Profs and Pints DC presents: “Cosmic Blasts,” a look at extreme events in our universe, with Alexander J. van der Horst, associate professor of astrophysics at George Washington University, teacher of a course on the origins of the cosmos, and researcher of gamma-ray bursts and other transient sources of emission in space.
While most of the universe hums steadily along fairly unchanged over the course of human existence, there are exceptions out there, objects that experience outbursts and other dramatic variation in a year, a day, or even a fraction of a second. They include some of the most extreme phenomena in the universe, including black holes, neutron stars, and the big cosmic explosions that cause such objects to form.
Finding and observing these big cosmic explosions is a challenging task. However, we’ve been making dramatic progress with new space observatories such as the JWST, through networks of radio telescopes on several continents, and by being able to process enormous amounts of telescope data in the wake of big increases in computing power. As a result, the study of cosmic blasts has become a focus of modern astronomy.
Come learn from an expert about how such research is being conducted and what we are learning from it. The speaker, Dr. Alexander van der Horst, is an astrophysicist who uses data from gamma- and X-ray satellites, and optical/near-infrared and radio telescopes, to make multi-wavelength observations and model extreme cosmic events. Hearing him speak will cause you to have a much different experience when you gaze up at the stars in the night sky. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
A computer animation of a gamma-ray burst destroying a star. (Photo by NASA / SkyWorks Digital.)