Location: Research Hall, Room 163
Speaker: Dr. Erin Kara
Topic: Tidal Disruption Events: How one star’s death gives life to a black hole
In a galaxy, once every hundred thousand yearS, an unsuspecting star finds itself on a collision course with the supermassive black hole quietly sitting at the center of A galaxy. The gravitational forces from the black hole are just too strong for the wimpy star, and it gets torn apart. We call this violent episode a Tidal Disruption Event, and since telescopes are continuously monitoring hundreds of thousands of galaxies, astronomers actually observe these rare events a few times a year. In this talk Dr. Kara will discuss what happens after this stellar disruption: how it produces the light we see through our telescopes, and what these events can tell us about how black holes feed and grow. In particular, she will present a cutting-edge technique called X-ray reverberation mapping that gives us a close-up look at Tidal Disruption Events. Just as bats use echolocation to map out the structure of a dark cave, we are using light echoes to map out the gas near the black hole.
Dr. Erin Kara is an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where she is the Neil Gehrels Prize Postdoc and was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow. She completed her PhD in 2015 from the University of Cambridge. She studies black holes—how they grow and impact their environments. In July 2019, she will start as an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Meetings start at 7:00 PM, generally on the second Sunday of every month (with the exception of May, when we meet earlier or later to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day). If you come earlier you can do a little socializing. The first part of the meeting includes:
- A tour of what is in the sky this month and how to find an observe these things.
- An Astronomy Note – a short presentation about a key astronomical concept to help deepen and enrich your knowledge
- Observing reports when members can share their stories and experiences viewing or photographing the sky
- Q&A, where beginning astronomers are encouraged to ask questions to be answered by more experienced members.
The final part of the meeting is a program, usually by outside experts, but sometimes by one of the members. We’ve had presenters from all aspects of Astronomy including scientists from NASA and other premier organizations, cosmologists, and photographers.
There’s a good deal of socializing before and after meetings, allowing members to put faces with the voices they’ve heard in the dark.
NOVAC’s general meetings are open to club members and the general public alike, and are held on the campus of George Mason University (directions) in Fairfax, Virginia. Research Hall is easily identified by the observatory attached to the side of the building. Paid parking is available in the Shenandoah parking structure. Some members have also chosen to park across the street in the far reaches of the Patriot Center’s parking lot, then walk up the path to Research Hall.
Whether you’re an longtime club member, a new or prospective club member, or simply an interested member of the public, you’ll be warmly welcomed at our meetings.
Please Join Us For Dinner!
Meeting attendees (and their guests) are invited to come out for our informal pre-meeting dinner. The pre-meeting dinner will be held at Brion’s Grille located at 10621 Braddock Rd, Fairfax, VA 22032 at 5:30 p.m. The pre-meeting dinner is an excellent way to meet club members, welcome newcomers, and renew old friendships.
If you’d like to join us, stop by the restaurant at 5:30 PM. See you there!
PARKING is available at the Shenandoah parking deck (enter via Sandy Creek Way) for $3/hr, up to a daily maximum of $14. Though the club recommends the use of the paid parking deck, we’ve also had members report success parking in Lot A (a permit-only lot also associated with the Patriot Center) without trouble on Sunday evenings (tickets are $85, however, so assess your own risk tolerance before considering this option).