Scientific Colloquium
February 3, 2016, 3:30 p.m., Building 3 Auditorium

"The Science of Interstellar: Thoughts on the Habitability of Planets Orbiting Black Holes "  

In the recent movie "Interstellar" (Warning: spoiler alert!), a team of intrepid astronauts set out to explore a system of planets orbiting a supermassive black hole named Gargantua, searching for a world that may be conducive to hosting human life. With Kip Thorne as science advisor, the film legitimately boasts a relatively high level of scientific accuracy, yet is still restricted by Hollywood sensitivities and limitations. In this talk, we will discuss a number of additional effects that may be important in determining the (in)habitable environment of a planet orbiting close to a giant, accreting black hole like Gargantua. In doing so, we hope to reach a greater understanding of the fascinating physics governing exoplanets, black hole accretion, relativity, and astrobiology.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Jeremy Schnittman joined the Astrophysics Science Division as a civil servant in 2010, after spending three years as a Chandra postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University. He earned a doctorate in physics in 2005 from MIT under the direction of Prof. Edmund Bertschinger.

His research interests include theoretical and computational modeling of black hole accretion flows, X-ray polarimetry, black hole binaries, dark matter annihilation, gravitational wave sources, gravitational microlensing, planetary dynamics, resonance dynamics, and exoplanet atmospheres. He has been described as a "general-purpose astrophysics theorist," which he regards as quite a compliment. Jeremy works closely with members of the X-ray Astrophysics and Gravitational Astrophysics Labs on the PRAXyS and LISA missions, as well as an array of future mission concepts like LUVOIR.

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