MEET THE CREW: DARK MATTER DETECTIVE MAGGIE LIEU
As down-to-earth astrophysicist Maggie Lieu reveals, the sky isn’t the limit when it comes to following your dreams. She’ll be sharing her cosmic experiences as Session 1 panelist on April 22nd.
Where are you at the minute?
“I’m at ESAC, the European Space Astronomy Centre, which is based on the outskirts of Madrid. I’m a research fellow there which means I’m one of maybe ten people who actually do full time research here.”
Tell us a little more about your research…
“I’m part of Euclid – it’s a space telescope which doesn’t launch until 2021. My research is on galaxy clusters, which are the largest structures in our universe. Most dark matter is found in galaxy clusters, so if you want to study the dark universe that’s where you need to look.”
How big are we talking?
“Really, really, really big. We sent Voyager I out into space over 40 years ago and it has only passed the edge of our solar system. That’s just one star. There are many stars in our galaxy, and many, many galaxies in galaxy clusters.”
Why is dark matter so important?
“95% of our universe is invisible, and 70% of it is made up of dark energy but we have no idea what it is.”
When did you fall in love with space?
“That was at University. I took a class in cosmology and one of the most fascinating things that I learned about was how our universe is evolving. Cosmological parameters define the future, the past, and the present of our universe – how it started and how it’ll end up. If you change a parameter one way the universe could expand forever, or tear the universe apart, or cause a big crunch where it all bounces back and shrinks down again. That’s really exciting to me.”
Is that where it all began?
“Growing up I was really into space – I used to just look up at the stars and think, ‘I want to go explore that.’ My teachers all thought I was going to design the first pink astronaut suit.”
Who were your heroes?
“One of my heroes is a lady named Dava Newman. She was the recent deputy administrator of NASA, but before thats he was a professor at MIT and lead the research on biosuits which let you move in space, and keep tension in your body so your muscles don’t waste away. She was such a role model. My interest in astronomy didn’t come until university. When I was young I just wanted to go to space.”
Were any films particularly influential?
“Contact was in particular – I used to think I would love to go and sit in a big radio dish and listen for aliens all day, and now I’m here but it’s not quite the same thing!”
Dr. Maggie Lieu will be appearing at session one of Space Rocks on April 22nd at Indigo at the O2 in London. Get your tickets here!