Seeing the invisible: observing the dark side of the universe

 

Portion of Abell 2218 Galaxy Cluster Credit NASA, A Fruchter, ERO Team

Sarah Bridle, University College London

It seems that most of the universe is made up of mysterious ingredients which we cannot see directly. I will describe in pictures "gravitational lensing", the bending of light by gravity, which is predicted by Einstein's General Relativity. The dark components of the universe do not emit or absorb light, but do exert a gravitational attraction, and it turns out that gravitational lensing is one of the most promising methods for finding out more about them. This is very similar to looking through a bathroom at streetlamps outside, and using the distorted images to learn about the patterns in the glass. I will review the current observations and the upcoming surveys.

Sarah Bridle is a Reader and Royal Society University Research Fellow at University College London. She obtained her PhD in 2000 from Cambridge University before moving to Toulouse, France for postdoctoral research. She returned to Cambridge with a College Fellowship and was appointed Lecturer at University College London five years ago, spending much of 2008 on sabbatical in Paris. She was recently awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's 2009 Fowler Award for Astronomy and holds a L'Oreal UK and Ireland Fellowship for Women in Science. She has over 40 publications in refereed journals.

This event was part of Astronomy: capturing light and dark, a day of events in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.

Seeing the invisible: observing the dark side of the universe 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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