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An insight into the life of a Cosmologist

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Presentation on theme: "An insight into the life of a Cosmologist"— Presentation transcript:

1 An insight into the life of a Cosmologist
Katy Lancaster

2 About Me (Past)…..

3 About Me (Present)…..

4 About Me….. ‘Postdoc’ in the Astrophysics group at Bristol working with Professor Mark Birkinshaw, world expert in our field Primarily research, some teaching Plus Outreach Various projects, OCRA, AMiBA Previously – PhD in Cambridge, working on the VSA MSci in Bristol (many moons ago!)

5 Talk Structure: Some key concepts in astrophysics, and what we spend our time doing! The Cosmic Microwave Background (relic radiation from the Big Bang) Galaxy clusters and the Sunyaev Zel’dovich effect The experiments that I am working on

6 Before we go any further…. some things you need to know.


8 GALAXY You are here!


10 The Cosmic Web

11 Astrophysics: ‘That branch of astronomy which treats of the physical or chemical properties of the celestial bodies. Hence astrophysicist, a student of astronomical physics.’

12 Topics in Astrophysics…..
Solar System: planets, the sun Stars: stellar composition, stellar evolution, star formation, supernovae, extra-solar planets Galaxies: structure, properties, stellar velocities (dark matter), formation, evolution, clustering… Active galaxies: mechanisms, power sources (black holes) High-energy phenomena: Gamma ray bursts Galaxy clusters: galaxy properties, gas properties, lensing (dark matter), super clustering…. Large scale structure, structure formation theories Cosmology: properties of the Universe as a whole, formation (the Big Bang), fate??

13 Stars Stars Planets Planets DISTANCE FROM US REDSHIFT AGN Galaxies Galaxies Galaxies Galaxies AGN Clusters Clusters Clusters Clusters Clusters Clusters CMB CMB

14 Cosmology: ‘The science or theory of the Universe as an ordered whole, and of the general laws which govern it. Also, a particular account or system of the universe and its laws.’

15 What do you astronomers
actually DO?


17 Obtain data Go to telescope Download from archive Process data Work out what it tells us! Publish in journal

18 In practice, need 2 approaches
OBSERVATIONAL Observe celestial bodies (stars, galaxies etc) at various wavelengths Fit theoretical models to data to choose the most appropriate THEORETICAL Simulate celestial bodies (stellar evolution, galaxy formation etc) Create models of possible physical processes


20 My Work: Very hot topics in Astrophysics at the moment!
COSMOLOGY from: The ‘Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB)’ The interaction of the CMB with ‘Galaxy Clusters’ via the ‘Sunyaev Zel’dovich Effect’ OBSERVATIONAL - ie obtaining data, data processing, extracting science Tenerife, Poland, Hawaii, Taiwan….. Very hot topics in Astrophysics at the moment!

21 The ‘Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB)’
The Universe started with the ‘Big Bang’, a very hot explosion Hot things glow (candle, light bulb) in the optical or infra-red We can still see the ‘glow’ today Universe cooled - glow is in radio waves

22 Visualising the CMB….. The sky is BRIGHT at radio frequencies. If we observe the sky with a radio telescope, inbetween the stars and galaxies, it is NOT DARK.

23 Observe ‘blank’ sky with a radio telescope.
Rather than darkness, see Uniform, high-energy glow Turn up the resolution......


25 The ‘heat’ from the Big Bang varies across the sky
The differences can be observed by sensitive telescopes The variations are the ‘imprints’ of the beginnings of galaxy formation Observations of these features give us a lot of information about the nature of the Universe

26 Observing the CMB: COBE
Low resolution - tells us about the amount of ‘stuff’ in the Universe

27 A plethora of other experiments followed this up….until….

28 Observing the CMB: WMAP
High resolution - tells us about the TYPE of ‘stuff’ in the Universe (normal matter, dark matter)

29 More ‘features’ in the CMB
Let’s forget those tiny temperature variations for now! Astronomical objects may cause ‘shadows’ in the glow from the CMB Eg Galaxy Clusters

30 Galaxy cluster in OPTICAL light

31 Galaxy cluster in XRAY light

32 Galaxy Clusters: Contain lots of galaxies (made from stars)
Contain Dark Matter Contain lots of GAS Gas is thought to be made of similar ‘stuff’ the the Universe as a whole Clusters are ‘Cosmic Laboratories’ Study clusters, study the Universe

33 Sunyaev and Zel’dovich, 1969
Postulated that the CMB could interact with the gas in galaxy clusters The ‘Sunyaev Zel’dovich (SZ) Effect’

34 SZ Effect: Sounds complicated!
Cluster gas makes partial ‘shadow’ in the CMB INDEPENDENT of the distance of the cluster Depends ONLY on cluster characteristics Measure strength of shadow, learn about cluster (and Universe)

35 What does it look like? Very Small Array

36 To study Cosmology via clusters, we need lots of them The SZ effect allows us to find ‘all’ clusters in existence Hot topic - surveying the sky at radio frequencies to find clusters

37 What will we learn? CLUSTER EVOLUTION: Study clusters near and far and see how they differ Extrapolate (wildly?) between the two to understand how they are evolving EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE: Count the number of clusters at a great distance, compare with the number of clusters close to earth Extrapolate (even more wildly?) to understand how the Universe itself is evolving

38 My Work I previously worked with the Very Small Array, looking at both the CMB and the SZ effect I am now involved with two new SZ experiments, OCRA and AMiBA We are: Studying known clusters Performing surveys to find new ones

39 Wot no satellite? Going to space is EXPENSIVE!
Choose your frequency wisely, can achieve a lot from the ground (sometimes before NASA / ESA have even launched their satellite!)

40 OCRA - One Centimetre Receiver Array
New detector on Torun telescope, Poland 32m dish Suffers from atmospheric contamination Most useful observations are made in the winter Will be able to IMAGE clusters in SZ for the first time

41 AMiBA - Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy
Taiwanese project, based in Hawaii 6m table, currently 7 ‘telescopes’ Excellent for performing SURVEYS Problems with the platform - not strong enough!

42 Challenges…. The SZ effect is TINY The radio sky is bright
Galaxy clusters contain galaxies (!), which may emit radio waves and drown the SZ signal Require further information, or observations at multiple frequencies. Remember the fluctuations in the CMB itself? They can also contaminate! Go to higher resolution

43 Summary The Big Bang left behind radiation which we can observe at radio frequencies today The Cosmic Microwave Background The CMB has imprints upon it caused by the formation of the structures we see today (eg galaxies) The CMB tells us much about the Universe as a whole Galaxy clusters may create ‘shadows’ in the CMB The Sunyaev Zel’dovich Effect The SZ effect is distance-independent so very useful for cluster physics and also Cosmology


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