Bing Zhang

Education

BS, Geophysics, Beijing University, 1991
PhD, Astrophysics, Beijing University, 1997

Research Interests

Bing Zhang's major research field is high energy astrophysics. The astrophysical objects he has been studying include gamma-ray bursts, pulsars, and magnetars. Other research areas include active galactic nuclei, cosmology, neutrino astrophysics and extrasolar planets. The research focusses on the mechanisms by which all these objects radiate across the whole electromagnetic spectrum, including gamma-ray, X-ray, UV, optical, IR, and radio. Zhang is also interested in the possible non-electromagnetic signals, such as neutrinos and gravitational waves, from some of these objects. The research thus involves close ties between theory and observations, seeking theoretical interpretations and predictions of various phenomena and proposing observational tests of the theories.

Gamma Ray Bursts

swift

Bing Zhang is a member of the science team of NASA's SWIFT mission designed to study Gamma-ray bursts. The satellite is shown on the image on the right. Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions the Universe has seen since the Big Bang. They occur approximately once per day and are brief, but intense, flashes of gamma radiation. They come from all different directions of the sky and last from a few milliseconds to a few hundred seconds. Within seconds of detecting a burst, Swift relays a burst's location to ground stations, allowing both ground-based and space-based telescopes around the world the opportunity to observe the burst's afterglow. Swift is part of NASA's medium explorer (MIDEX) program and was launched into a low-Earth orbit on a Delta 7320 rocket on November 20, 2004. In results recently published in the journal Nature, the team have demonstrated that short gamma-ray bursts arise from collisions between a black hole and a neutron star or between two neutron stars. In the first scenario, the black hole gulps down the neutron star and grows bigger. In the second scenario, the two neutron stars create a black hole. A big merger closer to the Earth could be detected by the National Science Foundation's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). If Swift detects a nearby short burst, LIGO scientists could go back and check the data with a precise time and location in mind. Bing Zhang has over 100 publications in refereed journals including; The Astrophysical Journal, Science and Nature. He is currently funded by grants from NASA.