The Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing is one of the premier research Astronomy centres in Australia. Research interests include galaxies, globular clusters, pulsars, stars and planets, supermassive black holes, Big Bang cosmology and scientific visualisation.
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Galaxies are the largest structures of matter in our Universe. Our own Milky Way has been studied in glorious detail. We know it has billions of stars, around most of which planets are likely to be found. There is a super massive black hole at its center where anything that gets too close will be consumed. There are intricate dust lanes that obscure the main disk of the galaxy. There is the life-force of stars, hydrogen gas. Finally, there is the mysterious dark matter that acts as a gravitational glue holding the ordinary matter together. But our galaxy is just one of many, and since their discovery, understanding how these complex objects form and evolve has been a focus of astronomers. There are many pathways to reveal more about the nature and evolution of galaxies. In this talk, Dr Rebecca Allen from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, will share how she uses the sizes of galaxies to understand more about their growth. Presented on Friday 12 May 2017.
The whole Universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started. Wait... is the Bang Bang true and how do we know? In this talk Associate Professor Emma Ryan-Weber from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing will describe the observational evidence for Big Bang Cosmology and how it sets the initial conditions for every atom in the Universe. The talk is especially suitable for year 11 teachers and students studying VCE Physics Unit 1, area of study 3 "What is matter and how is it formed". Presented on 10 February 2017.
Over the last century, our understanding of the Universe has grown by leaps and bounds whilst posing new questions and testing our very fundamental knowledge and understanding of things around us. To answer these profound questions, scientists are planning ever more ambitious projects driven by human curiosity, to explore the unknown and comprehend our place in the vast senseless space. The Australian federal government in 2016-17 provided AUD 10 billion in support of science research and experiment development while NASA and ESA combined, plans to invest USD 25+ billion in 2017. Why is it important for governments to spend substantial amounts of money in fundamental science research? What are the benefits for the average tax payer, from governments investing billions of dollars into space science? How has our everyday lives been influenced by such investments? Together we shall discuss and explore how our investments in science has improved our way of living, and what the future may hold in store for us. Pre…
Ryan-Weber leads the intergalactic medium research group at Swinburne. Her science focuses on detecting elements heavier than Helium in absorption at very high redshifts (12 billion years ago). To achieve this we use near-infrared spectroscopy towards high redshift quasars on the world's largest telescopes including Keck (Hawaii) and the VLT (Chile). She received her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2004, spent 5 years at the University of Cambridge and commenced her position at Swinburne in 2009. Ryan-Weber is one of three Swinburne CIs for the CAASTRO-3D Centre of Excellence. Recorded on 10 February 2017.
A pair of massive black holes spiral together and merge. This artist's impression includes gravitational lensing (magnifying and distorting) of the background light by the black hole's strong gravitational field, the creation and gravitational slingshot ejection of hypervelocity stars, and the capture of stars by the black holes with occasional tidal disruption events (TDEs) in which some of these stars are torn apart and a flare of emission from their hot interiors is seen before they cross the black hole's event horizon. The collective removal of stars, predominantly by the binary black holes ejecting them from the centre of the galaxy where they themselves reside, can result in large partially depleted galaxy cores that astronomers have observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. Black hole merging events are a known source of gravitational waves, ripples in the gravitational force field that permeates the universe. The first such radiation was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observ…
One of the greatest scientific discoveries of all times was achieved last week: the first detection of gravitational waves, emitted by a black hole binary. This discovery follows decades of intense work, and opens a new window to the Universe. This talk, for scientists and for non-scientists, is about black hole binaries, and the dawn of gravitational wave astronomy. This talk is about the curious romance of Alice and Bob. Nobody has heard it before, but we can speculate about what happened: how they were born, how they grew, how they first met, and how they finally became one forever. The true story is actually written in space-time, has been traveling across the Universe for more than a billion years, and is reaching Earth now. This is the story of two distant black holes merging into one.
You may be wondering how we can hear it: is there really a way to listen to the voice of space-time? I will endeavour to answer this question, and explain how we attempt to discover new sounds of the Universe that we have…
Almost one hundred years ago, astronomer Edwin Hubble revolutionised our understanding of the Universe and our place in it when he discovered that it extends beyond the Milky Way. Since then, astronomers have identified millions of galaxies beyond our own, and developed sophisticated techniques to measure their distances and motions. In this talk, I will show how astronomers map the Universe using large surveys of galaxies, and how "cosmic maps" are an essential tool in Cosmology, allowing us to understand the physical nature and history of the Universe. Presented on 15 April 2016.
Almost 50 years ago Jocelyn Bell built a new telescope with her supervisor Antony Hewish that had an unusual property: it had high time resolution. The radio sky was thought to only change on long timescales but this new telescope's ability to explore a different regime of phase space meant that it made one of the greatest discoveries in astronomy, that of pulsars. Pulsars are neutron stars, the collapsed cores of once-massive stars. They have been used to perform some of the most accurate experiments in physics, and were the motivation for the construction of the LIGO telescope that recently discovered gravitational waves. In this talk Professor Matthew Bailes will explain how whilst trying to find new pulsars astronomers stumbled across a brand new phenomenon, the Fast Radio Bursts. These millisecond-duration radio flashes appear to be coming from half way across the Universe but nobody knows what they are. Presented on 30 September 2016.
Black holes are among the most bizarre objects predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Many people may not realise that our own galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole at its centre that is three million times more massive than our own Sun! In this talk Professor Darren Croton from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing will discuss the physics of black holes and their formation, how they can grow to become so massive, active black hole "quasars" in the distant universe, and the unexpected impact that a supermassive black hole can have on the evolution of an entire galaxy. Professor Croton will finish by side stepping into the exotic world of wormholes, the black hole's tormented cousin. Presented on 21 October 2016.
In the last 50 years astronomers have come to realise that there exists an invisible type of mass in the Universe, outweighing all of the atoms in every star, planet and person five times over. It' responsible for holding the galaxy together, for making the galaxies form where they do in the cosmos and is our best guide to physics beyond the Higgs boson, aka the 'god' particle. Yet astronomers are no nearer to understanding its nature. Using a combination of baby universes created on Australia's most powerful telescopes, next generation telescopes like the Australian SKA Pathfinder, and a wine glass, Alan will explore what we know about the invisible and how Australia may uncover the most sought after particle in physics with the world's first dark matter detector in the Southern Hemisphere, SABRE. Presented on 17 June 2016.