Frank Chambers

I am a PhD student at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy at the University of Amsterdam. I study thermonuclear X-ray bursts on Neutron Stars, in particular the dynamics of ocean layers of the star during these bursts. I am part of Dr. Anna Watt's European Research Council (ERC) funded research group.


Email: F.R.N.Chambers (at)

Visitors' address: Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam

Mailing address: PO Box 94249, 1090 GE Amsterdam

Accreting neutron stars and X-ray bursts

Neutron stars are the smallest and most dense stars in our universe. They contain about as much mass as our sun, but this mass is compressed into a sphere about 10 - 20 km in radius. This density gives rise to exotic forms of matter, strong gravitational fields, and sometimes very strong magnetic fields. Neutron stars constitute one of the most extreme astrophysical environments available for study, and so are a perfect laboratory to test fundamental physics.

Many neutron stars come in pairs called binaries with a sun-like companion. These stars orbit around each other quite rapidly, and if they are close enough together, matter can be striped off the surface of the companion. This process is call accretion and occurs because of the neutron star's large gravitational pull it. The matter falling to the surface acts as fuel for nuclear fusion and, given the right conditions, this burning process can become unstable and runaway in a violent thermonuclear explosion called a Type I X-ray burst.

Periodic frequencies can be observed during these bursts, as revealed by X-ray timing analysis. These frequencies are offset from the spin frequency of the neutron star by several Hz, and can drift by 1-3 Hz during the cooling phase of the burst. It is unknown exactly what causes these frequencies, but a possible explanation is that a wave exists in the ocean layers of the star that changes in frequency as the star cools.

Thermal convection in spherical shells

I am also involved in a collaboration with Ferran Garcia (HZDR) investigating thermal convection with many applications including neutron star oceans.


Burning in the tail: implications for a burst oscillation model

Polar travelling waves in thin rotating spherical shells

Thermal convection in rotating spherical shells: temperature-dependent internal heat generation using the example of triple-alpha burning

Superburst Oscillations: ocean and crustal modes excited by Carbon-triggered Type I X-ray bursts

The onset of low Prandtl number thermal convection in thin spherical shells


New Burning Physics and Burst Oscillations, COSPAR, Pasedena, USA, June 2018

New Burning Physics and Burst Oscillations, BERN18, Prato, Italy, June 2018

Superburst Oscillations, JINA-CEE: Frontier in Nuclear Astrophysics, Notre Dame, USA, May 2018


Superburst Oscillations, IAU: 50 Years of Pulsars, Manchester, UK, September 2017

University of Amsterdam

Ph. D

Completed at the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy. Taught a bachelor course Introduction to Astronomy and masters course Fluid Dynamics. Thesis title: Surface Patterns on Neutron Stars.

September 2015 - (anticipated) September 2019

Trinity College Dublin

BA (mod) Theoretical Physics

Graduated with First Class Honours, awarded foundation scholarship in second year, and awarded a gold medal at graduation.

September 2011 - November 2015

CRANN - Trinity College Dublin

Research Intern

Calculated properties of bi-layered materials using high performance computing software and Density Functional Theory techniques.

June 2014 - August 2014


I have also held jobs as a server in Trinity College Dining Hall, an intern in Pacemetrics, a mark layer for the Dublin Bay Sailing Club, and a tutor in secondary school maths, physics, applied-maths and technical graphics.