Abstract: Interstellar masers are useful tools for studying a range of astrophysical objects and processes, from the structure of the Milky Way galaxy, to the processes through which high-mass stars form. I will present new results from three studies where masers are playing a key role in addressing important astrophysical questions. The VLBA and VERA telescopes have been used to measure trigonometric parallaxes to a large number of high-mass star formation regions in the northern hemisphere. Much of the central region of the Milky Way is only visible from the south and there have been few parallaxes measured toward southern sources and the accuracy is not as high as the VLBA. I will outline a large international project which will use the University of Tasmania telescopes to make new, accurate trigonometric parallax observations in the south. I will also discuss some projects that I have been involved with recently which have used masers to investigate episodic accretion bursts in high-mass star formation regions and to understand why some galaxies show starbursts from their central regions.
Simon Ellingsen is a Professor in Physics and Radio astronomy and Acting Dean of the School of Natural Sciences. His major areas of research are in the formation of massive stars, in particular through the study of methanol masers and other molecular maser species. He is also involved in research of active galactic nuclei through very long baseline interferometry, flux density monitoring and studies of megamaser emission.
Awards and recognition: Institut2009-2010 Alexander von Humboldt Experienced Researcher Fellowship at the Max-Planck Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany; 2007- Co-Investigator on VRAD experiment as part of SELENE (Japanese Lunar) mission; 2003 Engineering Excellence Award, Engineers Australia; 2002 Research Excellence Award, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Tasmania; 1999 Royal Society of Tasmania, New Doctoral Award.