A Series of three popular talks
on topics in astronomy and history
held each fall in the GE Theater at Proctors
Watch for updates!
In October 1609, using his own handmade telescope, Galileo initiated the string of discoveries that opened the heavens to scientific scrutiny. In 2009, everyone--not just astronomy buffs, but non-astronomers with no prior experience or interest in the subject--will be able to see all the things Galileo saw, from the phases of Venus to the moons of Jupiter.
Also: Unveiling of Historic remake of "Dedication of the Dudley Observatory"
Is life common, or is it rare, in the Universe? What about planets orbiting other stars? Are they common, or are they rare? Are the basic molecular ingredients necessary for forming life elsewhere in the Universe common or rare? These are just some of the questions, which have been asked by human beings for centuries, to be explored in this Skywatch Lecture. Not only is NASA working hard on these, and other, questions, but some tantalizing answers have already emerged. The United States Space Agency is currently designing instruments and spacecraft capable of detecting life on planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. It currently seems reasonable to imagine that the current generation of humans will soon be able to point at stars in the night sky having planets where life will be known to exist. That will be a startling point when we as a species can peer at a living Universe.
Dark matter, dark energy, strings theory, extra dimensions and Higgs Bosons. These pivotal ideas in 21st Century cosmology are about to be put to the test as the European Large Hadron Collider continues to power-up since last September. How did the universe start? Why does it look the way it does today? What is the nature of mass, energy and dimension? With each new discovery, we are pushed towards ever-more subtle questions requiring the efforts of nations and armies of scientists and engineers to answer. Tonight, we will explore what questions have firm answers, and what questions remain open for the latest round of investigation. We will explore the subtle interplay between space, matter and dimensionality on the quantum scale, and the imprints they have on the cosmic scale. We will also look at what new discoveries await the latest experimental researches by LHC, neutrino and gravity wave telescopes, and future space observatories. Finally, we will step back and see how well the emerging picture of the physical universe matches our intuitive and religious views about creation and destiny.
Using astronomical telescopes and biological microscopes, among a virtual arsenal of other tools of high technology, modern scientists are weaving a thread of understanding spanning the origin, existence, and destiny of all things. Now emerging is a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings, based on the time-honored concept of change. From galaxies to snowflakes, from stars and planets to life itself, we are beginning to identify an underlying, ubiquitous pattern penetrating the fabric of all the natural sciences--a sweepingly encompassing view of the order and structure of every known class of object in our richly endowed Universe.
The sky is filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies, all lit up by their stars. But, stars account for less than one percent of the material in the Universe, and galaxies are held together by a new form of matter -- dark matter -- that accounts for 1/3 of the stuff in the Universe. The other 2/3 exists as in an even more mysterious form -- dark energy -- and is causing the expansion of the Universe to speed up, rather than slow down.
2009 is the 400th anniversary of Kepler's Astronomia nova, and of the first astronomical use of the telescope, especially by Galileo. I will argue that more important than Kepler's elliptical orbits and the law of areas was his pioneering insistence on astronomy based on physical causes. Particularly remarkable about Galileo's use of the telescope was the way in which he used his observations to challenge the traditional geocentric cosmology. In very different fashions these two contemporary astronomers hastened the astronomical revolution and became the fathers of modern astronomy.
There are stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy that are almost as old as the Universe itself, which is some 14 billion years. I will present some of those stellar fossils, and show what we can learn from studying them. This includes the origin and evolution of the chemical elements from which we humans and the world around us are made off. We really all are made from 'star stuff' and even a little bit of Big Bang material.
Dr. Anna Frebel is currently a Clay Fellow at Harvard Center for Astrophysics. Her research interests broadly cover how the oldest stars can be used to learn about the very first stars, their supernova yields, and stellar nucleosynthesis. She is best known for her discoveries and subsequent spectroscopic analyses of the oldest stars, and how they can be employed to uncover information about the time shortly after the Big Bang. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Freiburg (Germany) and received her PhD from the Australian National University's Mt. Stromlo Observatory in 2006. Since then has received a numerous awards for her work.
Observations of very distant exploding stars (supernovae) show that the expansion of the Universe is now speeding up, rather than slowing down due to gravity as expected. Over the largest distances, our Universe seems to be dominated by a mysterious, repulsive "dark energy" that stretches the very fabric of space faster and faster with time.
Alex Filippenko, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the world's most highly cited research astronomers. Winner of the top teaching awards at UC Berkeley, he was named the National Professor of the Year in 2006. He has produced several astronomy video courses for The Teaching Company and appears in numerous television documentaries.
Professor Pasachoff will describe the most recent of a series of eclipse observations, including Greece in 2006, Siberia in 2008, China in 2009, and Easter Island in 2010, and place ground-based eclipse observing in the context of contemporary solar research from the ground and from space.
Jay Pasachoff is especially known for his scientific work at total solar eclipses; the total solar eclipse of 11 July 2010 was his 51st! He worked at the Harvard College Observatory and Caltech before going to Williams College in 1972. He received the 2003 Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society, "For his eloquent and informative writing of textbooks from junior high through college, For his devotion to teaching generations of students, For sharing with the world the joys of observing eclipses, For his many popular books and articles on astronomy, For his intense advocacy on behalf of science education in various forums, For his willingness to go into educational nooks where no astronomer has gone before"
Modern technology allows smaller observatories to photograph and explore the sky at a level of detail unimaginable only a short time ago. Backyard observatories can now record images of extraordinarily distant objects in our Universe, in color and in beautiful aesthetic detail. It has also become more practical than ever before for privateobservatories to make exciting scientific measurements, thanks to computers, digital cameras, and specialized software.
Dave Latham is an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. He works on the discovery and characterization of planets around other stars, with the goal of identifying planets enough like the Earth so that water could be liquid on the surface and life as we know it might be comfortable. NASA's Kepler mission is enabling important progress towards this goal.
George Washington Hough was
assistant astronomer at the Cincinnati Observatory, astronomer and later director of the Dudley Observatory, and director of the Dearborn Observatory in Illinois.
A meticulous observational astronomer, he was known for his discovery of 648 close double stars, and four decades of systematic visual
observations of Jupiter. He was also a prolific
inventor, whose self-registering meteorological instruments and astronomical devices were adopted at a number of 19th-century observatories.
Research, which included consulting unpublished correspondence and documents at eight institutions, was supported by the Herbert C. Pollock Award of the Dudley Observatory.
One of the most profound legacies of the twentieth century space age is the realization that Earth impacts by asteroids and comets pose a hazard to civilization. But what is the level of this hazard? Is there cause for any serious concern? On the other hand what is the potential for beneficial use of these objects as future space resources? And are humans destined to visit asteroids as the first “stepping stones” in interplanetary space travel? Join us as Prof. Binzel, one of the world’s leading scientists on asteroids, addresses these questions.
Richard Binzel, Professor of Planetary Science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT, is one of the world's leading astronomers studying Pluto and the asteroids.
He is credited with having established compelling evidence linking certain Earth-impacting meteorite types with specific asteroids. In 1999,Binzel devised the Torino Impact Hazard Scale, which assigns a number to the likelihood that a newly discovered asteroid will strike the Earth.
Pulsars, or pulsating radio sources, are some of the most bizarre objects in the universe and have stretched our understanding of physics. They can be used to check Einstein's theories and one day may serve as navigation beacons for interstellar travel.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is a British astrophysicist. As a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars with her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish, for which Hewish shared the Nobel Prize in Physics.
In the Beautiful Minds documentary she talks about how in science, "nothing is static, nothing is final, everything is held provisionally" and that "sometimes you have to abandon the picture".
BBC Beautiful Minds - Jocelyn Bell Burnell on Truth and Understanding
Preceded at 6:30
WORKSHOP for KIDS and ADULTS - BUILD YOUR OWN CURIOSITY!
Hear the latest from Mars as Curiosity roves the red planet seeking to understand Mars' habitability. Curiosity survived "7 minutes of terror" to successfully land within Gale Crater on Mars on August 5, 2012. With a highly diverse science payload of cameras, spectrometers and a chemistry laboratory, Curiosity is the most complex robotic mission ever to land on another planet. This lecture will provide an insider view of the mission, the results to date, and plans for future Mars exploration with Curiosity and beyond.
Dr. Laurie Leshin is the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She served for 6 years as a senior executive at NASA, working on both the science and human exploration programs. Before coming to NASA, Dr. Leshin was The Dee and John Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences, and the Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.
Dudley Observatory Skywatch Lectures
Broadcast on PUBLIC ACCESS, TV-16. Watch for listings
DVDs are available from Dudley Observatory
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