr. Ingrid Stairs

Dr. Ingrid Stairs

Dr. Ingrid Stairs

At 7:30 PM, 10 October, 2014, at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, 431 Marine Drive, Gibsons, our speaker for the Sunshine Coast Chapter of the RASC will be Dr. Ingrid Stairs, a professor at UBC since 2002. Stairs graduated from McGill University in 1993 with Honours in Physics, got her Master’s Degree at Princeton University in 1995, and her Doctoral Degree at Princeton in 1998. Dr. Stairs was a postdoctoral fellow at the Jodrell Bank Observatory from 1998 – 2000 and a research associate at NRAO Green Bank in West Virginia from 2000 – 2002. Her awards include:
2010-2013 NSERC Discovery Accelerator Supplement
2002-2007 NSERC University Faculty Award
2000-2002 Jansky Research Associateship, NRAO
1998-2000 NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship
1993-1997 NSERC 1967 Scholarship
1993 Joseph Henry Award, Princeton University
Dr. Stair’s work involves the observation of radio pulsars and their companions, with a general theme of studying binary pulsar evolution, and with sidelines in such areas as pulsar instrumentation and polarimetry, and some observations at other wavelengths.
Pulsar Searches: Large-scale pulsar surveys are underway using the 305-m Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico and the 100-m Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Local computer clusters are doing part of the data reduction, looking for the next great “find.”
Pulsar Timing: Finding pulsars in surveys is only the first step in their study – the science comes out of long-term timing follow-up of these rapidly rotating neutron stars. Some of the particular objects Dr. Stairs follows include a young pulsar with a companion of 11 solar masses, for which she is trying to understand the orbital dynamics and the interaction between the two stars; a young pulsar that switches emission states; a “missing-link” pulsar/X-ray-binary system and several double-neutron-star binaries that allow stringent tests of general relativity. Dr. Stairs is also interested in trying to derive stellar masses and understand different evolutionary theories through long-term observations of pulsar–white dwarf binaries. A long-term goal, sought as part of the NANOGrav collaboration, is the direct detection of gravitational waves using multiple pulsars.

Dr. Stairs Topic for the October presentation will be:

A Pulsar with Two White-Dwarf Companions
 
Millisecond pulsars (MSPs) spin hundreds of times a second, emitting lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that we can monitor with large radio telescopes.  An MSP spins so fast because it has been “spun up” by an evolving companion star, and in fact the majority of MSPs have been found in binary systems with white dwarfs (which the companion stars eventually become).  Recently, we have found an MSP that is orbited by two white dwarfs instead of just one.  This system must have had a rather unusual evolution.  It allows for some precision work in a 3-body system, with the prospect of stringent tests of an aspect of Einstein’s theory of relativity.