Randall B. Wayth

Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, United States

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Publications (81)234.49 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Using the new wideband capabilities of the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), we obtain spectra for PKS 1718-649, a well-known gigahertz-peaked spectrum radio source. The observations, between approximately 1 and 10 GHz over three epochs spanning approximately 21 months, reveal variability both above the spectral peak at ~3 GHz and below the peak. The combination of the low and high frequency variability cannot be easily explained using a single absorption mechanism, such as free-free absorption or synchrotron self-absorption. We find that the PKS 1718-649 spectrum and its variability are best explained by variations in the free-free optical depth on our line-of-sight to the radio source at low frequencies (below the spectral peak) and the adiabatic expansion of the radio source itself at high frequencies (above the spectral peak). The optical depth variations are found to be plausible when X-ray continuum absorption variability seen in samples of Active Galactic Nuclei is considered. We find that the cause of the peaked spectrum in PKS 1718-649 is most likely due to free-free absorption. In agreement with previous studies, we find that the spectrum at each epoch of observation is best fit by a free-free absorption model characterised by a power-law distribution of free-free absorbing clouds. This agreement is extended to frequencies below the 1 GHz lower limit of the ATCA by considering new observations with Parkes at 725 MHz and 199 MHz observations with the newly operational Murchison Widefield Array. These lower frequency observations argue against families of absorption models (both free-free and synchrotron self-absorption) that are based on simple homogenous structures.
    12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Recent observations with the Murchison Widefield Array at 185~MHz have serendipitously unveiled a heretofore unknown giant and relatively nearby ($z = 0.0178$) radio galaxy associated with NGC\,1534. The diffuse emission presented here is the first indication that NGC\,1534 is one of a rare class of objects (along with NGC\,5128 and NGC\,612) in which a galaxy with a prominent dust lane hosts radio emission on scales of $\sim$700\,kpc. We present details of the radio emission along with a detailed comparison with other radio galaxies with disks. NGC1534 is the lowest surface brightness radio galaxy known with an estimated scaled 1.4-GHz surface brightness of just 0.2\,mJy\,arcmin$^{-2}$. The radio lobes have one of the steepest spectral indices yet observed: $\alpha=-2.1\pm0.1$, and the core to lobe luminosity ratio is $<0.1$\%. We estimate the space density of this low brightness (dying) phase of radio galaxy evolution as $7\times10^{-7}$\,Mpc$^{-3}$ and argue that normal AGN cannot spend more than 6\% of their lifetime in this phase if they all go through the same cycle.
    12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: This paper offers an electromagnetic, more specifically array theory, perspective on understanding strong instrumental polarization effects for planar low-frequency “aperture arrays” with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) as an example. A long-standing issue that has been seen here is significant instrumental Stokes leakage after calibration, particularly in Stokes Q at high frequencies. A simple model that accounts for inter-element mutual coupling is presented which explains the prominence of Q leakage seen when the array is scanned away from zenith in the principal planes. On these planes, the model predicts current imbalance in the X (E-W) and Y (N-S) dipoles and hence the Q leakage. Although helpful in concept, we find that this model is inadequate to explain the full details of the observation data. This finding motivates further experimentation with more rigorous models that account for both mutual coupling and embedded element patterns. Two more rigorous models are discussed: the “full” and “average” embedded element patterns. The viability of the “full” model is demonstrated by simulating current MWA practice of using a Hertzian dipole model as a Jones matrix estimate. We find that these results replicate the observed Qleakage to approximately 2 to 5%. Finally, we offer more direct indication for the level of improvement expected from upgrading the Jones matrix estimate with more rigorous models. Using the “average” embedded pattern as an estimate for the “full” model, we find that Q leakage of a few percent is achievable.
    Radio Science. 12/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present new low-frequency observations of the nearby radio galaxy Fornax A at 154 MHz with the Murchison Widefield Array, microwave flux-density measurements obtained from WMAP and Planck data, and gamma-ray flux densities obtained from Fermi data. We also compile a comprehensive list of previously published images and flux-density measurements at radio, microwave and X-ray energies. A detailed analysis of the spectrum of Fornax A between 154 MHz and 1510 MHz reveals that both radio lobes have a similar spatially-averaged spectral index, and that there exists a steep-spectrum bridge of diffuse emission between the lobes. Taking the spectral index of both lobes to be the same, we model the spectral energy distribution of Fornax A across an energy range spanning eighteen orders of magnitude, to investigate the origin of the X-ray and gamma-ray emission. A standard leptonic model for the production of both the X-rays and gamma-rays by inverse-Compton scattering does not fit the multi-wavelength observations. Our results best support a scenario where the X-rays are produced by inverse-Compton scattering and the gamma-rays are produced primarily by hadronic processes confined to the filamentary structures of the Fornax A lobes.
    11/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of an approximately 6,100 square degree 104--196MHz radio sky survey performed with the Murchison Widefield Array during instrument commissioning between 2012 September and 2012 December: the Murchison Widefield Array Commissioning Survey (MWACS). The data were taken as meridian drift scans with two different 32-antenna sub-arrays that were available during the commissioning period. The survey covers approximately 20.5 h < Right Ascension (RA) < 8.5 h, -58 deg < Declination (Dec) < -14 deg over three frequency bands centred on 119, 150 and 180 MHz, with image resolutions of 6--3 arcmin. The catalogue has 3-arcmin angular resolution and a typical noise level of 40 mJy/beam, with reduced sensitivity near the field boundaries and bright sources. We describe the data reduction strategy, based upon mosaiced snapshots, flux density calibration and source-finding method. We present a catalogue of flux density and spectral index measurements for 14,110 sources, extracted from the mosaic, 1,247 of which are sub-components of complexes of sources.
    10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a new low frequency interferometric radio telescope, operating in the remote Murchison Radio Observatory in Western Australia. In this paper we present the first MWA observations of the well known radio relics in Abell 3667 (A3667) between 120 and 226 MHz. We clearly detect the radio relics in A3667 and present flux estimates and spectral indices for these features. The average spectral index of the north-west (NW) and south-east (SE) relics is -0.9 +/- 0.1 between 120 and 1400 MHz. We are able to resolve spatial variation in the spectral index of the NW relic from -1.7 to -0.4, which is consistent with results found at higher frequencies.
    09/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first Murchison Widefield Array observations of the well-known cluster of galaxies Abell 3667 (A3667) between 105 and 241 MHz. A3667 is one of the best known examples of a galaxy cluster hosting a double radio relic and has been reported to contain a faint radio halo and bridge. The origins of radio halos, relics and bridges is still unclear, however galaxy cluster mergers seems to be an important factor. We clearly detect the North-West (NW) and South-East (SE) radio relics in A3667 and find an integrated flux density at 149 MHz of 28.1 +/- 1.7 and 2.4 +/- 0.1 Jy, respectively, with an average spectral index, between 120 and 1400 MHz, of -0.9 +/- 0.1 for both relics. We find evidence of a spatial variation in the spectral index across the NW relic steepening towards the centre of the cluster, which indicates an ageing electron population. These properties are consistent with higher frequency observations. We detect emission that could be associated with a radio halo and bridge. How- ever, due to the presence of poorly sampled large-scale Galactic emission and blended point sources we are unable to verify the exact nature of these features.
    08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We report on the detection of the millisecond pulsar PSR J0437-4715 with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) at a frequency of 192 MHz. Our observations show rapid modulations of pulse intensity in time and frequency that arise from diffractive scintillation effects in the interstellar medium (ISM), as well as prominent drifts of intensity maxima in the time-frequency plane that arise from refractive effects. Our analysis suggests that the scattering screen is located at a distance of $\sim$80-120 pc from the Sun, in disagreement with a recent claim that the screen is closer ($\sim$10 pc). Comparisons with higher frequency data from Parkes reveals a dramatic evolution of the pulse profile with frequency, with the outer conal emission becoming comparable in strength to that from the core and inner conal regions. As well as demonstrating high time resolution science capabilities currently possible with the MWA, our observations underscore the potential to conduct low-frequency investigations of timing-array millisecond pulsars, which may lead to increased sensitivity for the detection of nanoHertz gravitational waves via the accurate characterisation of ISM effects.
    The Astrophysical Journal. 07/2014; 791(2).
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    ABSTRACT: The detection of the Epoch of Reionization (EoR) in the redshifted 21-cm line is a challenging task. Here we formulate the detection of the EoR signal using the drift scan strategy. This method potentially has better instrumental stability as compared to the case where a single patch of sky is tracked. We demonstrate that the correlation time between measured visibilities could extend up to 1-2 hr for an interferometer array such as the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), which has a wide primary beam. We estimate the EoR power based on cross-correlation of visibilities across time and show that the drift scan strategy is capable of the detection of the EoR signal with comparable/better signal-to-noise as compared to the tracking case. We also estimate the visibility correlation for a set of bright point sources and argue that the statistical inhomogeneity of bright point sources might allow their separation from the EoR signal.
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2014; 793(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Astronomical widefield imaging of interferometric radio data is computationally expensive, especially for the large data volumes created by modern non-coplanar many-element arrays. We present a new widefield interferometric imager that uses the w-stacking algorithm and can make use of the w-snapshot algorithm. The performance dependencies of CASA's w-projection and our new imager are analysed and analytical functions are derived that describe the required computing cost for both imagers. On data from the Murchison Widefield Array, we find our new method to be an order of magnitude faster than w-projection, as well as being capable of full-sky imaging at full resolution and with correct polarisation correction. We predict the computing costs for several other arrays and estimate that our imager is a factor of 2-12 faster, depending on the array configuration. We estimate the computing cost for imaging the low-frequency Square-Kilometre Array observations to be 60 PetaFLOPS with current techniques. We find that combining w-stacking with the w-snapshot algorithm does not significantly improve computing requirements over pure w-stacking. The source code of our new imager is publicly released.
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: The detection of six Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) has recently been reported. FRBs are short duration ($\sim$ 1 ms), highly dispersed radio pulses from astronomical sources. The physical interpretation for the FRBs remains unclear but is thought to involve highly compact objects at cosmological distance. It has been suggested that a fraction of FRBs could be physically associated with gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Recent radio observations of GRBs have reported the detection of two highly dispersed short duration radio pulses using a 12 m radio telescope at 1.4 GHz. Motivated by this result, we have performed a systematic and sensitive search for FRBs associated with GRBs. We have observed five GRBs at 2.3 GHz using a 26 m radio telescope located at the Mount Pleasant Radio Observatory, Hobart. The radio telescope was automated to rapidly respond to Gamma-ray Coordination Network notifications from the Swift satellite and slew to the GRB position within $\sim$ 140 s. The data were searched for pulses up to 5000 pc $\rm cm^{-3}$ in dispersion measure and pulse widths ranging from 640 $\rm \mu$s to 25.60 ms. We did not detect any events $\rm \geq 6 \sigma$. An in-depth statistical analysis of our data shows that events detected above $\rm 5 \sigma$ are consistent with thermal noise fluctuations only. A joint analysis of our data with previous experiments shows that previously claimed detections of FRBs from GRBs are unlikely to be astrophysical. Our results are in line with the lack of consistency noted between the recently presented FRB event rates and GRB event rates.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2014; 790(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Sun has remained a difficult source to image for radio telescopes, especially at the low radio frequencies. Its morphologically complex emission features span a large range of angular scales, emission mechanisms involved and brightness temperatures. In addition, time and frequency synthesis, the key tool used by most radio interferometers to build up information about the source being imaged is not effective for solar imaging, because many of the features of interest are short lived and change dramatically over small fractional bandwidths. Building on the advances in radio frequency technology, digital signal processing and computing, the kind of instruments needed to simultaneously capture the evolution of solar emission in time, frequency, morphology and polarization over a large spectral span with the requisite imaging fidelity, and time and frequency resolution have only recently begun to appear. Of this class of instruments, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is best suited for solar observations. The MWA has now entered a routine observing phase and here we present some early examples from MWA observations.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: A new generation of observational science instruments is dramatically increasing collected data volumes in a range of fields. These instruments include the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), terrestrial sensor networks, and NASA satellites participating in "decadal survey"' missions. Their unprecedented coverage and sensitivity will likely reveal wholly new categories of unexpected and transient events. Commensal methods passively analyze these data streams, recognizing anomalous events of scientific interest and reacting in real time. Here, the authors report on a case example: Very Long Baseline Array Fast Transients Experiment (V-FASTR), an ongoing commensal experiment at the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) that uses online adaptive pattern recognition to search for anomalous fast radio transients. V-FASTR triages a millisecond-resolution stream of data and promotes candidate anomalies for further offline analysis. It tunes detection parameters in real time, injecting synthetic events to continually retrain itself for optimum performance. This self-tuning approach retains sensitivity to weak signals while adapting to changing instrument configurations and noise conditions. The system has operated since July 2011, making it the longest-running real-time commensal radio transient experiment to date.
    Intelligent Systems, IEEE 01/2014; 29(1):48-55. · 1.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present a search for transient and variable radio sources at 154 MHz with the Murchison Widefield Array 32-tile prototype. Fifty-one images were obtained that cover a field of view of 1430 deg^2 centred on Hydra A. The observations were obtained over three days in 2010 March and three days in 2011 April and May. The mean cadence of the observations was 26 minutes and there was additional temporal information on day and year timescales. We explore the variability of a sample of 105 low frequency radio sources within the field. Four bright (S > 6 Jy) candidate variable radio sources were identified that displayed low levels of short timescale variability (26 minutes). We conclude that this variability is likely caused by simplifications in the calibration strategy or ionospheric effects. On the timescale of one year we find two sources that show significant variability. We attribute this variability to either refractive scintillation or intrinsic variability. No radio transients were identified and we place an upper limit on the surface density of sources rho < 7.5 x 10^-5 deg^-2 with flux densities > 5.5 Jy, and characteristic timescales of both 26 minutes and one year.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; 438(1). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    Cathryn M. Trott, Steven J. Tingay, Randall B. Wayth
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    ABSTRACT: Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are short timescale (<<1 s) astrophysical radio signals, presumed to be a signature of cataclysmic events of extragalactic origin. The discovery of six high-redshift events at ~1400 MHz from the Parkes radio telescope suggests that FRBs may occur at a high rate across the sky. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) operates at low radio frequencies (80-300 MHz) and is expected to detect FRBs due to its large collecting area (~2500 m^2) and wide field-of-view (FOV, ~1000 square degrees at nu=200 MHz). We compute the expected number of FRB detections for the MWA assuming a source population consistent with the reported detections. Our formalism properly accounts for the frequency-dependence of the antenna primary beam, the MWA system temperature, and unknown spectral index of the source population, for three modes of FRB detection: coherent; incoherent; and fast imaging. We find that the MWA's sensitivity and large FOV combine to provide the expectation of multiple detectable events per week in all modes, potentially making it an excellent high time resolution science instrument. Deviations of the expected number of detections from actual results will provide a strong constraint on the assumptions made for the underlying source population and intervening plasma distribution.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2013; 776(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present new wide-field observations of Centaurus A (Cen A) and the surrounding region at 118 MHz with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) 32-tile prototype, with which we investigate the spectral-index distribution of Cen A's giant radio lobes. We compare our images to 1.4 GHz maps of Cen A and compute spectral indices using temperature-temperature plots and spectral tomography. We find that the morphologies at 118 MHz and 1.4 GHz match very closely apart from an extra peak in the southern lobe at 118 MHz, which provides tentative evidence for the existence of a southern counterpart to the northern middle lobe of Cen A. Our spatially-averaged spectral indices for both the northern and southern lobes are consistent with previous analyses, however we find significant spatial variation of the spectra across the extent of each lobe. Both the spectral-index distribution and the morphology at low radio frequencies support a scenario of multiple outbursts of activity from the central engine. Our results are consistent with inverse-Compton modelling of radio and gamma-ray data that supports a value for the lobe age of between 10 and 80 Myr.
    09/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a new low frequency interferomeric radio telescope. The MWA is the low frequency precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and is the first of three SKA precursors to be operational, supporting a varied science mission ranging from the attempted detection of the Epoch of Reionisation to the monitoring of solar flares and space weather. We explore the possibility that the MWA can be used for the purposes of Space Situational Awareness (SSA). In particular we propose that the MWA can be used as an element of a passive radar facility operating in the frequency range 87.5 - 108 MHz (the commercial FM broadcast band). In this scenario the MWA can be considered the receiving element in a bi-static radar configuration, with FM broadcast stations serving as non-cooperative transmitters. The FM broadcasts propagate into space, are reflected off debris in Earth orbit, and are received at the MWA. The imaging capabilities of the MWA can be used to simultaneously detect multiple pieces of space debris, image their positions on the sky as a function of time, and provide tracking data that can be used to determine orbital parameters. Such a capability would be a valuable addition to Australian and global SSA assets, in terms of southern and eastern hemispheric coverage. We provide a feasibility assessment of this proposal, based on simple calculations and electromagnetic simulations that shows the detection of sub-metre size debris should be possible (debris radius of >0.5 m to ~1000 km altitude). We also present a proof-of-concept set of observations that demonstrate the feasibility of the proposal, based on the detection and tracking of the International Space Station via reflected FM broadcast signals originating in south-west Western Australia. These observations broadly validate our calculations and simulations.
    The Astronomical Journal 08/2013; 146(4). · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper we explore for the first time the relative magnitudes of three fundamental sources of uncertainty, namely, foreground contamination, thermal noise and sample variance in detecting the HI power spectrum from the Epoch of Reionization (EoR). We derive limits on the sensitivity of a Fourier synthesis telescope to detect EoR based on its array configuration and a statistical representation of images made by the instrument. We use the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) configuration for our studies. Using a unified framework for estimating signal and noise components in the HI power spectrum, we derive an expression for and estimate the contamination from extragalactic point-like sources in three-dimensional k-space. Sensitivity for EoR HI power spectrum detection is estimated for different observing modes with MWA. With 1000 hours of observing on a single field using the 128-tile MWA, EoR detection is feasible (S/N > 1 for $k\lesssim 0.8$ Mpc$^{-1}$). Bandpass shaping and refinements to the EoR window are found to be effective in containing foreground contamination, which makes the instrument tolerant to imaging errors. We find that for a given observing time, observing many independent fields of view does not offer an advantage over a single field observation when thermal noise dominates over other uncertainties in the derived power spectrum.
    The Astrophysical Journal 08/2013; 776(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Murchison Widefield Array is a low frequency (80 - 300 MHz) SKA Precursor, comprising 128 aperture array elements (known as tiles) distributed over an area of 3 km diameter. The MWA is located at the extraordinarily radio quiet Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory in the mid-west of Western Australia, the selected home for the Phase 1 and Phase 2 SKA low frequency arrays. The MWA science goals include: 1) detection of fluctuations in the brightness temperature of the diffuse redshifted 21 cm line of neutral hydrogen from the epoch of reionisation; 2) studies of Galactic and extragalactic processes based on deep, confusion-limited surveys of the full sky visible to the array; 3) time domain astrophysics through exploration of the variable radio sky; and 4) solar imaging and characterisation of the heliosphere and ionosphere via propagation effects on background radio source emission. This paper concentrates on the capabilities of the MWA for solar science and summarises some of the solar science results to date, in advance of the initial operation of the final instrument in 2013.
    Journal of Physics Conference Series 06/2013; 440(1):012033.
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    ABSTRACT: We present a Stokes I, Q and U survey at 189 MHz with the Murchison Widefield Array 32-element prototype covering 2400 square degrees. The survey has a 15.6 arcmin angular resolution and achieves a noise level of 15 mJy/beam. We demonstrate a novel interferometric data analysis that involves calibration of drift scan data, integration through the co-addition of warped snapshot images and deconvolution of the point spread function through forward modeling. We present a point source catalogue down to a flux limit of 4 Jy. We detect polarization from only one of the sources, PMN J0351-2744, at a level of 1.8 \pm 0.4%, whereas the remaining sources have a polarization fraction below 2%. Compared to a reported average value of 7% at 1.4 GHz, the polarization fraction of compact sources significantly decreases at low frequencies. We find a wealth of diffuse polarized emission across a large area of the survey with a maximum peak of ~13 K, primarily with positive rotation measure values smaller than +10 rad/m^2. The small values observed indicate that the emission is likely to have a local origin (closer than a few hundred parsecs). There is a large sky area at 2^h30^m where the diffuse polarized emission rms is fainter than 1 K. Within this area of low Galactic polarization we characterize the foreground properties in a cold sky patch at $(\alpha,\delta) = (4^h,-27^\circ.6)$ in terms of three dimensional power spectra
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2013; 771(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

516 Citations
234.49 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • Arizona State University
      • School of Earth and Space Exploration
      Phoenix, Arizona, United States
  • 2011–2014
    • Curtin University Australia
      • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
      Bentley, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2013
    • Australian National University
      • Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics
      Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
    • Raman Research Institute
      Bengalūru, Karnātaka, India
  • 2010–2012
    • International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
      Perth City, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2008–2012
    • MIT Haystack Observatory
      Miami, Florida, United States
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2008–2010
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2004–2008
    • University of Melbourne
      • School of Physics
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2004–2006
    • Victoria University Melbourne
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia