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  • My first love was for the night sky.

  • Love is complicated.

  • You're looking at a fly-through of the Hubble Space Telescope Ultra-Deep Field,

  • one of the most distant images of our universe ever observed.

  • Everything you see here is a galaxy,

  • comprised of billions of stars each.

  • And the farthest galaxy is a trillion, trillion kilometers away.

  • As an astrophysicist, I have the awesome privilege of studying

  • some of the most exotic objects in our universe.

  • The objects that have captivated me from first crush throughout my career

  • are supermassive, hyperactive black holes.

  • Weighing one to 10 billion times the mass of our own sun,

  • these galactic black holes are devouring material,

  • at a rate of upwards of 1,000 times more

  • than your "average" supermassive black hole.

  • (Laughter)

  • These two characteristics,

  • with a few others, make them quasars.

  • At the same time, the objects I study

  • are producing some of the most powerful particle streams

  • ever observed.

  • These narrow streams, called jets,

  • are moving at 99.99 percent of the speed of light,

  • and are pointed directly at the Earth.

  • These jetted, Earth-pointed, hyperactive and supermassive black holes

  • are called blazars, or blazing quasars.

  • What makes blazars so special is that they're some of the universe's

  • most efficient particle accelerators,

  • transporting incredible amounts of energy throughout a galaxy.

  • Here, I'm showing an artist's conception of a blazar.

  • The dinner plate by which material falls onto the black hole

  • is called the accretion disc,

  • shown here in blue.

  • Some of that material is slingshotted around the black hole

  • and accelerated to insanely high speeds

  • in the jet, shown here in white.

  • Although the blazar system is rare,

  • the process by which nature pulls in material via a disk,

  • and then flings some of it out via a jet, is more common.

  • We'll eventually zoom out of the blazar system

  • to show its approximate relationship to the larger galactic context.

  • Beyond the cosmic accounting of what goes in to what goes out,

  • one of the hot topics in blazar astrophysics right now

  • is where the highest-energy jet emission comes from.

  • In this image, I'm interested in where this white blob forms

  • and if, as a result, there's any relationship between the jet

  • and the accretion disc material.

  • Clear answers to this question

  • were almost completely inaccessible until 2008,

  • when NASA launched a new telescope that better detects gamma ray light --

  • that is, light with energies a million times higher

  • than your standard x-ray scan.

  • I simultaneously compare variations between the gamma ray light data

  • and the visible light data from day to day and year to year,

  • to better localize these gamma ray blobs.

  • My research shows that in some instances,

  • these blobs form much closer to the black hole

  • than we initially thought.

  • As we more confidently localize

  • where these gamma ray blobs are forming,

  • we can better understand how jets are being accelerated,

  • and ultimately reveal the dynamic processes

  • by which some of the most fascinating objects in our universe are formed.

  • This all started as a love story.

  • And it still is.

  • This love transformed me from a curious, stargazing young girl

  • to a professional astrophysicist,

  • hot on the heels of celestial discovery.

  • Who knew that chasing after the universe

  • would ground me so deeply to my mission here on Earth.

  • Then again, when do we ever know where love's first flutter

  • will truly take us.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

My first love was for the night sky.

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【TED】Jedidah Isler: How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe (Jedidah Isler: How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe)

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    CUChou posted on 2015/06/04
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