Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sydney at night

I am just between my talk (went well, I gave a review talk on B-type pulsators on the main sequence), and the conference dinner which will take place on a cruise ship in the harbour, so I have a little bit of time to post. Yesterday the rain finally stopped (we had around 150 mm precipitation over the past few days, and also the coldest day in Sydney – with a maximum around 13°C – of the last 6 years on Saturday), so I managed to go for a nearly 12 kilometre run during the talk-free afternoon. Then on the evening we visited to the Sydney Observatory, where we had pizza, and saw ω Centauri and η Carinae (awesome) through the telescope. Afterwards I still went for a walk to see the city with the lights on, and take a few pictures (thanks for the tripod, Enrico!). A bit more cliche exposures than the last time, but I do not think you will mind. Enjoy!






First impressions of Sydney

So yesterday after checking in, despite being very tired, I still managed to leave the hotel around noon for a completely unplanned (meaning that I had no specific goal or route in mind, except for seeing the Opera House at one point) walk through the city. The weather was quite nice, around 15°C, scattered clouds at the beginning, then perfectly sunny later on. I really like the architecture, with a mix of older small houses and modern skyscrapers, which reminded me a bit to Rotterdam.



I headed towards the Sun, to the North (yeah, crazy Southern Hemisphere). After crossing the Hide Park, I looked into and walked around the St Mary’s Cathedral (very pretty, especially the wooden structure of the ceiling).



Then I continued through the Domain towards the Royal Botanic Gardens. These are great parks, blooming and green even in the middle of winter (since this day was the day of the Winter Solstice here – crazy Southern Hemisphere again)! Also, I have seen many birds walking and flying around these places (and more later around the harbour), e.g., I am sure I have seen Noisy Miners, Australian White Ibises, and a Little Black Cormorant drying its wings at Walsh Bay.




After making it through the Botanic gardens, I walked along the path on the banks of Farm Cove towards the Opera House. This is (again) a really nice path to take, with views over the harbour and the skyline of the city. The Opera House is very nice, I liked especially the roof structures, or shells, and their patterns. I tried to take less cliche photos, I let you decide if I succeeded with that or not.




From here I walked around the Circular Quay, up to Dawes point, to have a better look at the Harbour Bridge, and also to look back at the skyline from there. The bridge was a – literally – huge surprise for me, since its size is much more impressive in real life than it is on the pictures.




Unluckily the battery in my camera died here (and I still need to buy a replacement battery for these cases, when I go on a longer than planned walk without charging my only battery), so I have no images from the way back to the hotel.


Still, I walked through the small streets of The Rocks (I will have to go back there), and then followed the Pitt street back home. This ended my 5 hour walk. An hour later I was so tired, that I fell asleep in the middle of writing an email, so after noticing that, I decided that it was time to go to bed. Since I managed to sleep till 7 this morning, I suppose my switch to this timezone is now complete! Today is very rainy, so I will try to work on my talk/presentation a bit… Oh, and the breakfast at the hotel is pretty good, so I think I will not really need lunch today :)

Flying to the opposite side of the globe


Ok, now I know how does it feel to fly overseas… I spent more than 20 hours in the air in a slightly more than 24 hour period, flying first from Brussels to Abu Dhabi (easy 6h 40m flight), then from Abu Dhabi to Sydney (14h 10m). The economy class of Etihad Airways was very nice, with personal in-flight entertainment system, huge leg-space (especially after the tightness of the ThomasCook chairs less than a week earlier), and rich meals (with even a menu card for each flight). Unluckily I did not really manage to sleep more than a few hours in total, so writing these lines at noon in Australia feels pretty much like midnight at home… There is one moment which was really memorable for me from the flights: entering the airspace above Australia, I peeked outside and saw the Southern Cross (Crux) constellation over the wingtip of the plane :) I will try to go and walk around a bit now, since I do not want to go to bed and completely destroy my day/night rhythm (as if there was anything left to destroy). Stay tuned for more!

Massive Stars in Rhodes

Last week I have been to the Massive Stars: From α to Ω conference in Rhodes, Greece. I did not go alone, Clio also came along, but while I was sitting in the cold conference room (seriously, it was freezing in there), she was enjoying the summer temperatures and her books next to the pool :) This conference itself is a very important event for the massive star community, held only every five years (and always somewhere near a beach). I have to say for me it was a bit of a disappointment. I went there to broaden my view on massive stars, but I was hoping to hear a few talks on the pulsational aspects too. Unluckily, at the end, there was only one slide mentioning asteroseismology at all, since the only talk which would have been about pulsations was cancelled :( (In the summary talk the speaker also mentioned that he expected to hear more on this topic…) Of course, on the other hand, it was very interesting to attend talks about something else than asteroseismology, but if I can choose, I would like to stick to my field in the future ;) By the way, I did not go there empty handed, I presented a poster showing the results of my last paper on the Kepler binaries.

The conference venue (Rodos Palace) was a (nominally) five star hotel five kilometres outside of Rhodes on the West side of the island. It was perfect in terms of the conference infrastructure, except for the crappy internet connection, which was really below my worst expectations. In terms of holiday resort, I have mixed feelings. Parts of the hotel are nicely renewed, but some other areas (like our room) felt a bit old and worn. Luckily, the view really made up for it (see first pic below). But since it was payed by work, I am not going to complain any further.

Outside the conference hours (9-18:30) I planned to do some running to keep in shape, which failed miserably, since I only managed to do one 5k. It was way too hot already on the mornings, and it was really difficult to get up early and go running before breakfast… So I did gain some weight with all the conference food and the nice dinners on the evenings in Rhodes… Speaking of Rhodes, we did not get to see too much of the Island (only the Hill of Filerimos and the Springs of Kallithea outside of the city), but Rhodes itself was very nice. I liked especially the Avenue of the Knights in the old city (see many-many pictures below), and the windmills of the old port. I am still very happy with my FUJIFILM X100S, it is really nice to take pictures with it, and – I hope you agree – the results are also really pleasing.

















Doctor of Philosophy

Last Friday, shortly after 3 PM, I have been awarded the degree of Doctor of Sciences: Astronomy and Astrophysics (PhD). This means that from then on, I can write my name as Dr. Péter I. Pápics. Well, of course it means a bit more. With the public defence of my Thesis, I arrived to the very last step of obtaining a PhD; a long and exciting journey I have been on during the past three and a half years. Let me tell you a bit more about this last step.

After I have finally managed to get my Thesis printed in 110 copies (which was not as easy as it might sound, since I can be very annoyed by small imperfections, and this caused a bit of delay thanks to the cover of the books: it was designed well by me, but not reproduced well by the designer of the printing company, which then resulted in 4 iteration rounds on the layout before I gave the production green light), I had nothing else left to do, but preparing a 45 minute talk to my public defence. Since the real “examination” already happened during my internal defence more than a month earlier, I now had to prepare a talk more to the general public, something anyone outside astronomy (or, e.g., my parents) can also understand. Google is your friend, when it is time time to find nice figures for a public talk. At least now I really had to think through how can I talk about this work for the public. I am sure the slides I made for the introductory part of my presentation will be very useful later on too. Although I was ready more than a day before the “big event”, I still woke up at 7 AM to read through my slides a few times. Then we went to the College De Valk (where my defence was about to take place, and what – unluckily – was still hidden behind a layer of scaffolding…) with Clio, carrying a few copies of my Thesis and the presents for my supervisors. While I set up the audio-visual system and figured out how to make it perfectly dark in the auditorium, Clio put up the signs which I had printed out in advance to help the guests find their way through the building. Soon everyone arrived (I had around 35 people in the audience), and at 2 PM my jury walked in wearing the gowns of the Faculty of Science, which meant the beginning of the end.

I have seen many defences during the past years, but this time it was me standing down there with the jury, and it felt great. I was not nervous anymore about my presentation, I could really just enjoy the moment, the celebration of my PhD. After a few nice and only slightly official words from Christoffel – the chairman of my jury -, I closed the shades, and as the darkness fell, started my presentation.


It went much better than expected, it was one of the rare occasions when I actually enjoyed it. (I usually prefer the creation part better, and I am not so interested about the presentation part afterwards… I know, I have to work on that.) I was still relieved when it was over. Immediately afterwards I got congratulations and questions from the jury members one-by-one. These questions were not questions of examination anymore, more like polite discussions with a scientific edge. And I guess it is not a real secret, but if we won the lottery, I will not spend the money on spending a spectroscope to space… But I promise, the second time we win the lottery, I will spend the money on research. After the questions, my jury left for a short discussion, and while they were gone, I finally got to put my time-lapse movie on the big screen. These were the first five minutes I also got to spend seated, which provided a perfect opportunity to think about what these years meant for me. Then I still got a few minutes to greet my parents and a few guests, before the jury came back to continue with the remaining ceremonial steps.


First Hans, the secretary of the jury gave me the official documents (although my real diploma will only be ready a few months later…), then my supervisors, Maryline and Conny gave their speech. I was extremely happy, they spoke very nice of me, and even though I know these kind of speeches are always very nice, I was really moved by them. Conny even spoke a few words in Hungarian, which – Clio can tell – is not at all easy, especially only after a 15 minute crash course on Hungarian pronunciation (thanks to one of my jury members with a Hungarian partner).


The defence was followed by a small reception, where I got a present from the Institute (after already exchanging some gifts with my supervisors just after their speeches): besides a box of very delicious pralines (which is unluckily already gone…), a coupon for a praline-making workshop! I am sure I will write about that on this blog when it happens! At the end, around half past five we moved to the centre, where Jonas took a few extra pictures of my family and me (thanks for the pictures displayed throughout this blog post again, Jonas). After this, my parents went back to their hotel to change, while my brother came home with us only to be beaten in FIFA13 (several times) before we all went out for a nice dinner.


The next day we went to Antwerp with my family, which was nice, despite the fact that the weather forecast was completely wrong, and instead of the promised 16°C and sunshine we had 10°C and ice cold wind… I am happy they came for my defence, and I am very sorry I did not manage to arrange a bit nicer weather. Again…

On Sunday morning I was already back to my normal rhythm: getting up at 7 AM to go on a 100 km group ride with my local cycling team. It seems that I am really the cycling astronomer. Now with a PhD :)