Title: Dissecting galaxies using Hubble Space Telescope
Abstract: In this talk I will discuss some of the largest observing programs ever undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope. These have resolved millions of the most luminous stars in nearby galaxies. These measurements lead to an unprecedented understanding of where and when stars formed, the composition of galaxies and the distribution of mass within galaxies. These factors provide new insights into the evolutionary history of galaxies and underpin all studies of galaxy evolution.
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Title: The role of black holes in galaxy evolution.
Abstract: : Almost all galaxies possess a massive black hole at their center. Despite being a thousand times less massive than the galaxy and a billion times smaller in size, we now believe that these black holes are major players in the story of how galaxies evolve. In some cases, black holes appear to act as "safety valves", regulating and eventually halting the continued growth of massive galaxies. In others, black holes may promote and enhance galaxy formation. In this talk, I will discuss the evidence leading us to these remarkable conclusions as well as the theoretical issues and open questions that arise when we try to understand the details of black hole regulation.
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Title: The Fast Track to Finding an Inhabited Exoplanet
Abstract: The investigation of planets orbiting other stars has moved from the study of gas giants
to the hunt for smaller planets that are predominantly rock and ice in composition. When such
planets are discovered in edge-on orbits, such that the planet and star undergo mutual eclipses, we
are granted the opportunity to determine directly the planetary masses and sizes. Most
interestingly, we can study starlight filtered through the planetary atmosphere to deduce its
chemical composition, and perhaps even search for biosignatures. I will summarize the most recent
results from the NASA Kepler Mission and describe two surveys intended to find the closest
Title: Millisecond Pulsars, Magnetars, and Black Holes: The Wickedly Cool Stellar Undead.
Abstract: The most massive stars burn the fastest and brightest and die spectacularly, exploding as supernovae and leaving behind some of the most fantastic objects in the Universe: neutron stars and black holes. These are fascinating objects themselves, but ever since Bell and Hewish discovered the first pulsar over 40 years ago, we've realized that we can use the neutron stars especially as powerful tools for basic physics and astrophysics as well. Specialized "timing" observations of the MSPs are providing a wealth of science, including new tests of general relativity, amazing probes of the interstellar medium, constraints on the physics of ultra-dense matter, new windows into the evolution of stellar systems both simple and complex, and the promise of a direct detection of massive ripples in space-time, gravitational waves.
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Title: Unveiling the Birth of Stars and Galaxies
Abstract: Understanding the birth of stars is one of grand challenges of 21st century astrophysics, with impacts extending from the formation of planets to the birth and shaping of galaxies themselves. The challenge has been all the more difficult because the most active birth sites are largely hidden in visible light. Thanks to a new generation of infrared and submillimetre space telescopes this veil has been lifted, and a complete picture of starbirth in the Universe is emerging. They reveal an extraordinary diversity of activities in galaxies, and an emerging history of star formation cosmic time, extending back to some of the first stars and seeds of galaxies. This talk will summarise what we have learnt about starbirth on cosmic scales, and highlight the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.