Our speaker for March is Dr. Chris Pritchet, is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. Chris studies supernovae -explosions of stars that are visible across the Universe. Outside astronomy, his passions are music, canoeing, back-country skiing, and film.
Chris’ topic is Supernovae and the Mystery of Dark Energy:
The Universe is filled with a mysterious energy that causes it to expand at an ever increasing rate. The nature of this “dark energy”(not to be confused with dark matter) is completely unknown, andrepresents perhaps the greatest challenge to face Physics andAstronomy in the past century. Canada and France leadthe world in the quest to understand dark energy, thanks to our largetelescopes in Hawaii and Chile. These telescopes are used to discoverlarge numbers of faint, very distant supernova explosions, whose lighthas been travelling across space for more than half of the age of theUniverse. From these supernovae, it is possible to probe the geometryof the Universe, and detect the signature of dark energy (a small butsignificant dimming of light), with a precision that has never beforebeen attained. In this talk, Chris will focus on the telescopes that make this projectpossible, and a simple picture of how our observations measure andconstrain dark energy.