L’oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science prize 2021

Dear friends of VASCO,
As a news, I would like to tell that on the 8th of March 2021,
I, as the principal investigator of VASCO, have been awarded the L’Oreal-Unesco
prize For Women in Science 2021 in Sweden.

Links can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-rQ0cHeRPA
https://www.su.se/english/news/prize-to-promising-astrophysicist-1.544366
https://www.sverigesungaakademi.se/1795.html

I’m very grateful for this important recognition, and make a cheers with all collaborators and friends of the project.

Best from,
Beatriz Villarroel.

L’oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science prize 2021

International Rising Talents 2022

Dear all,

Some of you might remember that I received the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science national prize 2021 in Sweden for the VASCO project.

This year (2022), I was lucky to be selected as one of 15 early-career scientists worldwide for an L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Rising Talents prize, in a ceremony (or actually two!) that happened in Paris in June 2022. I feel incredibly honoured.

I want to express a strong gratitude to all members in the VASCO team, and all the citizen scientists who are involved in this research. This prize belongs to you.

Thank you.

International Rising Talents 2022

How an idea is born

Today is the International Day of Women in Science. It’s a special day, celebrating the enormous progress we have made to make it possible for women to work in science. I’m incredibly grateful for the many opportunities we have to make our dreams come true. In March 2021, I was awarded the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science prize in Sweden for the VASCO project, which I feel incredibly honored for. This prize belongs to everybody in the VASCO project, as it’s a common endeavour we embarked upon.

In the light of this day, I have decided to open up a bit about myself and finally answer a question that I frequently have received since I started my first searches for vanishing stars: ”How did you come up with the idea to search for vanishing stars?” I have kept the details for myself, even though I mentioned it sometimes. Nevertheless, telling the details might illustrate how the mind process behind a scientific idea works and how an idea might appear ”out of nothing”.

The idea goes well back in time. When I was younger, I used to write a bit in my free time. In Swedish. Small things: short stories, poems, nothing particularly serious, nor things I normally ever share. I did so also in the end of my undergraduate studies and the beginning of my PhD times. It was also in this time period, when I was working on a small fable about a quasar that was pondering about his cosmic life. Nevertheless, eventually came the moment in the fable when the poor quasar fell through a macroscopic wormhole and ”vanished”. After reaching the end of the story writing, I just could not let go of the thought: had any scientist ever searched for objects that vanish?

Some months after this, I decided to make a Skype call to one of the leading persons behind a major astronomical survey. I asked if the survey could make a second round of photometry and get spectra of the entire sky so that I could have perfectly homogenous data for looking for vanishing objects. The professor smiled at me, and explained it was a major undertaking that most likely would not happen for some time. So I let go of the idea of looking for vanishing objects, but I could not forget it.

Sometimes, all what one needs is the right moment. A few years had passed when I learned about the existence of the US Naval Observatory Catalog (USNO), which had mapped the sky in the 1950s. I immediately saw the opportunity to perform the study I was interested in: the search for vanishing objects, as crazy as it seems. I still wondered about the possible existence of wormholes and undiscovered new physical phenomena related to vanishing objects. Soon, however, I learned that there were serious astronomical efforts, rooted in serious astrophysics, to look failed supernovae. Failed supernovae can be found by looking for a star that vanishes. It was also at that moment I understood the possible connection to searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

This little bit describes how a simple idea was born out of nothing. Today, with the VASCO project, we focus on looking for everything that makes an object observationally ”vanish” – or just go subluminous. We know what we are looking for, but we will always be careful with conclusions when we find an interesting anomaly, because in the end, many anomalies have mundane explanations.

Finally, for the curious reader, I give away a small bit of myself and attach the untitled fable at the bottom of the blog post.

How an idea is born

VASCO citizen science

Dear friends,

The Corona virus is spreading all over the world. Many institutes have been physically closed, so that we all have to work on distance (while the Internet works). The situation is hard everywhere.

In the last months, we have been working on preparing the citizen science project. In particular our IT experts, led by Kristiaan Pelckmans, have made a fantastic work in making it happen through the development of the citizen science interface and infrastructure. Our plan was to start up the citizen science project with a number of schools and amateur societies in order to test our project design and see what kind of results that we get. Unfortunately, with the corona outbreak we cannot follow this path now as many schools have closed.

We therefore are opening up the citizen science project in its experimental stage to everybody to participate. All you need, is a web browser. We hope you will enjoy it. 

The link to the citizen science project, in English and French, can be found here:

https://vasconsite.wordpress.com/ml-blink-2/

A short video greeting from myself, can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvB5y292qYA

Stay safe and healthy!

Beatriz.

VASCO citizen science

Happy New Year!

Dear friends and followers of VASCO,

The New Year is here and so is the time of new hopes and dreams. Our wishes are now to set up the citizen science project as needed, and we are working hard to realise this as soon as possible. As some may have noticed, there has been lots of media news about the VASCO project lately. We appreciate very much the positive response we have got and the interest into the project. We remind the readers that we believe the ~100 transients reported in our first VASCO paper most likely represent very natural short-lived phenomena, such as big M dwarf flares, high-z supernovae and other astrophysical transients. That doesn’t make us less excited to follow up on them and trying to figure out what they actually are — astronomy is full of natural wonders. The introduction in our paper in the Astronomical Journal gives a thorough view of many natural phenomena one can camouflage as “vanished” stars in the VASCO project. With this being said, we will carefully investigate *all* possible explanations for each candidate we find in our project.

We attach some helpful links below and wish everybody a Happy New Year 2020! We stay in touch.

Original article in Astronomical Journal:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/ab570f

Original press releases

https://www.iac.es/en/outreach/news/sources-light-which-appear-and-disappear-observed-sky

https://www.su.se/english/research/research-news/short-lived-light-sources-discovered-in-the-sky-1.475666?cache=%2Fcourses-programmes%2Fphd-studies

//Beatriz

 

Happy New Year!