Blossoms and Windows

Keene Public Library and Keene Amateur Astronomy Club Team Up Offer Astronomy Lecture Series

The Keene Public Library, along with the Keene Amateur Astronomy Club, will be hosting a series of Astronomy lectures beginning Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 7 p.m. The first lecture “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Gravitational Waves (But Were Afraid to Ask)” will be given by Salvatore Vitale, an Assistant Professor at MIT.100 years after Einstein discovered general relativity, gravitational waves have been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), opening a new window on the universe. This talk will address some of the most exciting areas of research advanced LIGO will allow us to explore in the coming years, focusing on characterization of compact objects such as neutron stars and black holes.

Salvatore Vitale joined the MIT Physics Department as an Assistant Professor in January 2017. He obtained his bachelor and master degrees in physics at the University of Bologna, and his Ph.D. in physics at the Pierre et Marie Curie University, Paris, in 2010. He has been a postdoctoral associate at the Nikhef of Amsterdam. Before joining the faculty, he has been a postdoctoral associate and a research scientist at the MIT LIGO Lab. His research interests lie in gravitational waves data analysis, such as parameter estimation  -- including black holes' masses and spins; tests of General Relativity; sky localization of gravitational wave sources; measurability of the equation of state of neutron stars; as well as the effect of instrumental calibration errors on data analysis.

The second lecture, “Photographing Our Galaxy’s Black Hole,” will be given on Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m. by Michael Johnson. Johnson is an Astrophysicist at the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and studies the most compact objects in the universe – neutron stars and black holes – primarily through imaging at extreme resolutions. Over the past three years, he has pursued direct observations of magnetic fields and orbital dynamics near a black hole through Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Previously, his graduate research imaged pulsar emission regions, utilizing scattering in the ionized interstellar medium as an enormous cosmic “lens.” Connections between these disparate studies have also led to critical and surprising realizations for Earth-space VLBI with RadioAstron and for imaging black holes with the EHT.

A black hole is so dense that not even light can escape it. So we can't possibly photograph one, can we? Yes, we can. More accurately, we can observe its silhouette or shadow against the glowing disk of material it’s swallowing. The Event Horizon Telescope will unite facilities around the globe to form an Earth-sized telescope. With it, we will get our first detailed look at the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way. And we will put Einstein’s theory to the ultimate test.

Lectures will also be given on Thursday, March 2 and 9, 2017 and Tuesday, March 21, 2017. All programs at the Keene Public Library are free and open to the public. The Keene Public Library is located at 60 Winter Street. If you would like more information about these lectures, please contact Gail Zachariah at 603-757-1845.