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Prof Lorraine Hanlon

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From Atoms to Astrophysics - How we know what we know about the Universe


How do we know what stars are made of? Why do X-rays, rather than visible light, provide tell-tale evidence of black holes? Why is there no single 'perfect' telescope that can observe everything?

This talk primarily explores the interaction of light with matter. It is this interaction that has determined the kinds of telescopes we typically use to observe the Universe and the science that can be deduced as a result.

Now, more exotic windows on the Universe are also becoming available, heralding an era of 'multi-messenger' astronomy, in which light, particles and gravitational waves together may provide a more complete understanding of the processes and interactions that shape our Universe.

Loraine Hanlon has a  BSc and MSc in experimental physics at UCD, and spent 4 years in the Netherlands to do research in space-based gamma-ray astronomy at the ESA research headquarters in Noordwijk. Hanlon  received a PhD and began as a lecturer in UCD in 1997, becoming Associate Professor of Astronomy in 2007. Hanlon's research activities are in the areas of space science and astrophysics, with a particular emphasis on ground-based and space-based studies of gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful and distant explosive events in the universe. She developes hardware and instrumentation for astrophysics. Hanlon's team has built the Watcher robotic telescope, which is located in South Africa and is Ireland's only professional telescope at a high quality observing site. She also works on advanced techniques for gamma-ray detection, for both astrophysics and medical applications. She is co-founder of UCD's Art in Science programme (www.ucdartinscience.com), which brings scientists and artists together in collaboration, through an artist in residence programme, joint exhibitions and seminars. exotic windows on the Universe are also becoming available, heralding an era of 'multi-messenger' astronomy, in which light, particles and gravitational waves together may provide a more complete understanding of the processes and interactions that shape our Universe.

Session Chair

Dr Cormac O’Raifeartaigh PhD FRAS is a graduate of University College Dublin (BSc Hons), Trinity College Dublin (Phd) and the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He lectures in physics at Waterford Institute of Technology and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a former Fellow of the Science, Technology and Society program at Harvard University. He  writes regularly on science in newspapers (The Irish Times) and magazines (Physics World) and is a science ambassador for Discover Science and Engineering Ireland. Cormac's recent discovery of a "lost Einstein Theory" received worldwide attention in the science media see Nature article here.

His widely read blog can be read here





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