Skywatching

Dick Plambeck presents a public talk at UC Berkeley on December 19, 2009, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, as part of the series described at astro.berkeley.edu/iya

Stars and their planets are born inside dense clouds of gas and dust. These clouds are opaque to optical light, so one can witness the earliest stages of star formation only at radio wavelengths, via the weak signals emitted by molecules and dust grains. To obtain a clear view it is necessary to link together multiple radio telescopes, combining the signals from them with timing accuracies of a trillionth of a second. Dr. Plambeck discusses both the technological challenges and recent discoveries, with examples from the recently completed CARMA telescope array in Eastern California.

Dick Plambeck is a research astronomer at UC Berkeley. He combines a scientist's interest in the processes involved in the birth of stars, with an engineer's interest in the methods used to study them, and a raconteur's talent for storytelling. He was involved in moving nine 20-foot-wide radio dishes hundreds of miles to a new site, and their subsequent positioning and calibrating to high accuracy in order to study the faint signals from gas and dust surrounding distant stars.

Videography and editing by Chris Klein. This video is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License - creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us

j vimeo.com/8301564

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