Exploring the Extreme Universe with Very High Energy Gamma Rays

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Date/Time:Wednesday, 11 Nov 2009 from 4:10 pm to 5:10 pm
Location:Physics, room 5
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Amanda Weinstein (University of California, Los Angeles)

Viewed at very high energies, the universe is a place of powerful astrophysical engines driving accelerators that reach far greater energies than anything built on earth. By studying the products of these accelerators (such as cosmic rays and gamma rays), we can not only learn a great deal about the astrophysics of these sources, but probe a variety of questions in particle physics and cosmology. A new generation of imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes (IACTs), designed to detect VHE (100 GeV-10 TeV) gamma rays, has radically altered our picture of the very high energy gamma-ray sky. One such instrument is the recently-commissioned IACT array VERITAS. I will briefly give a broad overview of the VERITAS program and discuss a selection of results from its successful first two years of operation, with a focus on results that address questions of cosmic-ray acceleration and origin. As the recently launched Fermi satellite has similarly revolutionized gamma-ray astronomy in the 20 MeV to 300 GeV energy range, I will also discuss the growing synergy between VERITAS and Fermi science, such as a planned multi-wavelength study of the Cygnus region of the Galaxy. Finally, I will discuss long term prospects for the field.


Amanda Weinstein is a Research Associate at the University of California Los Angeles. Prior to coming to UCLA as a postdoctoral researcher, she received an A.B. in Physics from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in 1996; she then joined the BaBar experiment and received her Ph.D. in Experimental Particle Physics from Stanford University in 2005. She moved from the study of semi-leptonic B meson decays to the area of astroparticle physics and VHE gamma-ray astronomy when she joined the VERITAS experiment and took the VERITAS array trigger from its early design phase to final commissioning. Her recent research has focused on the search for Galactic cosmic-ray accelerators.