Abstract: Modern astrophysics uses state-of-the-art technology to unravel the unknown on a cosmic scale. Among the many discoveries are the heftiest things we know, namely giant black holes that inhabit the centres of galaxies. The early evidence for giant black holes that emerged in the middle of the last century, effectively rested on the Sherlock-Holmes argument. Today, however, we have the most direct evidence possible through the sharpest eyes that technology can make. The talk will cover some of the threads in this fascinating story.
Speaker Bio: Prajval Shastri has been an astrophysicist for over four decades. She investigates the physics of giant black holes that are found in the centres of distant galaxies using telescopes at multiple frequencies based on earth as well as in space. She got her PhD from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and after post-doctoral research positions in the University of Texas at Austin, University of California at Berkeley and the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics she was a faculty of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru for 23 years. She has been a Fulbright fellow at Stanford University and is currently Emeritus Scientist at the Raman Research Institute and Adjunct Professor at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Australia. She is extremely passionate about science outreach. She believes that the cultivation of scientific thinking is for everyone, uses astrophysics as a vehicle to engage lay audiences of all ages with these questions, and works for the people's science movement towards this goal. She is also deeply concerned about the inequities in the sciences and attempts to bring an intersectional lens to the endeavours to mitigate them. She is founder and past chair of the Gender in Physics Working Group of the Indian Physics Association and past member of the Working Group for Gender Equity of the Astronomical Society of India. She is Vice-chair of the Women in Physics Working Group of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee for the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. In addition to her research publications and popular articles on astrophysics, her published work includes writings on gender inequity as well as science and society.