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January 27, 2011

NASA Scientist Neil Gehrels to Talk About Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Birth of Black Holes, Feb. 16

Black holes are immensely compact stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape. Born when stars collapse, they emit bright flashes known as gamma-ray bursts. These bursts have been observed since the 1960s and are now known to occur in distant galaxies. NASA scientist Neil Gehrels and his team are using a new NASA satellite to detect the bursts, and astronauts around the world are pointing their telescopes at the fading afterglow, gathering more data on the birth of black holes and expanding our understanding of the universe.

Gehrels, chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and principal investigator for the SWIFT satellite mission, will discuss "Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Birth of Black Holes" at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

The illustrated lecture, the first in a series of programs in 2011, is presented through a partnership between the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. This program begins the fifth year of the partnership.

Gehrels, who is also a professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and an adjunct professor at Penn State University, has written more than 400 papers in professional scientific literature and 20 popular articles and has edited six books on gamma-ray astronomy. He received his doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1981 and has been an astrophysicist at Goddard since that time.

Gehrels received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (1993), the American Astronomical Society Rossi Prize (2007), and the National Academy of Sciences Henry Draper medal (2009). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences.

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PR 11-019
ISSN 0731-3527

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