This week, features Niall Deacon. Niall is a postdoctoral astronomer working at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. He specialises in using large scale surveys of the sky to identify failed stars called brown dwarfs to understand how they form and the processes which go on in their atmospheres. These objects are typically the same size as Jupiter but 12-80 times as massive and much hotter. They form a bridge between giant planets and stars helping us to learn more about both. Niall also is active in astronomy outreach, producing astronomy videos such as Don’t Call Me Colin and others (the less said about his Christmas song about Tycho Brahe’s elk the better). When not working, he is a keen pub quizzer, supports Scotland and Falkirk FC (so is used to seeing teams in dark blue lose) and hates referring to himself in the third person.
Most of Niall’s work over the last five years has been using data from the Pan-STARRS1 survey. This is a ground-breaking study of three quarters the sky with deep, high resolution images in many colours of visible light. Over the course of 3 and a half years, each point in the survey area was observed 10-15 times in each of 5 filters of different colours. This makes the survey ideal for finding things that move across the sky (like asteroids or nearby stars) or things that change a lot in brightness (like supernovae).
The data from Pan-STARRS1 should be available to the public over the summer so Niall is probably going to mostly tweet about this part of his work. But if you have questions about brown dwarfs and other interesting bits of astronomy feel free to ask.