Rachel Somerville, Distinguished Professor and Downsbrough Chair in Astrophysics Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Rutgers University
Our current knowledge of the Universe extends mind-bendingly far in both space and time. The story that has emerged from the amazing technological accomplishments of modern astrophysics is bizarre and fascinating. We now believe that three quarters of the "stuff" in the Universe is "dark energy", a mysterious force that pushes spacetime apart and accelerates our expansion. Twenty-five percent of the cosmic pie is in the form of "dark matter", almost equally mysterious material that feels the force of gravity but no other forces, and has so far eluded direct detection in our laboratories on Earth. Roughly five percent is made up of "normal matter", i.e. atoms. But of this, only about 10 percent has actually been directly observed.
Additionally, astrophysicists have strong evidence that in the hearts of many, perhaps all, massive galaxies lurk supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions times the mass of our Sun. These black holes can grow by gobbling up stars and gas that fall into the center of their host galaxies. Some of this accreted mass is converted into energy, causing the black holes to release enormous amounts of radiation and produce giant jets of relativistic particles in some cases.
Somerville will explain the observational evidence that supermassive black holes exist, and that they power quasars, some of the most luminous objects in the Universe. She will talk about how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time and how supermassive black holes shape the galaxy properties that we can observe… all in the context of the double dark universe.