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Black holes topic of Utah scientist’s ISU talk Sept. 15

Posted September 4, 2008

Shane Larson, Ph.D., of Utah State University Department of Physics will give a public lecture, titled “LISTENING FOR MONSTERS IN THE COSMIC SEA: Black holes and Einstein's astrophysical legacy,” on Monday, Sept. 15, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Idaho State University.

The lecture will be held in Room 140 in the Physical Science Building, located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Carter Street in Pocatello.

In the 1700’s, scientists discovered that a simple consequence of gravity is the possible existence of objects whose gravitational field is so strong even light could not escape from the surface.

In the early 1900’s, Einstein revolutionized gravitational theory and produced the modern mathematical description of what astronomers now call a "black hole," and they have since become an almost universally accepted part of modern astrophysics.    

According to Larson, for the past 30 years, astronomers have collected a vast amount of suggestive data that points to the existence of these strange objects, but have yet to conclusively observe the physics of black holes directly.

Here, at the start of the 21st century, a new branch of observational astronomy, gravitational wave astrophysics, is poised to give scientists their first direct look at black holes, to help them discern what goes on around them, and to extend their understanding of the universe by seeing these strange objects up close.    

Larson will describe a voyage from our little corner of the Cosmic Sea, mariners in search of the biggest monsters known: super-massive black holes at the centers of galaxies. He will talk about current evidence for the existence of black holes and what we hope future observations of the universe will allow us to discover about these exotic objects using a new kind of astronomical messenger: gravitational waves.

He will discuss what would happen on an imaginary voyage near the event horizon of a black hole and what modern gravitational theory predicts would happen to you (HINT: our poor cosmic voyagers are destined to have a very bad day!). The talk will conclude with an auditory sampling of the black hole content of the Universe.

For more information, contact Steven L. Shropshire at 282-2212.