Big Bangs and Black Holes

Big Bangs and Black Holes

Although the idea of 'black holes' dates back over 200 years, they remained a speculation until the late 20th century. Their existence has now been confirmed by observation but questions regarding their creation and influence are at the forefront of modern astronomy. Astronomers can never hope to travel to black holes and so instead rely on the coded information contained within the light detected from these distant objects. The visible light to which our human eyes are most sensitive has enriched culture for thousands of years. However, this light represents only a small fraction of the total light available for collection; technological advances in the 20th and 21st centuries have ensured that we can collect light ranging from the highest energy gamma rays, through X-rays to long wavelength radio waves - the whole range of the 'electromagnetic spectrum'. In this talk, Professor Mundell will introduce  the most distant and powerful explosions in the Universe  -  Gamma Ray Bursts - and describe recent advances in autonomous robotic observation of their light with space and ground-based telescopes which catch the light that signals the birth of a new black hole. In particular, she will present new insights gleaned with novel cameras - the RINGO polarimeters on the Liverpool Telescope - that have provided the first direct, real-time measurements of  the magnetic fields  that are thought to power these prodigious explosions. In doing so, she will try to give a flavour of the hectic life of an astronomer in the modern era of robotic telescopes and  real-time discoveries.

Carole Mundell

About Carole Mundell

Carole Mundell is Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy at Liverpool John Moores University. After reading Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow University, she moved to the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory for her PhD, followed by a research fellowhip, on the dynamics of active galaxies.  She moved to the US for two years, taking-up a research post at the University of Maryland, College Park, then returned to the UK in 1999, bringing a Royal Society University Research Fellowship to the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moore's University.  Here, she diversified her research interests to include Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) and developed the Liverpool GRB group.  In recognition of this, in 2005 she was awarded a Research Councils UK Academic Fellowship and in 2007 became Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy.  In that same year, her team won the Times Higher Research Project of the Year award for 'Measuring Gamma Ray Bursts'.  In 2011, she won a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award for the study of 'Black-hole Driven Explosions and the Dynamic Universe'