self-calibrating pulsar arrays, and much more

I had a great conversation with Chiara Mingarelli (Flatiron) and Ellie Schwab (AMNH) today about pulsar-timing arrays and gravitational-wave sources. We are developing some ideas about self-calibration of the arrays, such that we might be able to simultanously search for coherent sources (that is: not just stochastic backgrounds) and also precisely determine the distances to the individual pulsars to many digits of accuracy!. It is futuristic stuff, and there are lots of ways it might fail badly, but if I am right that the self-calibration of the arrays is possible, it would make the arrays a few to tens of times more sensitive to sources! We started with Mingarelli assigning us some reading homework.

In the Stars group meeting, we had a productive discussion led by Megan Bedell (Flatiron), Andrew Mann (Columbia), and John Brewer (Yale) about things learned at the recent #KnowThyStar conference. There are some new uses of machine learning and data-driven models that I might need to spend some time criticizing! And it appears that there are some serious discrepancies between asteroseismic scaling relations for stellar radii and interferometric measurements. Not bigger than those expected by the stellar experts, apparently, but much bigger than assumed by some of the exoplanet community.

Prior to that, in our weekly Gaia DR2 prep working session, we discussed the use of proper motion as a distance indicator in a post-reduced-proper-motion world. That is: The assumptions underlying reduced proper motion are not great, and will be strongly violated in the DR2 data set. So let's replace it with a much better thing!

Adrian Price-Whelan (Princeton) showed some incredible properties of (flowing from beautiful design of) the astropy coordinates package. Damn!

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