Institute for Mathematical Innovation

IMI Public Lecture: Big Bangs and Black Holes, Professor Carole Mundell

Friday 27 November, University Hall, 3.15pm (tea and coffee from 2.45pm) image of a galaxy

Professor Carole Mundell

Carole Mundell is Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy and Head of Astrophysics at the University of Bath. An observational astrophysicist, Carole began her research career as a radio astronomer at Jodrell Bank Observatory, before diversifying to exploit international ground- and space-based facilities across the electromagnetic spectrum with the goal of understanding cosmic black holes and their environments.

At Liverpool John Moores University Carole led an international team specializing in catching the fast-fading light from Gamma Ray Bursts – the most powerful explosions in the Universe. She currently holds a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2011-2016) for the study of black hole-driven explosions and the dynamic Universe.

Big Bangs and Black Holes

Although the idea of 'black holes' dates back over 200 years, they remained a speculation until the late 20th century. Their existence has now been confirmed by observation but questions regarding their creation and influence are at the forefront of modern astronomy. Astronomers can never hope to travel to black holes and so instead rely on the coded information contained within the light detected from these distant objects. The visible light to which our human eyes are most sensitive has enriched culture for thousands of years. However, this light represents only a small fraction of the total light available for collection; technological advances in the 20th and 21st centuries have ensured that we can collect light ranging from the highest energy gamma rays, through X-rays to long wavelength radio waves - the whole range of the 'electromagnetic spectrum'.

In this talk, Professor Mundell will introduce the most distant and powerful explosions in the Universe - Gamma Ray Bursts - and describe recent advances in autonomous robotic observation of their light with space and ground-based telescopes which catch the light that signals the birth of a new black hole. In particular, she will present new insights gleaned with novel cameras - the RINGO polarimeters on the Liverpool Telescope - that have provided the first direct, real-time measurements of the magnetic fields that are thought to power these prodigious explosions. In doing so, she will try to give a flavour of the hectic life of an astronomer in the modern era of robotic telescopes and real-time discoveries.

This event to open to everyone, but please register your attendance. Please contact the IMI Co-ordinator Dr Catrin Yeomans at for further information.