Renee Ludlam awarded two grants by NASA for her work on low-mass X-ray binaries

Dr. Renee Ludlam
Dr. Renee Ludlam

Renee Ludlam, Ph.D., has been awarded two grants by NASA for her work on low-mass X-ray binaries. The first called "Herding StrayCats: A study of neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries with NuSTAR stray light" awards her $370k to explore data taken with a novel operation of the NuSTAR telescope.

Due to the open geometry construct of NuSTAR, serendipitous observations of bright X-ray sources occur frequently in "stray light" (i.e., X-ray photons that have not passed through the focusing optics) when NuSTAR observes near the Galactic plane. Over the past several years Dr. Ludlam and her team have developed the necessary software tools to reduce and extract science products from stray light data, as well as creating a catalog of all the sources known as StrayCats.

There are over 185 days of exposure of data on accreting neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries that have yet to be analyzed. This project will utilize the available archival stray light data to map out the accretion geometry and other key parameters in these objects.

The second, Dr. Ludlam has been awarded $120k to work as an XRISM Guest Scientist. XRISM is a joint JAXA/NASA X-ray mission with a high spectral resolution microcalorimeter, expected to be launched next year. This proposal allows her to work with the XRISM team to analyze some of the very first datasets taken with this exciting new facility.

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