Andrea Ghez On The Hunt For A Supermassive Black Hole
Susan notes: Thanks to TED for making TED Talks downloadable and embeddable, and for providing the biographical information that goes along with them.
With new data from the Keck telescopes, Andrea Ghez shows how state-of-the-art adaptive optics are helping astronomers understand our universe's most mysterious objects: black holes. She shares evidence that a supermassive black hole may be lurking at the center of the Milky Way.
Seeing the unseen (from 26,000 light-years away) is a specialty of UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez. From the highest and coldest mountaintop of Hawaii, home of the Keck Observatory telescopes, using bleeding-edge deep-space-scrying technology, Ghez handily confirmed 30 years of suspicions of what lies at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy -- a supermassive black hole, which sends its satellite stars spinning in orbits approaching the speed of light.
Ghez received a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2008 for her work in surmounting the limitations of earthbound telescopes. Early in her career, she developed a technique known as speckle imaging, which combined many short exposures from a telescope into one much-crisper image. Lately she's been using adaptive optics to further sharpen our view from here -- and compile evidence of young stars at the center of the universe.