Prof. Bryan Gaensler

Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics
The University of Toronto
50 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3H4, Canada
Phone: +1 416 978 6223
(last seen in Victoria BC, Canada)

I am an astronomer, working as Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. In addition, I am a Canada Research Chair and Professor of Astronomy in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Toronto, and am the Canadian Science Director for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). My main research interests are cosmic magnetism, time-domain astrophysics and the diffuse Universe.

As Director of the Dunlap Institute, I aim to develop new approaches to astronomy through innovative hardware and software, to train the next generation of astronomers, and to foster public engagement in science.

For my own research, my main goal is to understand why the Universe is magnetic. In particular, I am aiming to use the unique capabilities of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) to conduct the Polarisation Sky Survey of the Universe's Magnetism (POSSUM). POSSUM is based around an effect called "Faraday rotation", in which light from a background object is subtly changed when it passes through a cloud of magnetised gas. By measuring the Faraday rotation in the emission from millions of distant galaxies over 70% of the sky, POSSUM aims to transform our understanding of magnetic fields in galaxies, clusters and in diffuse intergalactic gas, and to thus address key unanswered questions on Milky Way ecology, galaxy evolution and cosmology. The data from POSSUM will provide a substantial legacy to the astronomical community, while the new instrumentation required for this project will test the technology needed for the Square Kilometre Array.

I also study the ways in which celestial objects change, flicker, flare and explode. I have had a long-standing interest in studying transient and variable phenomena: my collaborators and I have provided new insights into many different populations of variable sources, and have built up the international teams needed to rapidly coordinate multi-wavelength observations of new transients. I am now participating in systemic approaches to the time-domain Universe, tailored to the unique capabilities of wide-field telescopes and all-sky surveys. The novel source-finding and classification algorithms that we are pursuing promise a bonanza of discoveries and new physical insights.

If you are a UofT student interested in joining my research team, please feel free to email me.

I did my postgraduate work at The University of Sydney and at CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility. I subsequently held postdoctoral fellowships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, was an associate professor of astronomy at Harvard University, and then was an ARC Federation Fellow and Australian Laureate Fellow at The University of Sydney. From 2011 to 2014, I was also the founding director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).

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