Introducing Emily Levesque

Emily Levesque (@emsque) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Washington. She got her BS in Physics from MIT in 2002, her PhD in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii in 2006, and spent five years at the University of Colorado at Boulder as an Einstein and Hubble Fellow before moving to UW last year.

Her research focuses on exploring the inner workings of stars and using them as fundamental tools for understanding our universe. She is particularly interested in massive stars, the behemoths that explode as supernovae and form black holes. Unlike any other object in astronomy, we can detect ancient generations of massive stars exploding in distant galaxies while also closely observing their evolutionary and chemical twins in our own cosmic backyard. Studying stars like these offers us a glimpse of how the universe has changed from the Big Bang to the present day.

In 2014 she and her collaborators discovered the first observational evidence of Thorne-Zytkow objects, a stellar structure originally predicted in the late 1970s that outwardly resembles a cold massive star but has a neutron star for a core. This combination represents a completely new model for the fundamental physics of stars and a new way of producing elements that make up the famed “star stuff”.

Emily is also passionate about science communication and increasing the general public’s enthusiasm for science: she has given live planetarium shows, public talks, star parties, and radio and film interviews, and is looking forward to adding Astrotweeps to that list this week!

When not working Emily can be found playing violin with the UW Campus Philharmonia Orchestra, hunting down new places for downhill skiing or open-water swimming, and – most often these days – on a plane.

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