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"Blow up a Star and Find Dark Energy "

by Dr Cosimo Inserra, Queen's University Belfast

September 19th 2016
Venue: Physics Building Trinity College Dublin

Book Tickets HERE Order DVD HERE  


About the Lecture

We know only the 4 per cent of the Universe, the other 96 per cent is made of things that
astronomers cannot detect or even comprehend. Supernovae are stellar explosions capable to outshine the luminosity of an entire galaxy. It means that a single star explosion can irradiate more energy than 100 billions stars altogether. It is thanks to such explosions that we can have heavy elements like iron on our planet, as well as the Earth itself. Indeed, our planet has been created because a Supernova exploded billions of years ago, leaving behind the material (mainly gas and dust) that eventually formed our solar system. Furthermore, it is exciting how Supernovae can also help us to understand the aforementioned missing and mysterious 96 per cent of our Universe, something that astronomers call dark energy and dark matter. Thanks to their luminosity they can be seen up to very far distances and since the speed of light, although incredibly fast, is limited looking at very distant Supernovae we can retrieve information about the past of our Universe. Such information can tell us more about how was our Universe and how it is going to evolve in the future. Thanks to this exceptional and unique properties,

Supernovae can be used as a sort of time machine for information. Recently (2011) three Supernova researchers have won the Nobel Prize in Physics thanks to a particular type of Supernovae. These Supernovae are used as standard candles because
astronomers know their brightness, which is extremely consistent, and can use this to measure their distance from us. They found the Universe would end not with a bang, but a whimper and hence the future and the past of all things remain truly knowable. One of my most significant research to date focuses on the use of the brightest supernovae as cosmological probes at high distances. Thanks to their intrinsic brightness, ten times more than those of the Nobel study, we have the possibility to explore our Universe ten times further in space and time. This research will allow for the first time to observe the behaviour of the dark energy and dark matter at the beginning of the cosmos. It will also give new and unpredicted information on their nature and, hence, also more details about the future of our Universe. Such innovative, fresh departure from traditional studies is already breaching the
initial skepticism and has been used by several groups to stress the importance of these Supernovae in current and future world-wide cosmological projects such as the Dark Energy Survey, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid mission.


About the Lecturer

My current research interest focuses on observational studies of stellar explosions called
supernovae (SNe). I have focused my research on the nature of the brightest among these
explosions (Superluminous Supernovae), as well as on the overall diversity of the supernova events.

I obtained my degrees (Bachelor and Master) at Catania University in Italy, whereas during my PhD I studied at the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics in collaboration with Oklahoma university. At that time, I approached the supernova science focusing on the observational characteristics of relatively bright core-collapse supernovae and gained my doctorate degree in 2012. Thanks to my expertise in the field of observational astronomy and supernovae obtained during the PhD - and successively increased throughout my experience as postdoctoral researcher at Queen’s University Belfast - I have become the youngest of the eight lead members (out of more than 180 members including a Noble Prize in Physics) of the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects. This survey is an international project and it is the flagship spectroscopic transient public survey of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is the pre-eminent intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy.

During my post-doc research at Queen’s University Belfast I have played a key role in advancing the knowledge of the brightest supernovae explosion introducing a methodology that is now widely used by the worldwide supernova community. I have also been selected as finalist for the Queen’s University Belfast VC Prize 2015 thanks to the best postdoctoral research in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject.

My contribution to the supernova science during these years is resulted in more than 50 publications in prestigious peer-review journals. I am and have also been leader of 30 astronomical projects including some at the world’s largest telescope and others at NASA satellites. My active involvement in supernova science has been strengthened by invited talks at international conferences and universities, interviews, as well as my referee role for prestigious peer-reviewed journals.
I am also a STEM ambassador, involved in several outreach projects, and member of the outreach committee of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast. Furthermore, I am a representative of the Research Staff Association for the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast and member of the Athena SWAN committee of the School (gender equality).




After the lecture there will be a social reception in The Lombard and we encourage all of you to come along for a chat.
All are welcome to attend and free food will be kindly provided by The Lombard.

Keep up to date on our Facebook and Twitter sites - links on the left.

A prize draw will be held after the lecture.


Booking Information

Date Monday 19th September
Subject to change - please check back later
Time 8:00p.m.

Physics Department , Fitzgerald Building, Trinity College Dublin.
There is an entrance on Lincoln Place (not far from the Merrion Square end of TCD). If you get the DART or bus to Pearse St, or drive. Use the Science Gallery entrance on Pearse Street (near the corner with Westland Row) There are maps here:  Here

Parking: Mark Street , Marks Lane , Lombard St. East .

Free Parking on the above streets after 7pm
Click HERE for a building map of Trinity College campus
Click HERE for Map of area

Admission €10 (€5 Astronomy Ireland members and concessions)
Tickets where possible should be booked in advance. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the night, please come along 15 minutes early to accommodate.
Booking Click HERE to book seats online.
Call 086 06 46 555 to book tickets over the phone using Debit/ Credit Card
Send a cheque/ PO/ Draft, made payable to Astronomy Ireland to PO BOX 2888, Dublin 5.


This lecture is also available to people nationwide on DVD.
To order a copy of the DVD simply:
Order by credit/ debit card online HERE
Call 086 06 46 555
Alternatively post a Cheque or postal order to: Astronomy Ireland, PO. Box 2888, Dublin 5.
Cost: DVDís cost Ä10 each incl P&P (€5 Astronomy Ireland members)
 Book Tickets HERE Order DVD HERE  

Acknowledgment: Astronomy Ireland would like to thank the TCD Astrophysics Research Group for hosting AI public lectures in Trinity College Dublin.

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