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Astrophysics Seminars


The CASS Astrophysics Seminar features world-class astrophysicists from around the world speaking on current topics of research. Presentations are aimed at the graduate and post-graduate level, but are open to the general public. CASS seminars take place on Wednesdays from 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. in 383 SERF (Marlar Seminar Room), unless otherwise noted. You can watch a live stream of the talk or prior talks at the CASS Seminar YouTube Channel. The organizers are Prof. Shelley Wright and Prof. George Fuller.

Upcoming Seminars

Winter 2018

March 22, 2018

NOTE: Special Astro Seminar @ 11:00AM - SERF 383
 “Numerical relativity in the era of gravitational-wave observations”

Geoffrey Lovelace
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
CSU Fullerton

 With their first observations of merging black holes and merging neutron stars, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo have inaugurated a new era of gravitational-wave astronomy. In this talk, I will discuss the latest discoveries from LIGO and Virgo and how numerical relativity is playing a key role in interpreting gravitational-wave observations. I will highlight some of the ways my students and I are contributing to these discoveries as well as our future plans.

March 26, 2018

NOTE: Special Astro Seminar @ 10:00AM - SERF 383
 "Black holes, alone and in pairs"

Aaron Zimmerman
Senior Research Associate
Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), University of Toronto

 The recent detections of gravitational waves have revealed an invisible side of the universe: black holes in binaries. These observations test our understanding of black holes, their violent mergers, and the theory of general relativity. A combination of analytic approximations and full numerical simulations is required to understand black hole binaries and predict the gravitational waves they emit. I will take us on a tour of these systems, discuss the "ringdown" of the final merged black hole, and present the most recent results from the Advanced LIGO and Virgo detectors.

Spring 2018

April 2, 2018

NOTE: Special Astro Seminar @ 9:30AM - SERF 383
 "The Dawn of Precision Gravity: From LIGO to LISA"

Rafael Porto
International Centre for Theoretical Physics, South American Institute for Fundamental Research (ICTP-SAIFR), Brazil

 The nascent field of gravitational wave (GW) science will be an interdisciplinary subject — enriching different branches of physics — yet the associated computational challenges are enormous. Faithful theoretical templates are a compulsory ingredient for successful data analysis and reliable physical interpretation of the signals. This is critical, for instance, to study the equation of state of neutron stars, the nature of black holes, and binary formation channels. However, while current templates for compact binary sources may be sufficient for detection and crude parameter estimation, they are still too coarse for precision physics with GW data. We then find ourselves in a situation in which, for key processes within empirical reach, theoretical uncertainties may dominate. To move forward, and profit the most from GW observations, more accurate waveforms will be needed. The ‘effective field theory approach’ to the binary inspiral problem in general relativity — which my collaborators and I have developed — has been instrumental for the construction of the state-of-the-art GW template bank. I will review how these novel techniques will provide key results that will enable foundational investigations in physics through GW precision data: from probes of dynamical spacetime and strongly interacting matter, to the potential to discover exotic compact objects and ultra-light particles in nature.

April 4, 2018

 "Is Anyone Out There?
The Search for ET with Help from Eight Million Volunteers"

Dan Werthimer
Chief Scientist, SETI, Department of Astronomy
UC Berkeley

 When will Earthlings discover intelligent life in the universe? Can we detect radio, infrared, or visible wavelength signals from alien civilizations? Current and future projects searching for such signals may provide an answer. Dan Werthimer will describe plans for future searches and show how new technologies are revolutionizing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). Dan will also describe Berkeley's SETI@home project, which analyzes data from the world's largest radio telescopes using desktop computers and cell phones from millions of volunteers, forming one of Earth's most powerful supercomputers.


Dan Werthimer was in the “Homebrew Computer Club” with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; everyone in that club became filthy rich, except Dan, because Dan fancied utilizing his signal processing and electronics skills in astrophysics. Dan holds the Marilyn and Watson Alberts SETI Chair and is Chief Scientist of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, where he oversees SETI@home, the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, and several other SETI programs. Dan also directs the Center for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research (CASPER) and is associate director of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center (BWRC). He has been associate professor in the engineering and physics departments of San Francisco State University and a visiting professor at Beijing Normal University, the University of St. Charles in Marseille, and Eotvos University in Budapest. Dan has also taught at universities in Peru, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya.

April 11, 2018

Emily Pringle
Scripps Postdoctoral Fellow

April 25, 2018

 "Characterizing the Life Cycle of the Interstellar Medium and Star Formation in Galaxies with the [CII] 158μm line"

Jorge Pineda
Research Scientist

 The [CII] 158μm line is a powerful tool to understand the evolution of the interstellar medium and star formation in galaxies. The [CII] line traces different phases of the interstellar medium (ISM), including the diffuse ionized medium, warm and cold atomic clouds, clouds in transition from atomic to molecular, and dense and warm photon dominated regions (PDRs). In particular, the [CII] line is a tracer of the CO-dark H2 gas, in which hydrogen is molecular but carbon is ionized and thus is not traced by CO. This CO-dark H2 gas is the likely precursor of dense molecular clouds that will eventually form stars. The [CII] 158μm line is also the brightest far–infrared cooling line in galaxies and reprocesses UV starlight from newly formed stars. Thus it is also a potentially powerful tracer of star formation activity. In this talk I will review recent work on using velocity resolved observations of the [CII] line taken with Herschel/HIFI and SOFIA/GREAT to characterize the evolution of the interstellar medium and star formation in the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds, and the M51 grand design spiral galaxy.

May 2, 2018

Rene Ong
Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy

May 9, 2018

Jessica Werk
Assistant Professor
University of Washington

May 23, 2018

Chung-Pei Ma
Professor of Astronomy and Physics
UC Berkeley

May 30, 2018

Ruth Murray-Clay
UC Santa Cruz