B. W. Stappers

The University of Manchester, Manchester, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (360)1437.42 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present first results from a LOFAR census of non-recycled pulsars. The census includes almost all such pulsars known (194 sources) at declinations Dec$> 8^\circ$ and Galactic latitudes |Gb|$> 3^\circ$, regardless of their expected flux densities and scattering times. Each pulsar was observed contiguously in the frequency range from 110$-$188 MHz and for $\geq 20$ minutes, recording full-Stokes data. We present the dispersion measures, flux densities, and calibrated total intensity profiles for the 158 pulsars detected in the sample. The median uncertainty in census dispersion measures ($1.5 \times 10^{-4}$ pc cm$^{-3}$) is ten times smaller, on average, than in the ATNF pulsar catalogue. We combined census flux densities with those in the literature and fitted the resulting broadband spectra with single or broken power-law functions. For 48 census pulsars such fits are being published for the first time. Typically, the choice between single and broken power-laws, as well as the location of the spectral break, were highly influenced by the spectral coverage of the available flux density measurements. In particular, the inclusion of measurements below 100 MHz appears essential for investigating the low-frequency turnover in the spectra for most of the census pulsars. For several pulsars, we compared the spectral indices from different works and found the typical spread of values to be within 0.5$-$1.5, suggesting a prevailing underestimation of spectral index errors in the literature. The census observations yielded some unexpected individual source results, as we describe in the paper. Lastly, we will provide this unique sample of wide-band, low-frequency pulse profiles via the European Pulsar Network Database.
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    ABSTRACT: We report on photometric and spectroscopic observations of white dwarf companions to four binary radio millisecond pulsars, leading to the discovery of companions to PSRs J0614-3329, J1231-1411 and J2017+0603. We place limits on the brightness of the companion to PSR J0613-0200. Optical spectroscopy of the companion to PSR J0614-3329 identifies it as a DA type white dwarf with a temperature of Teff=6460+-80 K, a surface gravity log g=7.0+-0.2 cgs and a mass of Mwd=0.24+-0.04 Msun. We find that the distance to PSR J0614-3329 is smaller than previously estimated, removing the need for the pulsar to have an unrealistically high gamma-ray efficiency. Comparing the photometry with predictions from white dwarf cooling models allows us to estimate temperatures and cooling ages of the companions to PSRs J0613-0200, J1231-1411 and J2017+0603. We find that the white dwarfs in these systems are cool Teff<4000 K and old >5 Gyr. Thin Hydrogen envelopes are required for these white dwarfs to cool to the observed temperatures, and we suggest that besides Hydrogen shell flashes, irradiation driven mass loss by the pulsar may have been important.
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    ABSTRACT: The sensitivity of Pulsar Timing Arrays to gravitational waves depends critically on the noise present in the individual pulsar timing data. Noise may be either intrinsic or extrinsic to the pulsar. Intrinsic sources of noise might come from rotational instabilities, for example. Extrinsic sources of noise include contributions from physical processes which are not sufficiently well modelled, for example, dispersion and scattering effects, analysis errors and instrumental instabilities. We present the results from a noise analysis for 42 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) observed with the European Pulsar Timing Array. For characterising the low-frequency, stochastic and achromatic noise component, or "timing noise", we employ two methods, based on Bayesian and frequentist statistics. For 25 MSPs, we achieve statistically significant measurements of their timing noise parameters and find that the two methods give consistent results. For the remaining 17 MSPs, we place upper limits on the timing noise amplitude at the 95% confidence level. We additionally place an upper limit on the contribution to the measured timing noise from errors in the reference terrestrial time standards (below 10%) and find evidence for a noise component which is present only in the data of one of the four used telescopes. Finally, we estimate that the timing noise of individual pulsars reduces the sensitivity of this data set to an isotropic, stochastic GW background by a factor of >12.5 and by a factor of >3.4 for continuous GWs from resolvable, inspiralling supermassive black-hole binaries with circular orbits.
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    B. B. P. Perera · B. W. Stappers · P. Weltevrede · A. G. Lyne · J. M. Rankin ·
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    ABSTRACT: We study the spin-down changes of PSR B1859$+$07 over a period of more than 28 years of radio observation. We identify that the time derivative of the rotational frequency ($\nu$) varies quasi-periodically with a period of $\sim$350 days, switching mainly between two spin-down states. The profile shape of the pulsar is correlated with the $\dot \nu$ variation, producing two slightly different profile shapes corresponding to high- and low-$\dot \nu$ states. In addition to these two normal emission states, we confirm the occasional flare-state of the pulsar, in which the emission appears early in spin phase compared to that of the common normal emission. The profile of the flare-state is significantly different from that of the two normal emission states. The correlation analysis further shows that the flare-state is not directly linked with the $\dot \nu$ changes. With a simple emission beam model, we estimate the emission altitude of the normal emission to be 240~km, and explain the origin of the flare-state as an emission height variation from the leading edge of the beam. We also argue that the emission of these states can be explained with a partially active beam model. In this scenario, the trailing portion of the radio beam is usually active and the normal emission is produced. The flare-state occurs when the leading edge of the beam becomes active while the trailing part is being blocked. This model estimates a fixed emission altitude of 360~km. However, the cause of the flare-state (i.e. the emission height variation, or the time-dependent activity across the radio beam) is not easily explained.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 10/2015; 455(1). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv2403 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We are conducting a survey for pulsars and transients using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). The GMRT High Resolution Southern Sky (GHRSS) survey is an off-Galactic-plane (|b|>5) survey in the declination range -40 deg to -54 deg at 322 MHz. With the high time (up to 30.72 micro-sec) and frequency (up to 0.016275 MHz) resolution observing modes, the 5-sigma detection limit is 0.5 mJy for a 2 ms pulsar with 10% duty cycle at 322 MHz. Total GHRSS sky coverage of 2866 square-deg, will result from 1953 pointings, each covering 1.8 square-deg. The 10-sigma detection limit for a 5 ms transient burst is 1.6 Jy for the GHRSS survey. In addition, the GHRSS survey can reveal transient events like the rotating radio transients or the fast radio bursts. With 35% of the survey completed (i.e. 1000 square-deg), we report the discovery of 10 pulsars, one of which is a millisecond pulsar (MSP), this is one of the highest pulsar per square degree discovery rate for any off-Galactic plane survey. We re-detected 23 known in-beam pulsars. Utilising the imaging capability of the GMRT we also localised four of the GHRSS pulsars (including the MSP) in the gated image plane within +/- 10 arcsec. We demonstrated rapid convergence in pulsar timing with a more precise position that is possible with single dish discoveries. We also exhibited that we can localise the brightest transient sources with simultaneously obtained lower time resolution imaging data, demonstrating a technique that may have application in the SKA.
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    ABSTRACT: LOFAR offers the unique capability of observing pulsars across the 10-240 MHz frequency range with a fractional bandwidth of roughly 50%. This spectral range is well-suited for studying the frequency evolution of pulse profile morphology caused by both intrinsic and extrinsic effects: such as changing emission altitude in the pulsar magnetosphere or scatter broadening by the interstellar medium, respectively. The magnitude of most of these effects increases rapidly towards low frequencies. LOFAR can thus address a number of open questions about the nature of radio pulsar emission and its propagation through the interstellar medium. We present the average pulse profiles of 100 pulsars observed in the two LOFAR frequency bands: High Band (120-167 MHz, 100 profiles) and Low Band (15-62 MHz, 26 profiles). We compare them with Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) and Lovell Telescope observations at higher frequencies (350 and1400 MHz) in order to study the profile evolution. The profiles are aligned in absolute phase by folding with a new set of timing solutions from the Lovell Telescope, which we present along with precise dispersion measures obtained with LOFAR. We find that the profile evolution with decreasing radio frequency does not follow a specific trend but, depending on the geometry of the pulsar, new components can enter into, or be hidden from, view. Nonetheless, in general our observations confirm the widening of pulsar profiles at low frequencies, as expected from radius-to-frequency mapping or birefringence theories. We offer this catalog of low-frequency pulsar profiles in a user friendly way via the EPN Database of Pulsar Profiles (http://www.epta.eu.org/epndb/).
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    ABSTRACT: Dense, continuous pulsar timing observations over a 24-hr period provide a method for probing intermediate gravitational wave (GW) frequencies from 10 microhertz to 20 millihertz. The European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA), the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA), and the combined International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA) all use millisecond pulsar observations to detect or constrain GWs typically at nanohertz frequencies. In the case of the IPTA's nine-telescope 24-Hour Global Campaign on millisecond pulsar J1713+0747, GW limits in the intermediate frequency regime can be produced. The negligible change in dispersion measure during the observation minimizes red noise in the timing residuals, constraining any contributions from GWs due to individual sources. At 10$^{-5}$Hz, the 95% upper limit on strain is 10$^{-11}$ for GW sources in the pulsar's direction.
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    ABSTRACT: We present the Multifrequency Snapshot Sky Survey (MSSS), the first northern-sky LOFAR imaging survey. In this introductory paper, we first describe in detail the motivation and design of the survey. Compared to previous radio surveys, MSSS is exceptional due to its intrinsic multifrequency nature providing information about the spectral properties of the detected sources over more than two octaves (from 30 to 160 MHz). The broadband frequency coverage, together with the fast survey speed generated by LOFAR's multibeaming capabilities, make MSSS the first survey of the sort anticipated to be carried out with the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Two of the sixteen frequency bands included in the survey were chosen to exactly overlap the frequency coverage of large-area Very Large Array (VLA) and Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) surveys at 74 MHz and 151 MHz respectively. The survey performance is illustrated within the "MSSS Verification Field" (MVF), a region of 100 square degrees centered at J2000 (RA,Dec)=(15h,69deg). The MSSS results from the MVF are compared with previous radio survey catalogs. We assess the flux and astrometric uncertainties in the catalog, as well as the completeness and reliability considering our source finding strategy. We determine the 90% completeness levels within the MVF to be 100 mJy at 135 MHz with 108" resolution, and 550 mJy at 50 MHz with 166" resolution. Images and catalogs for the full survey, expected to contain 150,000-200,000 sources, will be released to a public web server. We outline the plans for the ongoing production of the final survey products, and the ultimate public release of images and source catalogs.
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    ABSTRACT: Several theories exist to explain the source of the bright, millisecond duration pulses known as fast radio bursts (FRBs). If the progenitors of FRBs are non-cataclysmic, such as giant pulses from pulsars, pulsar-planet binaries, or magnetar flares, FRB emission may be seen to repeat. We have undertaken a survey of the fields of eight known FRBs from the High Time Resolution Universe survey to search for repeating pulses. Although no repeat pulses were detected the survey yielded the detection of a new FRB, described in Petroff et al. (2015a). From our observations we rule out periodic repeating sources with periods P $\leq$ 8.6 hours and rule out sources with periods 8.6 < P < 21 hours at the 90% confidence level. At P $\geq$ 21 hours our limits fall off as ~1/P. Dedicated and persistent observations of FRB source fields are needed to rule out repetition on longer timescales, a task well-suited to next generation wide-field transient detectors.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 08/2015; 454(1). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv1953 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the detection of 48 millisecond pulsars (MSPs) out of 75 observed thus far using the LOFAR in the frequency range 110-188 MHz. We have also detected three MSPs out of nine observed in the frequency range 38-77 MHz. This is the largest sample of MSPs ever observed at these low frequencies, and half of the detected MSPs were observed for the first time at frequencies below 200 MHz. We present the average pulse profiles of the detected MSPs, their effective pulse widths and flux densities, and compare these with higher observing frequencies. The LOFAR pulse profiles will be publicly available via the EPN Database of Pulsar Profiles. We also present average values of dispersion measures (DM) and discuss DM and profile variations. About 35% of the MSPs show strong narrow profiles, another 25% exhibit scattered profiles, and the rest are only weakly detected. A qualitative comparison of the LOFAR MSP profiles with those at higher radio frequencies shows constant separation between profile components. Similarly, the profile widths are consistent with those observed at higher frequencies, unless scattering dominates at the lowest frequencies. This is very different from what is observed for normal pulsars and suggests a compact emission region in the MSP magnetosphere. The amplitude ratio of the profile components, on the other hand, can dramatically change towards low frequencies, often with the trailing component becoming dominant. As demonstrated by Dyks et al. (2010) this can be caused by aberration and retardation. This data set enables high-precision studies of pulse profile evolution with frequency, dispersion, Faraday rotation, and scattering in the interstellar medium. Characterizing and correcting these systematic effects may improve pulsar-timing precision at higher observing frequencies, where pulsar timing array projects aim to directly detect gravitational waves.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 08/2015; DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201527178 · 4.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The paucity of observed supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) may imply that the gravitational wave background (GWB) from this population is anisotropic, rendering existing analyses sub-optimal. We present the first constraints on the angular distribution of a nanohertz stochastic GWB from circular, inspiral-driven SMBHBs using the $2015$ European Pulsar Timing Array data [Desvignes et al. (in prep.)]. Our analysis of the GWB in the $\sim 2 - 90$ nHz band shows consistency with isotropy, with the strain amplitude in $l>0$ spherical harmonic multipoles $\lesssim 40\%$ of the monopole value. We expect that these more general techniques will become standard tools to probe the angular distribution of source populations.
    Physical Review Letters 06/2015; 115(4). DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.041101 · 7.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond radio signals that exhibit dispersion larger than what the Galactic electron density can account for. We have conducted a 1446 h survey for FRBs at 145 MHz, covering a total of 4193 deg2 on the sky. We used the UK station of the low frequency array (LOFAR) radio telescope – the Rawlings Array – accompanied for a majority of the time by the LOFAR station at Nançay, observing the same fields at the same frequency. Our real-time search backend, Advanced Radio Transient Event Monitor and Identification System – artemis, utilizes graphics processing units to search for pulses with dispersion measures up to 320 cm−3 pc. Previous derived FRB rates from surveys around 1.4 GHz, and favoured FRB interpretations, motivated this survey, despite all previous detections occurring at higher dispersion measures. We detected no new FRBs above a signal-to-noise threshold of 10, leading to the most stringent upper limit yet on the FRB event rate at these frequencies: 29 sky−1 d−1 for five ms-duration pulses above 62 Jy. The non-detection could be due to scatter-broadening, limitations on the volume and time searched, or the shape of FRB flux density spectra. Assuming the latter and that FRBs are standard candles, the non-detection is compatible with the published FRB sky rate, if their spectra follow a power law with frequency (∝ να), with α ≳ +0.1, demonstrating a marked difference from pulsar spectra. Our results suggest that surveys at higher frequencies, including the low frequency component of the Square Kilometre Array, will have better chances to detect, estimate rates and understand the origin and properties of FRBs.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 06/2015; 452(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv1306 · 5.11 Impact Factor

  • The Astrophysical Journal 05/2015; 805(1):85. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/805/1/85 · 5.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: PSR B0823+26, a 0.53-s radio pulsar, displays a host of emission phenomena over time-scales of seconds to (at least) hours, including nulling, subpulse drifting, and mode-changing. Studying pulsars like PSR B0823+26 provides further insight into the relationship between these various emission phenomena and what they might teach us about pulsar magnetospheres. Here we report on the LOFAR (Low-Frequency Array) discovery that PSR B0823+26 has a weak and sporadically emitting ‘quiet’ (Q) emission mode that is over 100 times weaker (on average) and has a nulling fraction forty-times greater than that of the more regularly-emitting ‘bright’ (B) mode. Previously, the pulsar has been undetected in the Q mode, and was assumed to be nulling continuously. PSR B0823+26 shows a further decrease in average flux just before the transition into the B mode, and perhaps truly turns off completely at these times. Furthermore, simultaneous observations taken with the LOFAR, Westerbork, Lovell, and Effelsberg telescopes between 110 MHz and 2.7 GHz demonstrate that the transition between the Q mode and B mode occurs within one single rotation of the neutron star, and that it is concurrent across the range of frequencies observed.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 05/2015; 451(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv1066 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Measuring radio emission from air showers offers a novel way to determine properties of the primary cosmic rays such as their mass and energy. Theory predicts that relativistic time compression effects lead to a ring of amplified emission which starts to dominate the emission pattern for frequencies above ∼ 100 MHz. In this article we present the first detailed measurements of this structure. Ring structures in the radio emission of air showers are measured with the LOFAR radio telescope in the frequency range of 110-190 MHz. These data are well described by CoREAS simulations. They clearly confirm the importance of including the index of refraction of air as a function of height. Furthermore, the presence of the Cherenkov ring offers the possibility for a geometrical measurement of the depth of shower maximum, which in turn depends on the mass of the primary particle.
    Astroparticle Physics 05/2015; 65:11-21. · 3.58 Impact Factor
  • N. J. Young · P. Weltevrede · B. W. Stappers · A. G. Lyne · M. Kramer ·
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of approximately 200 h of observations of the pulsars J1634−5107, J1717−4054 and J1853+0505, taken over the course of 14.7 yr. We show that all of these objects exhibit long-term nulls and radio-emitting phases (i.e. minutes to many hours), as well as considerable nulling fractions (NFs) in the range ∼67–90 per cent. PSR J1717−4054 is also found to exhibit short time-scale nulls (1–40P) and burst phases (≲200P) during its radio-emitting phases. This behaviour acts to modulate the NF, and therefore the detection rate of the source, over time-scales of minutes. Furthermore, PSR J1853+0505 is shown to exhibit a weak emission state, in addition to its strong and null states, after sufficient pulse integration. This further indicates that nulls may often only represent transitions to weaker emission states which are below the sensitivity thresholds of particular observing systems. In addition, we detected a peak-to-peak variation of 33 ± 1 per cent in the spin-down rate of PSR J1717−4054, over time-scales of hundreds of days. However, no long-term correlation with emission variation was found.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2015; 449(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv392 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present initial results from the low-latitude Galactic plane region of the High Time Resolution Universe pulsar survey conducted at the Parkes 64-m radio telescope. We discuss the computational challenges arising from the processing of the terabyte-sized survey data. Two new radio interference mitigation techniques are introduced, as well as a partially-coherent segmented acceleration search algorithm which aims to increase our chances of discovering highly-relativistic short-orbit binary systems, covering a parameter space including potential pulsar-black hole binaries. We show that under a constant acceleration approximation, a ratio of data length over orbital period of ~0.1 results in the highest effectiveness for this search algorithm. From the 50 per cent of data processed thus far, we have re-detected 435 previously known pulsars and discovered a further 60 pulsars, two of which are fast-spinning pulsars with periods less than 30ms. PSR J1101-6424 is a millisecond pulsar whose heavy white dwarf (WD) companion and short spin period of 5.1ms indicate a rare example of full-recycling via Case A Roche lobe overflow. PSR J1757-27 appears to be an isolated recycled pulsar with a relatively long spin period of 17ms. In addition, PSR J1244-6359 is a mildly-recycled binary system with a heavy WD companion, PSR J1755-25 has a significant orbital eccentricity of 0.09, and PSR J1759-24 is likely to be a long-orbit eclipsing binary with orbital period of the order of tens of years. Comparison of our newly-discovered pulsar sample to the known population suggests that they belong to an older population. Furthermore, we demonstrate that our current pulsar detection yield is as expected from population synthesis.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2015; 450(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv753 · 5.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of the millisecond pulsar (MSP) PSR J1950+2414 ($P=4.3$ ms) in a binary system with an eccentric ($e=0.08$) orbit in Pulsar ALFA survey observations with the Arecibo telescope. Its companion star has a median mass of 0.3 $M_\odot$ and is most likely a white dwarf. Fully recycled MSPs like this one are thought to be old neutron stars spun-up by mass transfer from a companion star. This process should circularize the orbit, as is observed for the vast majority of binary MSPs, which predominantly have orbital eccentricities $e < 0.001$. However, four recently discovered binary MSPs have orbits with larger eccentricities ($0.03 < e < 0.4$); PSR J1950+2414 is only the fifth such system to be discovered. The upper limits for the the intrinsic spin period derivative and inferred surface magnetic field strength are comparable to those of the general MSP population. The large eccentricities of these systems are not compatible with the predictions of the standard recycling scenario: something unusual happened during their formation or evolution. Some of the proposed scenarios are a) the initial evolution of the pulsar in a triple system which became dynamically unstable, b) origin in an exchange encounter in an environment with high stellar density, like that of the core of a globular cluster, c) rotationally delayed accretion-induced collapse of a super-Chandrasekhar white dwarf and d) dynamical interaction of the binary with a circumbinary disk. We compare the properties of all five known eccentric MSPs with the predictions of these formation channels. We also outline how future measurements of the mass and proper motion of PSR J1950+2414 might allow us to firmly exclude some of the proposed formation scenarios.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2015; 806(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/806/1/140 · 5.99 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

5k Citations
1,437.42 Total Impact Points


  • 2008-2015
    • The University of Manchester
      • • School of Physics and Astronomy
      • • Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
      Manchester, England, United Kingdom
  • 2010-2014
    • Swinburne University of Technology
      • Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert-Einstein-Institute)
      Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
  • 2013
    • Manchester University
      North Manchester, Indiana, United States
    • University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
      • Department of Physics
      Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
    • University of Oxford
      Oxford, England, United Kingdom
  • 2008-2013
    • McGill University
      • Department of Physics
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1999-2012
    • University of Amsterdam
      • Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 2009
    • University of British Columbia - Vancouver
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2006-2009
    • Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
      Dwingelo, Drenthe, Netherlands
    • University of Sydney
      • School of Physics
      Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 1995-2009
    • Australian National University
      • Mount Stromlo Observatory
      Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  • 2007
    • University of Melbourne
      • School of Physics
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • University of Groningen
      • Kernfysisch Versneller Instituut (KVI)
      Groningen, Province of Groningen, Netherlands
  • 2002
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Astronomy
      Berkeley, California, United States
    • Utrecht University
      • Astronomical Institute
      Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 1998-2000
    • ANU College
      Slacks Creek, Queensland, Australia