NUI Galway Astronomers discover the secrets of a Neutron Star

Friday, 15 August 2003

Astronomers at NUI Galway have discovered and measured for the first time, a link between the intensity of optical light and the intensity of radio waves from a Pulsar. Their work, published in the latest edition of the journal Science, has important implications for our understanding of how these enigmatic objects work. Pulsars, which were first discovered by the Irish astronomer Jocelyn Bell in 1967, have defied a full theoretical understanding despite more than thirty years of study. What is a pulsar? Dr Andy Shearer who led the NUI Galway research team explains that when a large star dies its life ends with a large explosion - a supernova - one of the most energetic events in the universe. "Some supernovae can result in the formation of what is known as a neutron star," he says. When a neutron star is young (e.g., 100,000 years), it emits a flash or 'pulse of radiation every time it rotates - it is now known as a pulsar. According to Dr Shearer, explaining the pulse and hence the conditions around a neutron star has baffled astronomers for the past thirty years. "Understanding the pulsar phenomena remains one of the unsolved problems in astrophysics," he says. The focus of the NUI Galway team was the 'Crab' Pulsar, which rotates 33 times a second. The team took simultaneous observations of the Crab pulsar at both radio and optical wavelengths. The NUI Galway-built TRIFFID camera, using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology, recorded the optical signals at the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) in La Palma and the radio signals were recorded using the Dutch radio observatory at Westerbork, Holland. "We observed over 10,000 Giant Radio Pulses and discovered, for the first time, that there is a link between the radio and optical signals from pulsars," said Dr. Shearer. In post analysis, the radio and optical arrival times were linked to better than a 10 millionth of a second despite the radio and optical observatories being over 2000 kilometres apart. The importance of this discovery lies in the fact that to date no convincing explanation describes all the possible observations of pulsars. "Our limited knowledge of the workings of a plasma in the extreme conditions around a pulsar has meant we do not know what causes the brief flashes of radio waves, light, X-ray and gamma ray signals that are characteristic of these enigmatic objects", says Dr. Shearer. Indeed most theoretical studies have looked at either the radio waves or the optical but not both. "Our observations have, for the first time, linked emission from these two parts of the electromagnetic spectrum - and in doing so ruled out some of the competing models," said Dr Shearer. "We hope that future observations - particularly of the polarisation of the radio and optical radiation will lead, finally, to a complete understanding of how pulsars work." Ends

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Conference on Global Trade and the implications for Human Rights

Monday, 29 September 2003

The recently formed Human Rights for Change organisation will hold a one-day conference in the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway, on Saturday October 4th, 2003. The conference, entitled 'Global Trade and the Implications for Human Rights,' aims to provide an academic platform at which the various aspects of trade liberalisation as pursued by the international community, may be critically examined and discussed in the light of their implications for human rights. While the most serious impact of globalisation has been on the economic, social and cultural rights of people and peoples in the Third World, both academia and civil society in western countries have consistently focused on the enforcement of civil and political rights. This imbalance in study, research and lobbying has resulted in either an incomplete or incorrect understanding of the nature of economic, social and cultural rights throughout the First World. Some of the main issues that will be discussed at the conference include Accountability and Responsibility of Multi-National Corporations; Human Rights Implications of Development policy; the Impact of International Trade on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Global Arms Trade; Trade and the Environment; Women's Rights and Children's Rights. Speakers at the conference will include Professor William Schabas, Director, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway; Jim Loughran, Amnesty International; Angela Hegarty, University of Ulster and Dr. Eleanor Doyle, University College Cork. Ends

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Joint statement on B.Sc. in Occupational Therapy

Friday, 26 September 2003

The Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI) acknowledges that a programme leading to a B.Sc. in Occupational Therapy has commenced in NUI Galway and that the process of accreditation is now in train. While formal approval to proceed with the programme is awaited, the AOTI and the University have committed themselves to a process which will lead to such approval, subject to the accreditation procedures of AOTI. NUI Galway is very happy with the outcome and looks forward to continuing cooperation with the AOTI. Ends

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NUI Galway Law Expert to help prepare UN Treaty on Disability

Monday, 1 September 2003

Professor Gerard Quinn, Faculty of Law, NUI Galway, has been nominated by Rehabilitation International (RI) as its representative on a new United Nations Working Group to draft a treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. RI is a global conglomerate of disability NGOs and is chaired by Lex Freiden who is also chair of the US National Council on Disability. The new UN Working Group which is composed of States as well as independent experts, will meet in January and aims to produce the first working draft of a treaty. Professor Quinn co-authored a leading Study for the United Nations on the treaty in 2002 and is academic co-ordinator of an EU Network of Disability Legal Specialists. "It is an honour to be part of the Working Group. Its work will be truly historic and exciting," said Professor Quinn. " A legally binding treaty will hopefully make a big difference to the 600 million persons with disability who live mostly in developing countries. It will reinforce the reform process at home and will help to engender reform where it currently does not exist. I am proud that NUI Galway can play its part in the treaty drafting process, which has a truly global significance. It shows that quality research can make a positive difference in the policy process," he said. Ends

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Failure of Government to Honour Funding Commitments will lead to a crisis in Uni

Monday, 20 October 2003

Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway has described the Government's decision, to 'pause' capital spending under the Government's Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) for 2003, as a cause of very serious concern to the Third-Level sector, and urged the Government to honour its commitment to Third Level Education in the interests of making Ireland more competitive in a global context. Dr Ó Muircheartaigh's comments were conveyed at a conferring ceremony today (Monday 20 October 2003) in the University, where he also referred to the Government's current approach to PRTLI capital programme as potentially disastrous from both an institutional and a national point of view. He emphasised that NUI Galway and other universities were working to maximise income from all sources, including private fundraising and revenue generating activities. "The Universities and private philanthropy are playing their part in strengthening the education sector. I call on Government to honour its commitment to higher education in the interests of making Ireland more competitive," he said. Continuing, "Irish universities not only provide the innovation capable of stimulating new production, they also generate a skilled and flexible workforce which is vital in meeting the challenges of the 21st century". Dr. Ó Muircheartaigh outlined that the construction of a new engineering facility was a capital project priority for NUI Galway and that to meet the demand for engineers across all sectors, undergraduate numbers at the University at the very least need to be maintained. However, this would be impossible without adequate Government funding to build a new facility. "The existence of a flagship Engineering building will play a decisive role in attracting further direct inward investment to the region as it has done in the biomedical and other sectors," he said. Praising the Government's record in state support for research over the last four years with initiatives such as Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) & Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI), he described the need for continued research and capital funding of education as being of national strategic importance. His comments were made in a week when NUI Galway will confer degrees and diplomas on over 3,247 graduates in 17 conferring ceremonies throughout the week. These remarks follow the announcement last week of a donation of €18 million from Atlantic Philanthropies for three new projects on campus - the largest single gift in the University's history. Ends

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