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How do scientists "see" black holes? with Skype A Scientist and MSU SciFest

How do scientists "see" black holes? with Skype A Scientist and MSU SciFest

These slides accompany a virtual presentation I give for middle school and high school science classes through the Skype A Scientist and MSU SciFest programs. I adjust the subset of slides I use based on the audience. There are videos in quite a few of the slides that don't render in the PDF version saved here.

You can read more about me and my background, and get in touch for a talk or creative project, on my website: https://abigailstevens.com/

Dr. Abbie Stevens

May 06, 2021
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  1. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    How do scientists
    “see” black holes?
    Dr. Abbie Stevens

    View full-size slide

  2. First: what is
    astronomy?
    • Astronomy: stuff in
    outer space
    • Astrophysics: physics
    of stuff in outer space
    • Also: astrochemistry,
    astrobiology,
    heliophysics, Earth &
    planetary sciences,
    near-Earth space
    physics
    Image: NASA/ESA/HST
    Tools: math, computer programming,
    creative problem-solving, teamwork

    View full-size slide

  3. Black holes
    • A lot of stuff
    (mass) in a very
    small space
    • Very powerful
    gravity
    • Escape velocity
    faster than the
    speed of light!
    Image: J. Provost, ScienceNews.org

    View full-size slide

  4. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)

    View full-size slide

  5. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)
    Quick interlude:
    Universe is really big,
    numbers get really big

    View full-size slide

  6. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)
    Quick interlude:
    Universe is really big,
    numbers get really big
    1 thousand seconds ≅ 16 minutes

    View full-size slide

  7. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)
    Quick interlude:
    Universe is really big,
    numbers get really big
    1 thousand seconds ≅ 16 minutes
    1 million seconds ≅ 11 days

    View full-size slide

  8. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)
    Quick interlude:
    Universe is really big,
    numbers get really big
    1 thousand seconds ≅ 16 minutes
    1 million seconds ≅ 11 days
    1 billion seconds ≅ 32 years

    View full-size slide

  9. Black holes
    Image: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration
    Biggest black
    hole ever seen:
    60 Billion times
    the mass of our
    Sun
    Smallest black
    hole ever seen:
    3 times the mass
    of our Sun
    No limit on how big they can get!
    Small black holes are formed from the
    death and collapse of a big star (“stellar”
    or “stellar mass”)
    Big black holes have been around since very
    early in the universe, at the centers of
    galaxies (“supermassive”)

    View full-size slide

  10. Can’t just grab
    one, put it on a
    table, shine a
    light on it, and
    study it
    Video: NASA/GSFC/J. Schnittman
    Black holes
    To see it, need to
    wait for one to send
    light in our direction

    View full-size slide

  11. Image: Event Horizon Telescope
    collaboration
    How do
    we see
    them?
    taking a
    picture using
    radio light

    View full-size slide

  12. Image: Event Horizon Telescope
    collaboration
    How do
    we see
    them?
    taking a
    picture using
    radio light

    View full-size slide

  13. Image credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
    How do
    we see
    them?
    eating its
    star-friend

    View full-size slide

  14. How do
    we see
    them?
    eating its
    star-friend
    Video credit: NASA

    View full-size slide

  15. The first black
    hole we saw is
    called Cygnus
    X-1, in 1972.
    How do
    we see
    them?
    eating its
    star-friend
    Image credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

    View full-size slide

  16. Type of light
    Gets through
    Earth’s
    atmosphere?
    Approx. scale
    of wavelength?
    The electro-magnetic spectrum
    How do
    we see
    them?
    with X-ray
    telescopes
    The colors that we
    see are a very small
    part of all the types
    of light that exist!
    Images: Shutterstock, NASA

    View full-size slide

  17. The electro-magnetic spectrum
    How do
    we see
    them?
    with X-ray
    telescopes
    Type of light
    Gets through
    Earth’s
    atmosphere?
    Approx. scale
    of wavelength
    Images: Shutterstock, NASA
    X-rays from space can’t get through Earth’s
    atmosphere, so we put X-ray telescopes on
    satellites and launch them into space on rockets!

    View full-size slide

  18. Video: NASA/GSFC
    How do
    we see
    them?
    with X-ray
    telescopes

    View full-size slide

  19. Black hole as ☆
    How do
    we see
    them?
    nearby orbiting
    stars
    Sagittarius A-star
    (Sgr A*) at the
    center of our
    Milky Way galaxy!
    4.3 million times the mass of the Sun

    View full-size slide

  20. Image credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
    How do
    we see
    them?
    smashing
    together
    Video: S. Ossokine/A.
    Buonanno/T. Dietrich (MPI
    for Gravitational Physics)/R.
    Haas (NCSA)/SXS project

    View full-size slide

  21. Image credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
    Video: T. Ramirez/G.
    Lovelace/SXS
    Collaboration/LIGO-Virgo
    Collaboration
    How do
    we see
    them?
    smashing
    together

    View full-size slide

  22. How do
    we see
    them?
    bending light
    from behind
    them

    View full-size slide

  23. Image: HST
    How do
    we see
    them?
    bending light
    from behind
    them
    The strong gravity of the black hole acts
    like a lens, bending and distorting the image.

    View full-size slide

  24. Image credit: NASA/CXC/K. Divona

    View full-size slide

  25. Dr. Abbie
    in school
    • Middle school and high school:
    physics, earth science, math,
    computer programming

    View full-size slide

  26. • Middle school and high school:
    physics, earth science, math,
    computer programming
    • College: small liberal arts college
    • BA, physics major, math minor
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  27. • Middle school and high school:
    physics, earth science, math,
    computer programming
    • College: small liberal arts college
    • BA, physics major, math minor
    • Graduate school: large research
    universities
    • MSc in physics, in astrophysics
    group
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  28. • Middle school and high school:
    physics, earth science, math,
    computer programming
    • College: small liberal arts college
    • BA, physics major, math minor
    • Graduate school: large research
    universities
    • MSc in physics, in astrophysics
    group
    • PhD in astronomy, in large
    astronomy research institute
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  29. •Middle school and high school: physics,
    earth science, math, computer programming
    •College: small liberal arts college
    •BA, physics major, math minor
    •Graduate school: large research universities
    •MSc in physics, in astrophysics group
    •PhD in astronomy, in large astronomy
    research institute
    In high school, I wanted to do
    architecture and engineering, so I
    took physics and math. Then in
    physics I was introduced to
    astronomy!
    • Learn about things that interest
    you, and keep an open mind!
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  30. •Middle school and high school: physics,
    earth science, math, computer programming
    •College: small liberal arts college
    •BA, physics major, math minor
    •Graduate school: large research universities
    •MSc in physics, in astrophysics group
    •PhD in astronomy, in large astronomy
    research institute
    In high school, I wanted to do
    architecture and engineering, so I
    took physics and math. Then in
    physics I was introduced to
    astronomy!
    • Learn about things that interest
    you, and keep an open mind!
    In college, I changed majors twice!
    (environmental policy, theater),
    nearly added math as a double major
    • It’s ok to change your mind!
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  31. •Middle school and high school: physics,
    earth science, math, computer programming
    •College: small liberal arts college
    •BA, physics major, math minor
    •Graduate school: large research universities
    •MSc in physics, in astrophysics group
    •PhD in astronomy, in large astronomy
    research institute
    In high school, I wanted to do
    architecture and engineering, so I
    took physics and math. Then in
    physics I was introduced to
    astronomy!
    • Learn about things that interest
    you, and keep an open mind!
    In college, I changed majors twice!
    (environmental policy, theater),
    nearly added math as a double major
    • It’s ok to change your mind!
    • Keep your hobbies!
    • Mental wellbeing is so important!
    Dr. Abbie
    in school

    View full-size slide

  32. Job prospects
    in astronomy
    • Academia
    • Researcher
    • Professor (research +
    teaching)
    • Lecturer/instructor
    (teaching)
    • Education and public outreach
    • Planetarium director
    • Outreach coordinator
    • Content at educational
    nonprofits
    • Industry
    • Data science
    • Quantitative analytics
    • Software development

    View full-size slide

  33. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    Q&A time!

    View full-size slide