The 2005 Project


The trainees are from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), the University of Tuebingen (Germany) and the University of Warwick (England).

Some participating students have written a summary of their time here including personal details & goals, the work they have been doing as part of the project and some statements about life as a trainee at ESA.


Anne Wellbrock

Hi! I'm Anne and I'm a physics undergraduate student at the University of Warwick in the UK. The next academic year will be my third and final year of the course, after which I hope to pursue further studies in astronomy or an astronomy related field.

My traineeship at ESAC lasted for three months from July to September 2005 and was a very rewarding experience. Initially, I did some background reading about the XMM-Newton spacecraft, its X-ray cameras and relevant astronomy topics. I also familiarised myself with the operating system (Linux) and my account, and clarified the aims of my project. This preliminary work culminated in a presentation that I gave about the aims and objectives of my project.

The main aim of my project was to check the timing accuracy of XMM-Newton's EPIC-pn camera. Timing analysis can be performed by observing a certain type of star: Pulsars. They "flash" at our Earth at extremely regular time intervals. I basically measured the periods of three different pulsars using EPIC-pn data and compared them with results obtained by other radio observatories. Therefore, a relative error could be found, which served as a measure of the relative timing accuracy.

The project was a collaborative one: Isabel initiated the project and calculated the relative error for several observations of the Crab Pulsar and I continued these calculations with other pulsars. The work was aided by Daniel's IT skills and Marcus' general guidance as a supervisor. We presented our results in the form of a poster for the X-Ray Universe conference in El Escorial, and presentations for the ESAC community and an XMM-Newton calibration meeting.

Life as a trainee at ESAC has been fantastic in many different aspects. Sharing a big office with the other trainees made it possible to learn from each other effectively and exchange experiences. A vast variety of different skills came together as everybody had different academic backgrounds and we complemented each other well. We reported on our progress in weekly trainee meetings with our supervisors. This turned out to be very interesting and useful as we learnt about everybody's work and progress. It was also good practice to summarise your own work every week.

In addition, being at ESAC was a great cultural exchange as ESAC is a very international environment. We arranged language exchange meetings with other employees and PhD students at ESAC which resulted in exciting cultural and linguistic discussions. It was also common to seek specialist advice from other employees. All in all an excellent working environment.


Isabel Caballero

I was born in Madrid, Spain. I studied Physics at the "Universidad Complutense de Madrid", with a one year stay at the "Universidade de Comibra" (Portugal). I finished my degree in February 2005 in the branch of Astrophysics. I worked in a Trainee Project at ESAC during 6 months, from April to September 2005. In October 2005 I started working on my PhD project at the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics of Tuebingen (Germany), in collaboration with ESAC, Spain.

During my Trainee Project I worked on XMM-Newton relative timing analysis. The following is a brief description of my project. XMM-Newton performs two observations a year of the Crab nebula, used for calibration purposes. XMM-Newton timing analysis is performed using data from EPIC-pn, which is the fastest instrument on the satellite, especially in its Timing and Burst modes. The time resolution in the Timing mode is 0.03 ms, and 7 micro-sec. in the Burst mode. The main goal of this project has been to create an automatic tool that calculates the relative timing accuracy of XMM-Newton. The relative timing accuracy is checked by comparing the period of the Crab pulsar obtained with XMM-Newton with the period obtained with radio data. We used radio data from the Jodrell Bank Observatory (University of Manchester). The XMM-Newton period of the Crab pulsar was obtained by folding the light curves over a range of test periods and performing a chi^2 maximization test. Using all the observations of the Crab performed with EPIC-pn in Timing and Burst modes, the relative timing accuracy obtained is < 3E-08.

During this Trainee Project there has been a very good working atmosphere with the other trainees and with the supervisors. This project has been a great opportunity for me, and it has given me the opportunity to continue with my scientific career. I have started a PhD project in astronomy in Tuebingen, which I will do in collaboration with ESAC.


Diego Bermejo

The five months I've spent working for ESA had plenty of happiness and inspiration because I had before me the great opportunity and the challenge of work for such a high institution like ESA.

From the first day until the last, I did my best to make my personal contribution to the project of exploiting the slew survey. The first weeks were invested in learning the characteristics of the XMM-Newton telescope and detectors. But since the very beginning, I carried out my part of the work, which was to process and analyse the slew datasets with the purpose of finding the highest number of sources possible. The final aim of my project was to create a huge database of X-ray sources detected in slews. As there were 461 slew datasets ready to study, there was no time to waste. I quickly realised that fact and I got some simple knowledge of c-shell scripting with the intention of accelerating the process of analysing each slew and preparing the important files, i.e. images and exposure maps created by SAS. In this part, I was lucky to have good partners who didn't hesitate in providing me help with the c-shell matters.

That's the best impression I could get from ESA. The amazing human group, always determined to give a hand to anyone needing it.

There is one thing, very important in my view, that I also learned in ESA. And it was the inseparable relationship I built up with a computer. I say it in the sense that on many occasions I used to forget about the astrophysics principles because I had to fight for an understanding between computing and me. As my tutor Richard said: "Work with computers and knowing them is also part of the investigation." I bet you are right!

IDL questions were the perfect link between all trainees in our office. Everyone had his/her own, and specific, problem in computing with IDL and everybody tried to help the partner as if the problem was one's own. Then, IDL was not so bad at the end of the day!

As a conclusion, I must say that real physics (the thing I did at ESA) looks very little like the physics I learned at university, inside the books. I am thankful that in ESA my eyes were opened to real investigation and I still want to dedicate my life making contributions to science and knowledge. Besides, I had the opportunity to use my English and improve it! ... and furthermore, of making presentations in English!

Totally, it's been the richest experience I've had so far.


Trainee Quotes

"An extraordinary experience both in terms of academic and cultural aspects."

"It was fantastic to work with people from all over Europe in such a supportive environment."

"Very good working atmosphere"

"A great opportunity to start a scientific career"

"Lots of fun playing futbolin!!"

"I'm lucky to have been part in real research"

"Who said research is for boring people?"

"The one who doesn't want to be famous, please don't work for ESA."

"Not only the opportunity of science, but also of knowing worthy people."