Star Talk: Seeing Beyond Red with Cool Technology


“Seeing Beyond Red with Cool Technology”, presented by Dr. Suresh Sivanandam

Abstract: Humans often don’t realize that they can sense more than visible light. They feel infrared radiation as heat, which is also another form of light. Over the past few decades, there has been an explosion of technological innovation in the detection of infrared light. This has opened up huge discovery spaces in astronomy. It has enabled us to see the effects of our galaxy’s central supermassive black hole and take pictures of planets in nearby star systems. Stardust in galaxies also lights up in the infrared, allowing us to track the evolution of galaxies from very early times. The technology required to detect infrared light is quite unique and presents difficult engineering challenges. I will present an overview of the great new discoveries in infrared astronomy and the associated technological breakthroughs that have ushered in this new and exciting era of astronomy. I will end with the pinnacle of space engineering, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is going to be the largest space telescope ever built. When this telescope is launched in 2018, it is going to completely revolutionize astronomy as we know it.