IIT Bombay, Mumbai
Varun Bhalerao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics, IIT Bombay. He received his PhD in astrophysics from Caltech and joined as a Vaidya-Raychaudhuri Postdoctoral Fellow at IUCAA, Pune. He later obtained the DST-INSPIRE Faculty Fellowship and has since joined the Department of Physics at IIT Bombay. His research interests span astrophysical observations and instrumentation. He leads the Indian efforts for electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational wave sources. He is a part of the international GROWTH collaboration, which has been extremely successful in the study of GW170817 – the only gravitational wave source detected so far with an electromagnetic counterpart. He is also working to set up India’s first fully robotic telescope at Hanle, Ladakh. He led the calibrations for Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager, one of the telescopes on board AstroSat. He was selected an Associate of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 2017.
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Cosmic fireworks: Shining light on gravitational wave sources!
What happens when two neutron stars collide? Are these really the sources of most of the gold, platinum, and other heavy elements in the universe? After decades of theoretical speculation, researchers finally found the answer last August. Advanced gravitational wave detectors – LIGO and Virgo – discovered the coalescence of two neutron stars 130 million light years away from the Earth. At nearly the same time, Earth-orbiting satellites saw a flash of high energy radiation from the same direction. What followed was arguably the most frantic period of activity in modern astronomy, with over 3500 individuals from 950 institutes joining forces to pinpoint the source in the sky and uncover its secrets. In this talk, the speaker will discuss this first binary neutron star merger, how it was found and understood, and what it means for in the days to come.