Physical Sciences Breakfast Lecture Series
Mapping the Universe: From Black Holes to Dark Energy
by: Professor David Kirkby
Mapmaking is an ancient human enterprise -- one that attempts to describe our place in the world and illuminate the broader context of our surroundings. A new generation of telescopes and digital cameras is providing cosmic maps of unprecedented scope and detail. The new maps reach out to the edges of the observable universe, and add the elusive depth measurements needed for a truly three-dimensional view. They also serve as rich scientific datasets offering new insights into our cosmic past and future. Professor Kirkby will talk about his involvement in two projects at the forefront of mapping the cosmos: the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). In BOSS, he uses the extremely bright “quasar” regions that surround supermassive black holes to map the extensive but otherwise-invisible clouds that fill the vast space between galaxies. In the proposed LSST project, he is developing methods to map dark matter, which cannot be detected directly but imprints subtle distortions on light passing through from more distant objects. In both projects, he seeks to use new maps to study the roles played by dark matter and dark energy in shaping our universe. Professor Kirkby will discuss scientific breakthroughs that have made these new mapping projects possible, highlight what they are teaching us about the universe, and offer a glimpse into the future of cosmic maps.
Professor David Kirkby grew up in England and Canada and studied at the University of Toronto and then Caltech. He joined the UCI faculty in Physics and Astronomy in 2001 after a research position at Stanford. At UCI, he first studied subtle differences between matter and antimatter using particle accelerators. Today, he uses optical telescopes to map the influences of dark matter and dark energy on the universe. In addition to his research in particle physics and cosmology, Professor Kirkby has a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and collaborates with social scientists and engineers at UCI to help consumers learn about their electricity use at home.