• Question: What was the most surprising result in one of your experiments

    Asked by anon-324386 on 25 Mar 2022.
    • Photo: Victoria Fawcett

      Victoria Fawcett answered on 25 Mar 2022:

      We found that the properties of a quasar (an extremely bright galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole) depends on it’s colour! So the “red quasars” have very different radio properties to the more common “blue quasars”.
      We think that red quasars are red for the same reason that a sunset is red – the light is traveling through atmosphere (or dust in the quasar’s case), which scatters the blue light so they look red. That is why it is surprising that they show fundamentally different properties, seeing as the only difference seems to be a bit of dust!

    • Photo: Daisy Shearer

      Daisy Shearer answered on 28 Mar 2022:

      We did a measurement that gave us a result that somewhat contradicted the consensus in the field. In simple terms, previous experiments have seen something called an ‘exchange enhancement’ which is where the energy of electron state in certain material systems keeps increasing as an external magnetic field is increased. In our experiment, we actually saw the energy stop increasing and saturating and could measure an ‘energy shift’. This has never been done before and it fits in with a hypothesis we made about electron spin in our material. It was really surprising and baffled us for quite a while (a year or so) but we now have some strong theoretical evidence for why this is the case and can use established equations to explain this effect that we saw experimentally!