The Time Domain Renaissance: From Gamma-Ray Bursts to Advanced LIGO

With convergence of both science (i.e., community interests) and technology (the advent of new facilities enabled by Moore’s Law), time-domain exploration of the sky promises to be a frontier pursuit in the coming decade.  In this talk I will review two recent results from our efforts to characterize variability with increasing sensitivity and on ever-shorter time scales, with an emphasis on the importance of intelligent software for the discovery and follow-up of these events.  At high energies (Swift satellite), we have discovered a new class of relativistic outbursts that appear to result from the tidal disruption of a star by a supermassive black hole.  These relativistic tidal disruption flares are likely to be the dominant source of extragalactic transients for future wide-field radio surveys (ASKAP, MeerKAT, SKA), providing a pristine view of both the jet formation process and the nuclei of distant, quiescent galaxies.  At optical wavelengths, the Palomar Transient Factory has been remarkably successful in the rapid identification of young supernovae, and I will highlight our efforts to use these discoveries to constrain the progenitor(s) of Type Ia supernovae.  Finally, with Advanced LIGO expected to begin operations in 2015 (or so), I outline a plan to identify the first electromagnetic counterpart of a gravitational wave source.  Despite the inherent challenges in such an endeavor, such a discovery would likely serve as one of the signature scientific achievements of our era.

Cody Hall

Brad Cenko (Berkeley)

February 06, 2012
14:00 - 15:00