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Gamma Ray Bursts in the Era of Rapid Followup

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Simon Hodgkin.

Black holes were predicted from Einstein’s theory of general relativity one hundred years ago. Over past decades, significant circumstantial evidence of their existence – both as remnants of stellar collapse and at the heart of massive galaxies – has been found, culminating with the spectacular direct detection of gravitational waves this month from a merging pair of massive stellar black holes. In this talk, I will present new insights into explosive transients and relativistic jets launched by new black holes. In particular, I will describe recent advances in robotic observation of fast transients such as Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB). By developing of novel optical polarimeters and autonomous real-time followup, we have studied directly the magnetic fields predicted to collimate and accelerate the ultra-relativistic GRB jets. I will discuss the unexpected dearth of bright optical flashes that were predicted to be ubiquitous in the early optical afterglow, produced by the so-called reverse shock, and introduce a new model that predicts flares at radio and mm wavelengths instead. I will finish with a look to the future, describing new experiments to search for the optical counterparts of other fast transients such as Fast Radio Bursts and finish with the prospects for time domain astrophysics across the electromagnetic spectrum and beyond in the coming decades.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Colloquia series.

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