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Black Holes and Stellar Graveyards: Seeing the Cosmos in Gravitational Waves

Guest Speaker:

Shane Larson, Ph.D., Professor CIERA, NU, Department of Astronomy, Adler Planetarium 

Dr. Shane Larson, Research Associate Professor, at Northwestern University’s Department of Astronomy, will speak on the topic, Black Holes and Stellar Graveyards: Seeing the Cosmos in Gravitational Waves. Virtually everything we know about the universe has been discovered from the study of photons --- light in all its myriad forms from radio waves, to visible light, to x-rays and beyond.  In the early morning hours of September 14, 2015, a long-awaited gravitational wave signal came booming out of the sky, the signature of two black holes merging to form a new, larger black hole. The event happened 1.3 billion light years away, and the information has been travelling toward Earth since before multi-cellular life existed on our planet.  In this presentation, we'll talk about this momentous discovery --- how we found out about it, what wesaw, what it taught us about the universe, and what the future holds in store for us.

In addition to his position at Northwestern, Dr. Larson is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium.  He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy.    He grew up in eastern Oregon, receiving his B.S. in Physics from Oregon State University in 1991.  He then earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics (1999) from Montana State University.  He is an award winning teacher, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  Dr. Larson currently lives in the Chicago area with his wife, daughter and cats.  He contributes regularly to a public science blog at, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi.