Prof. Bryan Gaensler

Director

Professor Bryan Gaensler works on cosmic magnetism (radio polarisation and Faraday rotation), time-domain astronomy (transients, magnets and supernovae) and the diffuse Universe (interstellar medium and turbulence).

His main goal is to understand why the Universe is magnetic. He uses 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, Gaensler 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.

Prof. Gaensler also studies the ways in which celestial objects change, flicker, flare and explode. He aims to provide a new understanding of many different populations of variable sources, and works in the international teams needed to rapidly coordinate multi-wavelength observations of new transients.

He is now participating in a systemic approach 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 he is pursuing promise a bonanza of discoveries and new physical insights.

Before becoming Dunlap Institute director in January 2015, Gaensler was founding director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO). He was also an Australian Laureate Fellow at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy within the School of Physics at The University of Sydney.

He has held previous positions at MIT, the Smithsonian and Harvard, and did his postgraduate work at the University of Sydney and at CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility. In 1999, he was named Young Australian of the Year.

In addition to his research, Gaensler is also the Canadian Science Director for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a next-generation radio telescope that will transform our understanding of the Universe. He is Lead Investigator for the Canadian Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) consortium, and is the U of T representative on the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) Board of Partners.

Research