by Dr. Karun Thanjavur
Wednesday May 9th, 2018 at 7:30 PM Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic
Gravitational lensing, the “bending” of light in a gravitational field is one of the many awe inspiring phenomena predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, and which have since been unambiguously borne out by observations. Since the first confirmation of a gravitational lens in 1979 -nearly 45 years after it was hypothesized- the catalog of confirmed lenses now runs to a few hundreds. Aided by the rapid advances in telescope and instrumentation technologies, the magnification boost provided by gravitational lensing – Nature’s telescope – is now being harnessed to probe astrophysical processes in extremely distant, faint objects even in the very early universe with a level of detail that would otherwise be exceedingly challenging. My presentation aims to explain the principles of gravitational lensing using basic physics, trace its development as a powerful observational tool, and present two applications and related results drawn from my own research.
Bio: Karun Thanjavur: As an observational cosmologist, discovering new gravitational lenses and developing innovative techniques to harness them as observational tools are amongst my diverse research interests. As part of my doctoral thesis at UVic in 2009, I developed an automated technique to search for lenses in wide field, pan-chromatic imaging. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. After my PhD from UVic, I worked as a Resident Astronomer at CFHT in Hawaii for three years, before returning to UVic to accept a position as a senior lab instructor in astronomy. Even though undergraduate teaching is the focus of my current position, I continue to pursue various research projects. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through several outreach initiatives through the UVic observatory.