Acclaimed astrophysicist Duncan Lorimer will speak on “Nature’s Latest Cosmic Mystery: Fast Radio Bursts” taking us on a whirlwind tour of radio astronomy. He will review research by his own group and by astrophysics groups worldwide.
Pulsars are rapidly spinning, massive stars at the most interesting phase of their lives. Each one sends out a characteristic signal, similar to a radio fingerprint, identifying it in the flurry of radio tweets permeating the cosmos. Lorimer and his group are regular users of the Green Bank Telescope in the West Virginia, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and telescopes in Europe and Australia as part of a lengthy effort to determine the dynamics of these mysterious stars.
Lorimer will put the puzzle of fast radio bursts (FRB) in context by discussing how modern astrophysics community advances through international observing “campaigns.” They steer space telescopes like Hubble, Swift, and Spitzer towards their targets and use supercomputers to calculate orbits and decipher the rapid flashes emanating from these objects. In this way astronomers scored a number of hits in recent decades solving the problem of gamma ray bursts in the early 2000s and verifying Einstein’s prediction on the existence of gravitational waves in 2016. Lorimer’s talk will discuss how the FRB problem may be solved, and how this will impact our understanding of the powerful forces within them such as gravity, nuclear forces, and electrodynamics.
Duncan Lorimer got his Ph.D. on Pulsar Astronomy from the University of Manchester in the UK working under the supervision of Prof. Andrew Lyne, Dick Manchester and Matthew Bailes. Since then he has held positions at the University of Manchester, the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy at Cornell University, and West Virginia University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society since 1994. While at West Virginia University, he has received a Cottrell Scholar Award (2008-present) from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and has received both his College and University’s recognition for excellence in teaching. He is currently Associate Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Among his notable research achievements are his contributions to our understanding of the population of pulsars and the discovery of Fast Radio Bursts.