Peering into the Cosmic Maelstrom
Peering into the Cosmic Maelstrom
Recently, the collision of two neutron stars was discovered by astronomers using both telescopes and the LIGO gravitational-wave observatory. This is a new way to do astronomy -- simultaneously studying the Cosmos using both light and gravity. It provides a powerful new way to understand the lives of stars, how they die, and how they join the galactic graveyard. Professors Vicky Kalogera, Shane Larson, Raffaella Margutti and Wen-fai Fong will describe their roles and experiences in the making of the ground-breaking discovery.
Wen-fai Fong, PhD. Originally from Rochester, NY, Wen-fai Fong received double Bachelor's degrees in Physics and Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned her Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Harvard University. She was subsequently awarded an Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, which she took to the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. She is currently a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University and will begin her appointment as Assistant Professor there in Fall 2018. Wen-fai is excited about unraveling the mysteries enshrouding cosmic explosions, including gamma-ray bursts and gravitational wave sources.
Vicky Kalogera, PhD. She is a professor at Northwestern University. and the Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). She is a leading member of the LIGO Collaboration that observed gravitational waves in 2015. Vicky is a leading theorist in the study of gravitational waves, the emission of X-rays from compact binary objects and the coalescence of neutron-star binaries. Vicky received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1997. She joined the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a postdoctoral fellow and was awarded the Clay Fellowship in 2000. She joined the faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University in 2001.
Shane Larson, PhD. Shane is a research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University, where he is the Associate Director of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy. He works in gravitational wave astronomy with both the ground-based LIGO project, and future space-based observatory LISA. He is an award winning teacher and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He contributes regularly to a public science blog at writescience.wordpress.com, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi.
Raffaella Margutti, PhD. Raffaella received her PhD at the University of Milano Bicocca in 2010. She is an astrophysicist who utilizes observations of transient astrophysical phenomena including stellar explosions and stellar tidal disruptions by supermassive black holes. Her research specifically focuses on the biggest explosions and disruptions that occur in our Universe: Supernovae, Gamma-Ray Bursts, compact stellar mergers and tidal disruption events. Raffaella investigates the physics of these events by combining broad-band observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, including X-ray, UV, optical, IR, and radio. The primary goal of her research is to understand the nature of the physical processes that regulate such dramatic displays.
Johnathan Nelson. Johnathan is the Planetarium Educator at the Cernan Earth and Space Center and earned a bachelor's degree in Physics with an Astrophysics concentration from Oberlin College. Johnathan worked with the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) group as a student under Dan Stinebring seeking to detect gravitational waves by using pulsar timing arrays. Recently, he has been an educator in planetariums and is responsible for presenting programs to audiences of all ages as well as creating fun and new content and curriculum. It wouldn't be outlandish to call Johnathan suave or debonair, and he can often be found discussing the mysteries of the Universe with the public and in the words of one small child: "He's funny."