Stephen J. Smartt CBE FRS is an astrophysicist from Northern Ireland who specialises in stellar evolution, supernovae and time domain sky surveys. He led several international projects to uncover an unexpected diversity in the physics of stellar death and has discovered some of the Universe’s most luminous supernovae measuring their mass, luminosity and the chemical elements synthesised. Stephen also played a leading role in the discovery and physical understanding of the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave source.
Stephen is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was awarded the George Darwin lectureship and Herschel medal from the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Irish Academy’s Gold Medal in the physical and mathematical sciences. He is currently the Wetton Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford.
Supernovae, sky surveys and the Vera Rubin telescope
Supernovae mark the final explosion and death of either massive stars or white dwarfs in binary systems. They happen about once every hundred years in a typical galaxy and we are probably overdue a supernova in the Milky Way. These explosions can outshine a whole galaxy, produce neutron stars and black holes and are the source many of the chemical elements in the Periodic Table. They are found in both the nearby and distance Universe by telescopes on the Earth and in space. For the first time in history we can survey the whole sky every 24hrs, finding anything that moves or flashes. I will review some of the latest work on supernova research and how the new Rubin Observatory will revolutionise the field.