Physics Colloquium

Thursday, April 8, 2021
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Unveiling Our Dynamic Infrared Sky
Mansi Kasliwal, Caltech,

Many astronomical events shine the brightest in the infrared due to atomic opacity, self enshrouding, dust extinction, or low temperature. When we saw the first electromagnetic counterpart to gravitational waves from a neutron star merger, it was the rapid reddening and infrared spectral features that confirmed the synthesis of heavy elements by the r-process. A classical nova (or even a Galactic supernova) deep in the disk of the Milky Way is also brightest in the infrared on account of line-of-sight dust extinction. Stellar mergers and mass-losing stars are also extremely red due to self obscuration. Yet, the infrared time-domain is hitherto largely unexplored.  In this colloquium, I describe how I am starting to open up the dynamic infrared sky with a series of experiments. First, I will describe a pathfinder SPIRITS survey with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Next, I will present the first wide-field infrared surveyor, Palomar Gattini IR, which is mapping 15000 square degrees to a J-band depth of 16 mag every two nights. Looking ahead, I will conclude with plans for the next generation infrared surveyors: WINTER at Palomar Observatory, DREAMS at Siding Springs Observatory in Australia and Cryoscope in Antarctica.