Workshop on “Nuclei of Seyfert galaxies and QSOs” in Bonn

On November 6th-8th I attended the “Workshop on: Nuclei of Seyfert galaxies and QSOs – Central engine & conditions of star formation” in Bonn. While it was a full meeting with lots of talks and international attendees, it seemed quite relaxed to me, since it was in Germany and didn’t take that much time away from the office.

I went to work on Monday the 5th, stayed there even longer than the typical day and then took the train at 7pm. Even so, I still managed to make it to the hotel before midnight. The journey was also relaxed for me to catch up to TV series that were stored on my computer. Once in Bonn, the hotel was just a short walk away from the main station.

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Oh, the hotel… I don’t know how these things work. I was looking on HRS for the best combination of offers between price and luxury and kind of stumbled on this hotel. Without even visiting the website, based on good reviews I booked it. It was a nice hotel in the center of town right next to all the sights that Bonn has to offer, no question about that, but imagine my surprise when I entered the room. I mean, look at that picture! It was the kitchiest place I have ever stayed in and believe me, years of staying in Vegas – I have been to some kitchy places. In the picture you cannot see the lavish decorations elegantly hanging from the ceiling. Or the pictures of Beethoven and women from that era. Or the many mirrors. Such a weird room. But it was comfy!

Anyway, the next day, promptly at 9, was the start of the meeting at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. I had never been there, but I quickly realized that I hadn’t missed that much. It is basically a big block of concrete with offices in it. But anyway, I was not there to admire the architecture, I was there to listen to talks, learn something and network.

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What I liked about the conference was the wide range of topics covering the conference. Often, in specialized conferences, you are sometimes stuck in a box, everybody trying to research the same questions that you are tackling, with the same techniques. But here, for example, a few hours were devoted to the black hole in the center of the Milky Way and the gas cloud accretion event that is set to occur soon . I mean, this obviously will not result in an AGN and is as low powered accretion as you can name it, but it still is very interesting to see the things from that spectrum and compare.

So in that sense, the session on Narrow Line Seyfert 1 (NLS1) Galaxies was quite eye opening for me (as was a lot of the low luminosity, nearby AGN science in general), because their techniques could be applied to a lot of the red quasars I study, too. In the end, it could be that our dust-obscured quasars are just high luminosity analogues of those NLS1s. It gave me a lot to think about.

In all, it was a quite varied conference. Good enough, that I got a lot of ideas and met a lot of people. Not so good in that some parts were a bit tedious and it was just too filled. It’s hard, finding a balance on how many talks to allocate, but I was really beat at the end of the day, retreating to my hotel room early to just watch some videos.

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I did spend some time wandering the center of the city, though, trying to find a present for my daughter and in general just enjoying the peatonal zone in the center. Bonn is not a huge city, but it was at the center of politics for a while, when it became the capital of Germany for a long time, this was a bit on purpose, as the allied forces did not want a huge, prominent city to be the driver of Germany’s political decisions. It still is in my mind from old times, when some newscaster would start with the grave words “Bonn. …”.

Anyway, the hotel where I was staying was in the Bonngasse, which is a sort of mini Hollywood-inspired walk-of-fame of important personalities that had something to do with Bonn. The most prominent, born in Bonn, was Beethoven, whose house was just a few steps away from the hotel. During the night pictures of the celebrities are lighted and shine a sort of path. This alley also lead right to the “Marktplatz” (market place), which overlooks the old city hall, another kitchy building, hehe. When going to the conference I passed the vendors setting up shop and shouting profanities at each other. Unfortunately, it was already quite late when coming back from the conference, so I never really saw the market in action.

2012-11-07_21-35-03_395We had our conference dinner, of course. It was at a chinese restaurant right on the Rhine river. Beautiful views, with the theater and opera house shining right at us from the other side. Right now, I can’t fully remember all the details of the conversation at our table, but I’m proud to say that ours was the funnest. it was a lot of gossip and jokes – lots of laughs.

And so I will remember this little conference in its bleak beginning of November. With good times gathered around food, mostly fast food during lunch, discussing AGN science, but in a fun way: “Do you think that guy is ready to handle that data?”, “I have no idea what that means, but it’s interesting and I need to write a paper about it”, etc.

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