2020-5-14 Colloquium: Abigail Stevens

When: Thursday, May 14th, 2020 @ 3:30pm Where: via ZOOM

Mapping Matter in Strong Gravity: Spectral-Timing of Black Holes and Neutron Stars

One of the best laboratories to study strong-field gravity is the inner 100s of kilometers around black holes and neutron stars in binary systems with low-mass stars like our Sun. The X-ray light curves of these binary systems show variability on timescales from milliseconds to months — the shorter (sub-second) variability can appear as quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs), which may be produced by general relativistic effects. My research looks at QPOs from black holes and neutron stars (as well as coherent X-ray pulsations from neutron stars) by fitting the phase-resolved energy spectra of these signals to constrain their physical origin and track their evolution in time. In this talk, I will introduce why black holes and neutron stars are interesting and discuss state-of-the-art “spectral-timing” analysis techniques for understanding more about them. I will also highlight open-source astronomy research software and the importance of mental wellbeing in academia.

About Abigail Stevens

Dr. Abigail Stevens is an NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. She completed her MSc at the University of Alberta in Canada and her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Abbie researches variable emission from accreting black holes and neutron stars in X-ray binaries, to study physical processes in strong gravity. She is also involved in the open-source scientific research software community, a Steering Committee member for STROBE-X (a proposed NASA mission), an Affiliated Scientist with NICER (a soft X-ray telescope on the International Space Station), and an advocate for mental wellbeing in academia.