University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Thursday, October 6th 2016
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Tommaso Treu, UCLA
Subject: The other 95%: insights from strong gravitational lensing
Refreshments to be served outside Keller 3-210 after the colloquium.

In the standard cosmological model ninetyfive percent of the energy content of the universe consists of dark energy and dark matter. Even though their abundance seems well determined, very little is known about their fundamental nature. I will describe how we can learn about the physics of the dark sector by studying in detail its gravitational effect on the trajectories of photons as they travel across the universe, a phenomenon known as strong gravitational lensing. In the first part of the talk, I will use strong gravitational lenses with a time variable background source to measure the expansion rate of the universe (Hubble constant) to 3.8% precision. This result is completely independent of the local distance ladder and the cosmic microwave background, and thus provides a new opportunity to understand whether the tension between the two arises from systematic uncertainties or may be indicative of new physics. In the second part of the talk I will describe how strong lensing can be used to detect the presence of dark subhalos independent of their stellar content. This measurement tests a fundamental prediction of the cold dark matter model, i.e. that galaxies should be surrounded by large numbers of dark satellite subhalos. Proof that such satellites do not exist would force a revision of the model in favor of more exotic alternatives like warm dark matter. I will conclude by discussing the exciting future of strong lensing as a tool for cosmology, in light of the huge numbers of strong lenses that are on the verge of being discovered in the current generation of wide field astronomical surveys.

Faculty Host: M. Claudia Scarlata

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