Laura Driessen wins De Zeeuw-Van Dishoeck Graduation Prize for Astronomy for her research with LOFAR

On 27 November, Laura Driessen received the annual Graduation Prize for Astronomy at the Royal Holland Society of Sciences (KHMW) in Haarlem. The De Zeeuw-Van Dishoeck Fund finances this prize of 3,000 Euros to encourage young talent in astronomy. Laura discovered a new supernova remnant. Such nebulae are left behind after large stars have exploded. She did research at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam. She used the LOFAR radio telescope from ASTRON for her research.

Published by the editorial team, 29 November 2017

Our Milky Way contains many interesting objects such as pulsars, pulsar wind nebulae and supernova remnants. Supernova remnants are clear bubbles of matter, which remain after large stars have exploded. With such an explosion, a pulsar can also be formed: a fast rotating neutron star, which radiates particles in a pulsed wind.

Laura used the LOFAR radio telescope during her research into pulsar wind mists. With this she mapped one particular nebula, G54.1 + 0.3. She showed that this nebula is even more special than expected and looks a lot like the famous Crab Nebula. Contrary to what was thought, this nebula was not surrounded by a supernova remnant. Laura also showed that some objects that were supposed to be supernova remnants, are not. In addition, she discovered a new, relatively young supernova remnant, G53.41 + 0.03. These remnants can teach us a lot about supernova physics, especially if they had a central pulsar. This is being investigated even further.

According to Laura, her project shows how mysterious the Galaxy is and how much we do not know yet. "This kind of research also pushes the technique forward. Astronomical questions require advanced techniques and new ways of data processing. Everyone benefits from that."

Laura worked on her project with great pleasure, and received a lot of support from her supervisors Jason Hessels (ASTRON) and Jacco Vink (UvA).

"Imaging the Crab-like pulsar wind nebula G54.1 + 0.3 was a real challenge, which Laura took with great enthusiasm and determination. She also did much more than we originally had in mind: she carried out an extensive analysis of not just one object but many more interesting structures. Laura showed a keen scientific mind and aptitude for research - including handling all the setbacks and problems that come with it. I am super proud of her, and I am sure she will also do great in Manchester as a PhD student working on MeerKAT pulsar observations," says Jason Hessels.

The De Zeeuw-Van Dishoeck Graduation Prize was awarded on 27 November by Professor Dr A.P. IJzerman, secretary of the natural sciences KHMW. The judging was done by the Royal Holland Society of Sciences, which annually awards numerous scientific prizes (www.khmw.nl).

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