Sunday, July 17, 2016

Multi-messenger Astronomy

Recently, I was invited to give a talk at the Von Braun Astronomical Society. It was a wonderful experience. I am very passionate about science and astrophysics, and I am always excited to be able to share that passion with others in the community. In all honesty, when I was younger, I didn't appreciate those like Neil deGrasse Tyson and other "pop-physicists" who were so focused on scientific outreach. Over the years, however, I realized that what they do is so important. Given that there are so many people who are so ignorant about science, I think it is extremely important for us as scientists to try to reach out and share what we do and how science works with the people around us.

That being said, my talk was about multi-messenger astronomy. The key point was that we are living in a very exciting time with regard to astronomical exploration. Man has been fascinated with the stars since the dawn of time. Then in the late 1500's, Galileo came along and pointed this new invention, the telescope, up toward the heavens, and he revolutionized science. I had a professor as an undergrad who said that the telescope was mankind's greatest invention, and I believe that there may be some truth in that. Since that time, we have used the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum from the very low energy energy cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the big bang all the way to the very energetic light of gamma rays from exploding stars to explore the universe. We have discovered so much about the universe since that time, and I am sure Galileo could not have even imagined some of the things we have found, from galaxies and black holes to dark matter and dark energy. Now, in the past few years, we have started to build new types of telescopes. We have begun to explore gravitational waves with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). On top of that we have started to look for the tiniest of particles called neutrinos from the cosmos in experiments such as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

These two new observatories, LIGO and IceCube, are looking into the heavens for the first time, just like when Galileo first pointed his telescope up into the sky. And just like Galileo, we have no idea what we will find. We are living in a very exciting time for the exploration of the universe and I look forward to our next steps!

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