Talks given by high profile astronomers and scientists.

Thursday January 21, 2021
Prof. Corinne Charbonnel
University of Geneva


Globular clusters (GCs) are fascinating objects nearly as old as the Universe that provide insight on a large variety of astrophysical and cosmological processes. However, their formation and their early and long-term evolution are far from being understood. In particular, the classical paradigm describing GCs as large systems of coeval stars formed out of chemically homogeneous material has been definitively swept away by recent high-precision spectroscopic and deep photometric observations. These data have provided undisputed evidence that GCs host multiple stellar populations, with very peculiar chemical properties. In this talk, I will review the properties of these multiple populations, before presenting the different scenarios that have been proposed to describe their formation. I will focus on the (many) current theoretical issues and open questions. 

Thursday May 28, 2020
Prof. Avishai Dekel
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


This talk will address the preferred mass and time for galaxy formation, in dark-matter haloes similar to that of the Milky way but when the Universe was a few Gigayears old. It is proposed that this is due to the interplay between two mechanisms, first *supernova* feedback that removes gas from the galaxy, and second *hot gas* in the deep potential well of massive haloes that suppresses cold gas supply to the galaxy, the two being effective in galaxies of lower and higher masses respectively. Cosmological simulations reveal that the same mechanisms are responsible for a robust sequence of events were galaxies undergo a dramatic gaseous *compaction*, sometimes caused by mergers, into a compact star-forming “blue nugget”. This triggers inside-out *quenching* of star formation, which is maintained by a hot massive halo aided by black-hole feedback, leading to todays passive elliptical galaxies. The blue-nugget phase is responsible for drastic transitions in the main galaxy structural, kinematic and compositional properties. In particular, the growth of the *black hole* in the galaxy center, first suppressed by supernova feedback when below the critical mass, is boosted by the compaction event and keeps growing once the halo is massive enough to lock the supernova ejecta by its deep potential well and the hot halo. The compaction events also trigger the formation of extended rings in high-z massive galaxies. These events all occur near the same characteristic halo mass, giving rise to the highest efficiency of galaxy formation and black-hole growth at this magic mass and time.


Zoom link:

Thursday January 30, 2020
Prof. Javier Garcia Campayo
Universidad de Zaragoza


Mindfulness o atención plena es un estado de la mente que permite estar atento al momento presente con aceptación. Y describe también la técnica psicológica que permite alcanzar este estado. Mindfulness se asocia a una gran bienestar físico y psicológico y por eso su práctica se está extendiendo a nivel internacional y se aplica en el área de la salud, la educación y las organizaciones.
En el coloquio sentaremos las bases teóricas de mindfulness, realizaremos algunas prácticas básicas y analizaremos los mecanismos de acción y la utilidad de mindfulness en el día a día.

Friday December 13, 2019
Prof. J. R. Kuhn
IfA, Hawaii


We should find life beyond the solar system ("exolife") within a decade. This will require optical instruments that can perform exoplanet direct imaging.  There are good reasons to expect that telescopes from the ground will lead this search. Unfortunately, none of the currently envisioned large telescopes are optimal for detecting and measuring the emitted or reflected starlight from life-bearing exoplanets. This talk will describe what a 20-100m-class optical telescope would look like and could do if it were designed to solve exoplanet imaging problems. Such a telescope could be initiated today using technologies that are either currently available or under vigorous development.

Thursday December 12, 2019
Dr. Marc Pinsonneault
Ohio State university


Time-domain space missions have revolutionized our understanding of stellar physics and stellar populations. Virtually all evolved stars can be detected as oscillators in missions such as Kepler, K2, TESS and PLATO.  Asteroseismology, or the study of stellar oscillations, can be combined with spectroscopy to infer masses, radii and ages for very large samples of stars.  This asteroseismic data can also be used to train machine learning tools to infer ages for even larger stellar population studies, sampling a large fraction of the volume of the Milky Way galaxy. In this talk I demonstrate that asteroseismic radii are in excellent agreement with those inferred using Gaia and spectroscopic data; this demonstrates that the current asteroseismic data is precise and accurate at the 1-2% level.  Major new catalogs for Kepler and K2 data are nearing completion, and I present initial results from both. We find unexpected age patterns in stars though to be chemically old, illustrating the power of age information for Galactic archeology.  Prospects for future progress in the TESS era will also be discussed.

Thursday December 5, 2019
Prof. Raffaella Morganti
ASTRON, Netherlands


Our view of the gas and its physical conditions in the central region of AGN has been enriched by the discover of fast and massive outflows of HI and molecular gas. These outflows can be driven by radiation/winds but also by the interaction of the radio plasma with the ISM. Understanding the origin and quantifying their impact requires to trace their location and derive their physical conditions (density of the gas, mass, mass outflow rate and kinetic energy of the outflow etc.). Particularly interesting has been the finding that in the first phase of their life, jet in radio galaxies can be particularly effective in driving such outflows. This crucial phase is at the heart of the idea of feedback, therefore particularly relevant for studying feedback in action.


In this talk, I will present some of the results we have obtained to trace jet-driven HI and molecular gas outflows down to scales ranging from hundred to tens of pc. The impact of low-power radio jets will be discussed and the comparison with the predictions from numerical simulations will also be presented.

Outflows of up to few hundred Msun/yr have been found in molecular gas using ALMA while the HI observed with VLBI is showing that the outflowing gas is clumpy as also predicted from numerical simulations. I will describe the kinematics of the gas and its conditions and the relevance they may have for feedback.    

Friday November 8, 2019
Prof. Andrej Prsa
Villanova University


Most of what we know about the masses and radii of stars comes from the studies of eclipsing binary stars (EBs). As the physical principles that govern the motion are well understood, modelling EB data represents a tractable geometrical problem. The attained accuracy of fundamental parameters is ~2-3% in the best possible cases (Torres et al. 2010), which plays a paramount role in stellar astrophysics: these results are used to calibrate the mass-radius relationship, critically test stellar evolution models, provide fundamental parameters (temperature, luminosity, mass and radius) for stellar and substellar objects across the main sequence, and anchor the distance scale. Given that so much in stellar astrophysics hinges critically on the values derived from EBs, we naturally wonder whether there are any circumstances that would allow us to beat down the uncertainties by another order of magnitude, say to a ~0.2-0.3% level, and thus achieve a 10-fold increase in calibration and gauge reliability. This could be done if the correlations between parameters were somehow reduced, and solution degeneracy somehow broken. If, for example, we had a third star in the system that happens to eclipse the binary, then the shapes of extraneous eclipses in a light curve would constrain the orbital inclination and stellar radii much more than the binary eclipses alone.
In this talk, I will discuss these and similar considerations and show what Kepler, K2 and TESS missions brought to the table.

Thursday October 10, 2019
Prof. Paul Abell


A major goal for NASA's human spaceflight program is to send astronauts to the Moon and beyond in the coming decades. The first missions would focus on exploration of the Moon with the intent of developing the technologies and capabilities to then proceed on to Mars.  

However, there are many objects that show promise as future destinations beyond the Moon, which do not require the extensive mission capabilities or durations required for Mars exploration. These objects are known as Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and would undoubtedly provide a great deal of technical and engineering data on spacecraft operations for future human space exploration and serve as stepping stones for NASA’s efforts to reach Mars.  A subset of these objects has been identified within the ongoing investigation of the NASA Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS).

Information obtained from a human investigation of a NEO, together with ground-based observations and prior spacecraft investigations of asteroids and comets (e.g., Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx), will provide a real measure of ground truth to data obtained from terrestrial meteorite collections.  In addition, robotic precursor and human exploration missions to NEOs would allow NASA and its international partners to gain operational experience in performing complex tasks (e.g., sample collection, deployment of payloads, retrieval of payloads, etc.) with crew, robots, and spacecraft under microgravity conditions at or near the surface of a small body.  This would provide an important synergy between the worldwide Science and Exploration communities, which will be crucial for development of future international deep space exploration architectures and has potential benefits for future exploration of destinations beyond the Earth-Moon system (e.g., Mars).

Thursday October 3, 2019
Prof. Michael Kramer
Director MPI Radioastronomie


We are living in a golden era for testing gravitational physics with precision experiments. This talk will present new results using a variety of tests with radio astronomy, ranging from binary pulsars to imaging black holes in the centre of galaxies. These results will be placed in context of other ongoing experiments, such as detecting gravitational wave with ground-based detectors or pulsar timing arrays, before giving an outlook into the future.

Thursday July 25, 2019
Prof. Mike Barlow
University College London


Until the advent in the late 1990’s of sensitive submillimetre arrays such as SCUBA, it was generally thought that the main sources for the interstellar dust found in galaxies were the dusty outflows from evolved AGB stars and M supergiants, although a dust contribution from supernovae had long been predicted on theoretical grounds. The detection at submillimetre wavelengths of very large dust masses in some high redshift galaxies emitting less than a billion years after the Big Bang led to a more serious consideration of core-collapse supernovae (CCSNe) from massive stars as major dust contributors. KAO and Spitzer mid-infrared observations confirmed that CCSN ejecta could form dust but it was not until the Herschel mission and subsequent ALMA observations that direct evidence has been obtained for the presence of significantly large masses of cold dust in young CCSN remnants. As well as using infrared spectral energy distributions to measure the amounts of dust forming in CCSN ejecta, dust masses can also be quantified from the analysis of red-blue asymmetries in their late-time optical emission line profiles. I will describe current results from these methods for estimating ejecta dust masses, and their implications.

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