Rob Hynes

Professor in Multiwavelength Observational Astronomy

Louisiana State University
Department of Physics and Astronomy

E-mail: rih [at] phys.lsu.edu
Phone: +1 (225) 578-7459
Fax: +1 (225) 578-5855


I am currently a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at LSU. Before that I moved around a bit, having been in various incarnations a physics undergraduate at Oxford, a science teacher, a graduate student at the University of Sussex and then the Open University, a postdoc at the University of Southampton, and finally a Hubble Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

My main research interest is in Low Mass X-ray Binaries (LMXBs). These are interacting binary stars containing a low-mass star (the companion) feeding an accretion disc around a black hole or neutron star. The illustration below shows an impression of what an LMXB might look like. For more images and information on how this was produced click here.

An LMXB

I am particularly interested in an awkward type of LMXBs: Soft X-ray Transients (SXTs). These are the objects I studied for my Ph.D. What makes them awkward is that for most of the time they do very little - they are in a quiescent state. Once every few decades or so, however, they undergo spectacular X-ray, optical and radio outbursts, and then everyone runs to try to watch what happens. They are of particular interest because in more than half of them the compact star appears to be a black hole: SXTs are the best place to look for Galactic black holes! My main research activities involve ultraviolet and optical observations of these objects in both quiescent and active states, and multiwavelength programs combining ultraviolet and optical data with data taken at other energies.

More recently I have also been working on non-transient LMXBs, most of which contain neutron stars. One project involves optical spectroscopy of many objects attempting to use the motion of fluorescent emission lines to constrain neutron star masses. Most recently I have put together a multiwavelength campaign using HST, RXTE, Gemini-S and the CTIO 4m to study one system, EXO 0748-676, in detail.

I am open to involvement in other related work as well, and am involved in several projects involving analogous systems containing white dwarfs (cataclysmic variables) as well as the occasional high-mass X-ray binary, such as the supergian B[e] system CI Cam.



rih [at] phys.lsu.edu