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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Thanks to new, more powerful technology, astronomers can search the skies faster and with more resolution than ever before. In this public lecture, I will talk about two exciting fields in astronomy: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), and Fast Radio Bursts. The SETI field has been reinvigorated by the 10-year, $100M Breakthrough Listen initiative to search for intelligent life beyond Earth. As a project scientist for Breakthrough Listen, I will introduce the program and detail how we are using new technology to run the most comprehensive search for intelligent life beyond Earth ever undertaken. I will also discuss a mysterious phenomenon known as fast radio bursts: incredibly bright but short-lived signals from distant galaxies, which escaped detection until recently. Could these signals be due to intelligent aliens, or is there an astrophysical explanation? I will give an overview of how a telescope upgrade will help us answer this question, and how Swinburne astronomers will play a leadi…
The more we learn about the universe, the mosre it tends to surprise us. This is one of the most exciting aspects of science - making unexpected discoveries! In this talk I will present some recent scientific discoveries I have been involved with and discuss why these and other discoveries have us so excited about the Square Kilometre Array Pathfinders, MeerKAT and ASKAP. Presented on 19 October 2018.
When you look up a the night sky, it appears static and unchanging. However, a closer look using telescopes finds it to be wildly violent. Objects explode, erupt and burst on all time scales, from millions of years to months to milliseconds. Many of these events have been studies in great detail but the fastest have been the most difficult to catch largely because of the technological limitations. This presentation will discuss these fast bursts and our program to catch them. Presented on 11 May 2018.
Light is the key piece of the Astrophysics we make today. Thanks to the analysis of the light astronomers know where stars, galaxies are, what they are made of, how they move, and more. I will give some examples of how light is captured and analysed in big telescopes such as the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), from imaging to spectroscopy, summarising some of its most important scientific results. But I will also talk about how amateur astronomers and citizen scientists are now capturing the light of the Universe, as they are getting astonishing views of the night sky. Deep sky images of both professional and amateur astronomers are inspiring artists and young people in science and technology around the world. Presented on 27th April 2018.
One of the most prominent features of galaxies today is the manifestation of elegant spiral arms. We live in a beautiful grand-design spiral galaxy called the Milky Way. Our Solar System, including the Earth and the only life that we know, lies within the Orion spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy. However, as we look back in time to the very early Universe, the frequency of spiral galaxies decreases dramatically. In fact, most galaxies in the distant past are messy and irregular in shape. Why is it so? When was the first appearance of spiral arms? How were they formed? In this talk, I will take us 11 billion years back in time through the distorted space surrounding nature's most massive structures. We will get a glimpse of earliest onset of spiral arms and directly witness the formation of a spiral galaxy that could later be home to billions of stars and planets like our earth. Presented on Friday 29 September 2017.
The ancients considered the Universe unchanging, and had a special name for the planets, which they regarded as “wanderers”. Any changes in the night sky were seen as portents of doom – and a reason to fear the Gods. The advent of modern astronomy means that we no longer fear changes in the night sky, indeed some of us make our living from them!
In this lecture I will tell you the story of the modern transient sky, where stars live and die in spectacular explosions and amazing instruments such as the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave interferometers probe the darkest depths of the Universe. The discovery of gravitational waves was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics this month and has the power to reveal a plethora of new science from the merger of black holes and other exotic stars. Presented on Friday 20 October 2017.
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.
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…
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.
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.