One of the main goals of the AHEAD project is to offer the possibility for scientists and PhD students in astronomy to visit major astrophysical institutes and data centers and perform data analysis by accessing data archives and software tools, for different broad and specialised topics. This will bring together the high-energy astrophysics community and will promote links with other astrophysics communities. Under this scheme, INAF/IASF in Bologna and SRON in Utrecht have already welcomed three international researchers, two from Chile and one from Turkey, since the AHEAD project started, last autumn.
Alejandra Rojas Lilayu, a PhD student at Universidad Andres Bello in Chile, visited INAF and was taught how to retrieve, reduce and analyse X-ray data from Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift/XRT satellites as well as to review and confirm optical classifications of her work (Rohas et al. 2016, in prep.). Cemile Ezer, a PhD student at Bogazici University in Instabul, works on galaxy clusters and in particular the hot intra-cluster medium that they contain and is visible in X-rays. She visited SRON and studied how to map the physical properties of this hot gas, by using XMM-Newton data. Dr. Sebastien Guillot, a post-doc at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, in Santiago, Chile, studies the determination of the radius of neutron stars. Interstellar absorption is one of the main systematic uncertainties in this determination and high-resolution spectroscopy is an excellent tool to measure the absorption along the line of sight of the source. SPEX is a spectral fitting package that is developed at SRON and is optimized to fit high-resolution spectra. During his visit, Sebastien learned to use SPEX and understand the differences between the available absorption models and their effect on the measured absorption column density. Using these tools he was able to analyze and measure the absorption column toward a few X-ray sources in globular clusters.
More visits are planned in the future under the AHEAD project. These visits will provide the opportunity for scientists worldwide to exploit both European-funded and international High-Energy Astrophysics facilities and data archives.