Lecture Details

SLAC public Lecture Series

Past Lecture

Cosmic Dawn: The First Star in the Universe

Tom Abel , Stanford University
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 07:30 pm
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What was the first thing in the Universe? A black hole or a star? How did it form? Even our biggest and best telescopes cannot tell us. Direct calculation with supercomputers, however, can. The first luminous objects in the Universe were very massive stars shining one million times as brightly as our sun. They died quickly and seeded the cosmos with the chemical elements necessary for life. One star at a time, galaxies started to assemble just one hundred million years after the Big Bang, and they are still growing now. Join Dr. Abel in a fascinating journey through the early universe, where he uses the latest computer animations of early star formation, supernovae explosions and the buildup of the first galaxies.

Dr. Tom Abel of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology is a man with a mission: "My long term goal is to build a galaxy, one star at a time" (via computer modeling, of course). Among Abel's research interests are the processes and events of "the dark ages", the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. Abel & colleagues' visualizations and simulations of dark ages events, in addition to over 60 publications in the technical literature, have been featured on PBS and The Discovery Channel and in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the covers of Discover in December 2002 and of National Geographic in February 2003. Dr. Abel studied at the Max Planck Institut fuer Astrophysik at Garching and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Urbana/Champaign prior to earning a PhD in physics in 2000 from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Munich, Germany. Abel was a post- doctoral fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, England and at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a Wempe Lecturer at the Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany, in 2001, and merited a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia, 2002. Dr. Abel served as an Assistant and then Associate Professor for 2.5 years at The Pennsylvania State University in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He is now an Associate Professor of Physics in the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at both the Stanford University Physics Department and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford and Menlo Park, California.