The Universe Tonight
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Peering through Nature's Telescope - Gravitational Lensing into the Distant Universe
Gravitational bending of light is one of the many awe inspiring phenomena predicted by Einsteins theory of Relativistic Gravity, and which have since been unambiguously borne out by observations. Since the first confirmation of a gravitational lens in 1979 - nearly 45 years after it was first hypothesized - the catalog of confirmed lenses now runs to a few hundred. With advances in the instrumentation available at the modern 8m class telescopes, similar to those on Mauna Kea, the magnification boost provided by gravitational lensing - Natures telescope - is now being harnessed to probe astrophysical processes in extremely distant, faint objects even in the very early universe with a level of detail that would otherwise be exceedingly challenging. This presentation aims to explain the principles of gravitational lensing using basic physics, trace its development as a powerful observational tool, and present two applications and related results drawn from Dr. Thanjavur's own research.
Developing innovative uses for gravitational lensing as an observational tool is one of Karun Thanjavur's research interests in his current position as Resident Astronomer at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in a small town in South India, Dr. Thanjavur completed his education up to a bachelors degree in engineering there, before emigrating to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. His current position at CFHT provides him the enriching experience of working with cutting-edge telescope technology while pondering Nature's many wonders in our Universe.