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Astrofest 2011 - Friday Lectures start with...the amazing moons of Mars

Started by Geoffw, February 24, 2011, 11:07:57 pm

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Geoffw

Phobos and Deimos, the amazing moons of Mars

Where did the two tiny moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? They were long thought to be captured asteroids, but new evidence from Mars-orbiting spacecraft suggests they result from a cataclysmic impact on the planet itself. The discovery on the surface of Phobos of minerals that formed in the presence of water gives strength to the idea that the moons were born from their host planet. Streaked with impact craters, Phobos certainly has suffered a tumultuous past. We should get first-hand information on it, including samples from its surface, when the Russian probe Phobos-Grunt gets there in the next few years. This talk explored the characteristics of the moons of Mars, and tried to solve the mystery of how they came to be orbiting the red planet.

Dr Emily Baldwin is Astronomy Now's Website Editor and Deputy Editor. She completed a PhD in impact cratering at University College London in 2008. Emily is a keen advocate of promoting the wonders of space to young people and the general public, and fulfills this role as the director for the Society for Popular Astronomy's youth section, the Young Stargazers, as well as giving talks to local astronomy societies.
Geoff

Geoffw

Observing with the Faulkes Telescopes


The Faulkes Telescope Project has been providing a unique resource to UK schools and amateur astronomers since 2004 - live access to two 2-metre robotic telescopes, equipped with research-grade astronomical instruments, and located at professional observatory sites in Maui, Hawaii (FT North) and Siding Spring, Australia (FT South). A telescope in each hemisphere provides all-sky coverage, and future plans will allow access to a truly global network, through the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope.This presentation covered some of the educational and research highlights from the past seven years, and featured live observing with Australian telescope. Funded by the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust, the telescopes are freely available for use by UK educational groups and astronomical societies. Collaborations with leading amateur astronomers and university researchers ensure high-quality research and educational programmes.

Dr Paul Roche is Director of the Faulkes Telescopes Project, the UK National Schools? Astronomer (funded by the STFC research council), and now revels in the title of ?Space Ambassador for Wales? (funded by ESA and the Department for Education). He has just established a new Astronomy Education Centre at the University of Glamorgan, where the Faulkes Telescope Project is now located. He still dabbles in research in X-ray binaries and massive stars, but his current roles involve promoting educational and research uses for Internet-based telescopes, and developing better links between amateur astronomers, researchers and schools.
Geoff

Geoffw

Epsilon Aurigae: Eclipses from beyond the Solar System

Epsilon Aurigae is an eclipsing binary with an unusually long period. Every 27 years a dark companion causes a dimming that lasts for nearly two years. The variability of Epsilon Aurigae was first discovered by the German astronomer Johann Fritsch in 1821 and the nature of the companion that eclipses it has puzzled astronomers ever since. The current eclipse, which began in 2009, has finally allowed astronomers to solve this long-standing mystery. High-resolution pictures, taken by combining the light of four telescopes more than 300 metres apart, have captured a magnified image of the mystery companion as it moves across the giant star behind. These images, roughly 140 times sharper than those taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, show the companion to be a thin disc of dust surrounding an as-yet-unseen companion star. This talk explained what the latest observations have told us about Epsilon Aurigae and its companion.

Nathalie Thureau is a postdoctoral research assistant at the University of St Andrews with a particular interest in high angular resolution imaging of stars with long-baseline optical interferometry. She has been involved in observing and developing instrumentation at major interferometric facilities around the world. This has included using the CHARA interferometer on Mount Wilson, California, to image Epsilon Aurigae. Her current research is on understanding the characteristics of debris disks around A stars with the Herschel Space Observatory.
Geoff

Geoffw

Strangers and giants: Uranus and Neptune

The worlds of the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are full of superlatives. Apart from the Sun they are the largest and most massive objects in our Solar System and their influence is felt over enormous distances. The rings and numerous moons around the giant planets lead some people to think of them as miniature solar systems in their own right. Giant planets also have intense magnetic fields and are highly efficient charged particle accelerators which results in spectacular aurorae (northern lights). To mark the 25th anniversary of the first flyby of Uranus by Voyager 2, this talk took us on a cruise of the giant planets before focusing on Uranus and Neptune to show how much we still don't know about these distant bodies. The talk concluded with an overview of upcoming missions to the outer planets.

Chris Arridge is a planetary scientist at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London. His professional work is focused on the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and future European missions to the outer planets. His scientific research involves the study of magnetic fields and charged particles around giant planets. Originally from Hull, he studied at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College London where he gained his PhD studying some of the first measurements made by the Cassini orbiter at Saturn. Chris is also active in the engagement of young people in science, mathematics and engineering.
Geoff

Geoffw

Fred Hoyle, cosmologist and controversialists

Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was one of the most influential and controversial astrophysicists of his generation. A pioneer of the use of radio broadcasts to popularize astronomy, he was much liked by the general public. In 1949 he famously coined the term 'the big bang' to conjure up an image of the exploding Universe. Today it is perhaps unfortunate that Hoyle is remembered as a scientist who backed a flawed cosmological theory (the steady state universe) for too long, and then confused his followers by plunging into controversies as varied as the purpose of Stonehenge ('it's an eclipse computer'), the fossil archaeopteryx ('it's a fake'), or the causes of influenza pandemics ('viruses from space'). This lecture by Hoyle's biographer sought to re-establish Hoyle's reputation by describing his many achievements in astrophysics, particularly regarding the origin of the chemical elements, as well as the good that came from his controversial cosmology.

Dr Simon Mitton studied radio astronomy at Cambridge and received his PhD in physics. As a graduate student he worked with Martin Ryle, and on completion of his degree was awarded a fellowship at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, founded and directed by Fred Hoyle. He later became the science publishing director of Cambridge University Press. At Cambridge he is a Fellow of St Edmund�s College and is affiliated to the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science. His book Fred Hoyle: A life in science is being reissued in 2011 by Cambridge University Press and he will be signing copies on the CUP stand.
Geoff

Geoffw

Seeing how galaxies form: new observations from Hubble and Herschel

Distant galaxies are dimmed by cosmic dust. Around half their light is absorbed by dust and then reradiated in the far infrared. To get a complete picture of these galaxies, we must not only observe the visible light but also the 50% of the energy that is hidden from optical telescopes. This talk covers recent research into the origin and evolution of galaxies that is being carried out with the two largest telescopes in space: Hubble and Herschel. With its new camera, the Hubble Space Telescope is now detecting galaxies as they appeared only 500 million years after the Big Bang. The Herschel Space Observatory, launched in May 2009, is detecting tens of thousands of galaxies in which many young stars are completely hidden by dust. Results from both telescopes are contributing to solving the puzzle of galaxy evolution. The talk ends by looking forward to future exploration of this ancient era that can be expected with the James Webb Space Telescope.

Steve Eales is a professor of astronomy at Cardiff University. His main interest is in understanding the origin and evolution of galaxies, using telescopes in space and on the ground to observe how they have changed over the past 12 billion years. He is currently leading a major galaxy survey with the Herschel Space Observatory, called ATLAS. His book Origins, published by Springer, is about recent research into the origins of planets, stars, galaxies and the Universe.
Geoff

Geoffw

No time to end the world

According to the rules of the Maya calendar system, which relied on multiple cycles of time, a primary interval, Baktun 13, ends on the winter solstice of 2012. Although pseudoscientific claims have linked this calendrical curiosity to a supposed Maya prophecy of the end of time, there is no documented Maya belief in the world's end in 2012 nor even that they attributed any unusual significance to the event. Recent claims, however, promote the date's galactic alignment and link it with the detailed structure of our Galaxy, information known only through modern astronomy. This light-hearted presentation poked gentle fun at how the 2012 beliefs about global transformation, Solar System alignment, rogue planets, catastrophic pole shifts, and calamitous sunspots have been fabricated and marketed and will tell us what the Universe is really doing on the winter solstice in 2012.

Dr Ed Krupp is Director of Griffith Observatory, a public observatory and planetarium in Los Angeles, a role he has filled since 1974. He earned his PhD in the Department of Astronomy at UCLA, where he studied the properties of rich clusters of galaxies under the late Dr George Abell. He is now recognized internationally as an expert on ancient, prehistoric, and traditional astronomy, and has visited over 1,900 sites around the world of astronomical and archaeological interest.
Geoff

Geoffw

Geoff