Tag Archives: priyamvada natarajan

How do you feed a hungry quasar? With a ‘super boost,’ scientists say

The universe’s oldest, brightest beacons may have gorged themselves in the dense, cold, gas flows of the early cosmos — creating a kind of energy drink for infant black holes in the young universe — according to new research by scientists at Yale University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel. (more…)

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Helping Women Faculty Navigate ‘Career Pressure Points’

As a professor of astronomy and physics, Priyamvada Natarajan doesn’t balk at taking risks. She has modeled the upper limits of “monster” black holes and analyzed the consistency of dark matter. As a theorist, she notes, intellectual risk is par for the course.

But as a woman in science, risk-taking has another meaning, she says. Studying in a predominantly male field, Natarajan considers herself fortunate to have been surrounded by exceptional mentors throughout her career. She recognizes that her experience was an unusual one. Many of her female classmates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did not receive the same level of encouragement to continue their studies and research, she notes. (more…)

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Yale Discovery of ‘Young’ Supermassive Black Holes Challenges Current Theory

Astronomers at Yale University have discovered what appear to be three fast-growing supermassive black holes in a relatively young, still-forming galaxy.

The discovery raises the possibility that this type of black hole continues to form billions of years after the Big Bang, challenging current theory. Astronomers previously thought all supermassive black holes emerged soon after the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. (more…)

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Scientists, Philosophers and Theologians Poised To Ask: “Why Is There Anything?”

Some of the world’s most renowned scholars, in fields as diverse as astrophysics, philosophy, and religious studies, will convene on the Yale campus October 6-9 to ponder the most fundamental existential question of all: “Why Is There Anything in the Universe?”

The idea for a conference to discuss a philosophical question that has perplexed great minds throughout the ages grew out of an informal conversation and debate over a cup of coffee between Yale professors Priyamvada Natarajan, a cosmologist in the Astronomy department, and Denys Turner, who teaches in the department of Religious Studies and the Yale Divinity School and is the author of “Eros and Allegory” and “The Darkness of God,” among other titles. Michael Della Rocca, a metaphysician who teaches at the philosophy department, soon joined the effort. James van Pelt, who co-founded Yale’s Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology, was enlisted to coordinate the ambitious, quintessentially trans-disciplinary program, which now includes a stellar roster of physical scientists, theologians and philosophers. (more…)

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Cosmic Curiosity Reveals Ghostly Glow of Dead Quasar

The green Voorwerp in the foreground remains illuminated by light emitted up to 70,000 years ago by a quasar in the center of the background galaxy, which has since died out. Image credit: WIYN/William Keel/Anna Manning

While sorting through hundreds of galaxy images as part of the Galaxy Zoo citizen science project two years ago, Dutch schoolteacher and volunteer astronomer Hanny van Arkel stumbled upon a strange-looking object that baffled professional astronomers. Two years later, a team led by Yale University researchers has discovered that the unique object represents a snapshot in time that reveals surprising clues about the life cycle of black holes.

In a new study, the team has confirmed that the unusual object, known as Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s “object” in Dutch), is a large cloud of glowing gas illuminated by the light from a quasar-an extremely energetic galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center. The twist, described online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, is that the quasar lighting up the gas has since burned out almost entirely, even though the light it emitted in the past continues to travel through space, illuminating the gas cloud and producing a sort of “light echo” of the dead quasar. (more…)

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