On Wednesday, February 17, at 5 p.m. PT, Mansi Kasliwal, assistant professor of astronomy in the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at Caltech, continues the 2020–2021 Watson Lecture season by exploring "What Cosmic Fireworks Unveil About the Universe."
Our dynamic universe is ablaze with cosmic fireworks. Stars explode and send out beacons of light that are a million to a billion times brighter than our sun. Fireworks generated in these explosions are what synthesize most of the elements in our periodic table: while some explosions, called supernovae, create the lighter elements, mergers involving compact stars, called neutron stars, synthesize half of the elements in the periodic table that are heavier than iron.
In her Biedebach Memorial Lecture, which provides the opportunity to highlight the work of an assistant professor each season, Kasliwal will explain how astronomers discover these cosmic fireworks with robotic telescopes and how there has been a global follow-up campaign to characterize these energetic and ephemeral events. She will also discuss how astronomers combine information from multiple cosmic messengers—light, neutrinos, and gravitational waves—to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our universe.
Kasliwal earned her BS at Cornell University in 2005 and completed her doctoral work in astronomy at Caltech in 2011. After a joint postdoctoral fellowship at Carnegie Observatories and Princeton University, she joined the Caltech faculty in 2015. She was awarded the Packard Fellowship in 2018.
As principal investigator of GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen), Kasliwal heads up a worldwide network of collaborators who are trying to capture the astrophysics of short-lived energetic transient events to find out more about how they evolve.
At Caltech, Kasliwal's research group discovers and characterizes the brilliant flashes of light that tell us about the lifecycle of stars and where elements are synthesized. Their primary discovery engines are two robotic wide-field infrared and optical cameras at Palomar Observatory. Kasliwal's group is unveiling infrared fireworks in the Milky Way with the first wide-field infrared surveyor, called Palomar Gattini-IR. They are now building an even more sensitive discovery engine in the infrared.
All Watson lectures are free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. The lecture will begin at 5 p.m. and run approximately 45 minutes, and will be followed by a live audience Q&A session with Kasliwal. After the live webinar, the lecture (without Q&A) will be available for on-demand viewing on Caltech's YouTube channel.
Since 1922, The Earnest C. Watson Lectures have brought Caltech's most innovative scientific research to the public. The series is named for Earnest C. Watson, a professor of physics at Caltech from 1919 until 1959. Spotlighting a small selection of the pioneering research Caltech's professors are currently conducting, the Watson Lectures are geared toward a general audience as part of the Institute's ongoing commitment to benefiting the local community through education and outreach. Kasliwal's lecture is made possible by a gift from the estate of Richard C. Biedebach.
The Watson Lectures are part of the Caltech Signature Lecture Series, presented by Caltech Public Programming, which offers a deep dive into the groundbreaking research and scientific breakthroughs at Caltech and JPL.