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Bright astrophysics in Stellenbosch

Submitter: Huib van Langevelde
Description: Several Dwingeloo astronomers starred at the “IAU Symposium 287: Cosmic masers - from OH to H0” in Stellenbosch, South Africa, from 29 January to 3 February 2012. The conference covered scientific advances in maser physics from star-formation to high-z AGN.

From JIVE Nikta Amiri covered the role of magnetic fields in evolved stars, while Gabriele Surcis presented evidence for the dominant role of magnetic fields in high mass star-formation. Kalle Torstensson’s talk featured rings of methanol masers and the relation to thermal methanol outflows. In all of this EVN data, correlated at JIVE, featured prominently. The impact of the unique EVN 5 cm capabilities came also forward in Anna Bartkiewicz’s review talk, which Huib van Langevelde presented. ASTRON staff members were more visible in the extragalactic sessions; Willem Baan presented the current progress on formaldehyde mega-masers.

Since the previous meeting in 2007, the field has made considerable progress and —most importantly— a serious impact on various areas in astronomy. Highlights are the role of magnetic fields in star formation, as mentioned above, but also the new synergy with Spitzer, Herschel and ground-based IR observations in finding very young massive stars. Moreover, the astrometry programmes of the VLBA are providing a more accurate measure of the Galaxy and the mega-maser studies are delivering the most accurate distances that are calibrating modern cosmology studies. With the advent of new observing facilities some very exciting new capabilities to observe masers are coming up.

The excellent Stellenbosch facilities in sunny South Africa provided for an extremely nice setting for this conference. The programme was full of exciting astrophysics, but in the nights these stars were also shining brightly!

Copyright: photo's by Kalle Torstensson and Pawel Wolak
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