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Black Widow Pulsars: Vengeful Star Corpses
Free Astronomy Lecture
Smithwick Theatre (Room 1001)
January 22, 2014
Archive Story

As part of the 14th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, astronomer Roger Romani, Ph.D., of Stanford University, will discuss Black Widow Pulsars: Vengeful Star Corpsesan illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has revealed a violent high-energy universe full of stellar explosions, black hole jets, and pulsing stars. These cosmic objects are often faint when observed with visible light, but glow bright with gamma rays. Dr. Romani will describe the quest to discover the true nature of the most puzzling of these gamma-ray sources. Several turn out to be a kind of star corpse called a 'black widow' pulsar. When a massive star dies, it leaves a collapsed remnant called a neutron star. When such a star corpse has a companion star, it can be reanimated by material from the companion. Ironically, the revived corpse then begins to vaporize its mate. Dr. Romani will discuss his group’s discovery that these black widows may be the heaviest neutron stars known, on the edge of final collapse to black holes.

Romani is professor of physics and member of the Kavli Institute at Stanford University. His research focuses on neutron stars and black holes. He enjoys finding new, strange phenomena in the sky and then building theoretical models to explain them. Past recognition for his work includes Sloan Foundation and Cottrell Scholars fellowships and the Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy ProgramNASA Ames Research CenterSETI Institute Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available free on YouTube, at the series' own channel at: site gives instant access to over two dozen past lectures, including Steve Beckwith on the Hubble Telescope’s deepest views, Mike Brown on his discovery of worlds beyond Pluto, Natalie Batalha on the Kepler mission planet discoveries, Chris McKay on what it’s like on Saturn’s moon Titan, Sandra Faber on the origin of galaxies, Alex Filippenko and Roger Blandford on black holes, and Seth Shostak on new approaches to finding extra-terrestrial civilizations.


Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student parking lot. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For more information, access or call (650) 949-7888.

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Special Notice: Admission is free; purchase required parking permit for $3 from dispensers in any student lot.

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