“Light from Darkness? Searching for Dark Matter in the Sky” with Tracy Slatyer (MIT Department of Physics, Cambridge, USA)

Dark matter is believed to comprise five-sixths of the matter in the universe, and is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for new fundamental physics. But dark matter does not interact directly with light, making it very difficult to detect except by its gravity. It’s described how various properties of dark matter could lead to observable signals, and how we can attempt to identify those signals from telescope observations. The speaker gives examples of cases where possible signals have been seen, but their origin is not yet fully understood. Furthermore, the speaker discusses how solving the puzzle of those observations will advance our understanding of our Galaxy and cosmos, either by revealing properties of dark matter or providing new insights into astrophysics.

Tracy Slatyer is a theoretical physicist who works on particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics. Her research is motivated by questions of fundamental particle physics — in particular, the nature of dark matter — but she seeks answers by studying possible signatures of new physics in astrophysical and cosmological data. She co-discovered the giant gamma-ray structures known as the “Fermi Bubbles” erupting from the center of the Milky Way. She was born in the Solomon Islands and grew up in Australia and Fiji, completing her undergraduate degree in Australia before moving to the USA in 2006. She did her PhD in physics at Harvard with Prof. Douglas Finkbeiner (2006-2010), worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2010-2013), and joined the MIT faculty in 2013. She has won a number of awards, including a New Horizons in Physics Prize (2021) and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2019).

Webinar was recorded on October 27, 2022