The Morris Loeb Lecture in Physics: Brian P. Schmidt

April 17, 2015

All events will be held in Lecture Hall 250, Jefferson Laboratory

Lecture I: "Surveying the Southern Skies with the SkyMapper Telescope" [video]
April 28 @ 2:30PM

SkyMapper is a 1.35m telescope equipped with a 268-Million pixel CCD array that is currently surveying the Southern Sky. I will discuss the history of the telescope, its scientific capability, and key science projects for the telescope, which include a 6-colour, multi-epoch survey of the 20000 sq degrees of southern sky, as well as transient searches for supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and even gravitational wave sources.

Colloquium: "Type 1A Supernovae, the Accelerating Cosmos, and Dark Energy"
April 29 @ 4:00pm

Type Ia supernovae remain one of Astronomy's most precise tools for measuring distances in the Universe. I will describe the cosmological application of these stellar explosions, and chronicle how they were used to discover an accelerating Universe in 1998 - an observation which is most simply explained if more than 70 percent of the Universe is made up of some previously undetected form of 'Dark Energy'. Over the intervening 13 years, a variety of experiments have been completed, and even more proposed to better constrain the source of the acceleration. I will review the range of experiments, describing the current state of our understanding of the observed acceleration, and speculate about future progress in understanding Dark Energy.

Lecture II: "After the Dark Ages: The First Stars" [video]
April 30 @ 2:30PM

380,000 years after the Big Bang, the Universe became transparent and went through an age of darkness that lasted on order of a 100 million years  before the first stars and galaxies were formed. During this time, gravity was amplifying the ripples of the Cosmos, which eventually created the first stars, galaxies and black holes which characterize the Universe we observe today.  Part of this story is contained in the fossilized record of stars in our own Galaxy, the Milky Way.  I will discuss our recent work to discover and analyze the most metal poor stars to understand the early Universe.  But we can also begin to directly see objects from this formative period of the Universe, through observations of Gamma Ray Bursts, or gravitationally lensed galaxies, With the launch of the James Webb Space telescope and construction of the next generation of telescopes like the Giant Magellan Telescope just around the corner, we can expect to gain unprecedented views of this epoch of the Universe over the coming decade. Finally, radio telescopes, such as the Murchison Wide Field Array located in Australia, have the potential to detect the radio signal produced by cold neutral hydrogen that was abundant in the early universe, before it was eaten away by the radiation of the first stars. 

(Read an interview with Brian Schmidt in the Gazette.)