Location: Research Hall, Room 163
Speaker: Dr. Duncan Lorimer
Title: Fast Radio Bursts — Nature’s Latest Cosmic Mystery
Abstract: Fast Radio Bursts are millisecond-duration pulses of unknown origin that were discovered by pulsar astronomers in 2007. A decade on from the discovery, with only 20 further bursts currently known, fast radio bursts remain enigmatic sources which parallel the early days of gamma-ray burst astronomy in the early 1970s. I will tell the story of their discovery, summarize what we know about them so far, describe the science opportunities these bursts present, and make predictions for what we will learn in the next decade.
Duncan Lorimer got his PhD. in 1994 for his contributions to Pulsar Astronomy from the
University of Manchester in the U.K. under the supervision of Profs. Andrew Lyne, Dick
Manchester and Matthew Bailes. Since then he has held positions at the University of
Manchester (Lecturer; 1994-5); the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (Postdoctoral
Fellow; 1995-8); Cornell University (Postdoctoral Fellow; 1998-2001); University of Manchester
(Royal Society Research Fellow; 2001-6) and West Virginia University (Faculty; 2006-present).
While at WVU, Prof. Lorimer has served as Associate and Interim Chair in the Department of
Physics and Astronomy. Along with his wife and fellow astrophysicist Maura McLaughlin,
Lorimer has helped establish the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology. Prof.
Lorimer’s scholarly achievements have been recognized on several occasions: a Cottrell
Scholar Award (2008) from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and both the
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and WVU’s recognition for excellence in teaching (2009,
2010) as well as the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award in the Physical Sciences (2019).
Among his notable research achievements are his many contributions to our understanding of
the population of pulsars and the discovery of Fast Radio Bursts. Since 1994 Prof. Lorimer has
been a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 2018 he was elected a Fellow of the
American Physical Society. In January 2019 Prof. Lorimer moved into the Dean’s Office at the
Eberly College of Arts and Science at West Virginia University to take up the position of
Associate Dean for External Research Development.
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).