Antarctic Astrophysics

PLATO at Dome A

PLATO is a fully-autonomous site-testing and astrophysical observatory at Dome A, the highest point on the Antartic plateau. I'm a collaborator on two of the instruments: preHEAT, a submillimetre-wave tipper/telescope, and Gattini-Dome A, a pair of optical sky cameras.

The Lagoon Nebula, M8

The Lagoon Nebula is region of massive star formation about 1.3kpc away (about 4000 light-years), in the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way, more-or-less along the line of sight between us and the Galactic Centre. With new stars forming in several clusters, scattered through the Nebula, the whole structure is quite similar to the complex of molecular gas, young star clusters, protostars and nebulae in Orion.

It's not nearly as well-known as Orion because:

  • It's further away, so fainter, and it's more difficult to resolve structure
  • It's far enough south in the sky (at a declination of about -24 degrees) that it's not easy to observe with telescopes in the northern hemisphere
  • Orion sticks out of the Galactic plane, making it very prominent; M8 is close to the plane, and projected onto the brightest parts of the Milky Way, so it's not as obvious

I started observing the Lagoon Nebula as a graduate student, and have kept doing so ever since. I've been involved with submillimetre-wave, infrared and X-ray observations.

Review Article

I recently wrote a review of the current state of our knowledge of the region. As far as I know, this is the first time that the Lagoon has been reviewed, although a more limited one (covering only the large HII region) was published in the 70s. The review will be a chapter in the (imminently forthcoming) Handbook of Star Forming Regions (Vol II, The Southern Sky), edited by Bo Reipurth and published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. You can find a preprint on my publications page