AAS Shapley Lecture Tour  2014  Presents:

X-ray binaries

X-Ray Binaries:  Elementary, Enigmatic, Explosive, and Extreme

Dr. Saeqa Vrtilek,   Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

If your eyes were sensitive to X-rays and you were above the Earth’s atmosphere you would see a sky that looks completely different than the stars you see at night.   This is the province of X-ray astronomy, a satellite-based field that started only fifty years ago. 

This popular-level talk will describe X-ray binaries, the best studied prototypes of the accretion process and the clearest window into the most efficient energy release process in the Universe.  One of the most arresting features of the X-ray sky is the prominence of bright, highly variable point sources of X-ray emission that do not correspond to any bright stars. These objects exhibit a rich panoply of behavior, showing us a sky that flickers like a Christmas tree on timescales from fractions of seconds to years.   

One of the early breakthroughs of the field was the discovery that they correspond to binary systems: a black hole or neutron star paired with a  faint companion star. They are powered by material from the companion falling onto the black hole or neutron star.  This process, called accretion, is ubiquitous in the Universe. 

The lecture will be at an introductory level, and everyone is invited.  Free admission.

Room:   LC 301         Time:  7:00 PM    Monday, 3 March 2014

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