Colloquia

Talks given by high profile astronomers and scientists.


Video
Thursday April 29, 2010
Prof. Jack Harvey
National Solar Observatory, USA

Abstract

The Sun presents us with many unsolved mysteries. In this talk I discuss three of them that have intrigued me for the last 50 years. Solar flares are the most powerful explosions in space between here and the nearby stars. The only viable power source is stored magnetic energy. Yet definitive observations of changes in the magnetic field associated with flares have been lacking until recently. Measurements with the GONG network have helped to address this mystery and the results are surprising. Efforts to observe the weak magnetic fields in the solar photosphere date nearly to the discovery of magnetism on the Sun. Improvements in observational capabilities have made this area a 'hot' topic with many important contributions from people at the IAC. High resolution observations are clarifying many features. I will focus on the role played by lower resolution work in defining the uniformity of the still mysterious weak magnetic fields over large spatial and temporal scales. Physics changes from hydrodynamic to magnetic dominance as one moves upward from the photosphere to the chromosphere. This leads to significant and complicated changes in the magnetic field in both the active and quiet Sun. Observations of the chromospheric magnetic field show several unexpected and mysterious features. Solving these mysteries will be an exciting area as observational and spectral inversion capabilities develop.

Video
Monday March 29, 2010
Prof. Leslie Sage
Editor Senior Nature, University Maryland, USA

Abstract

Nature is one of the world's leading scientific journals, publishing many papers that receive wide attention by the general public. But, Nature is very selective —> < 7% of submitted papers are published. In order to maximize your chances of getting published, papers should present fundamental new physical insights, or startling observations/results. Theory papers pose additional problems, as we want only those papers that are likely to be the correct explanation, and not simply exploring parameter space. The writing should be clear, concise and directed at the level of a graduate course in the subject. I encourage authors to contact me in advance of submission of a paper, both to ascertain the appropriateness of the result for Nature, and to ensure that the writing is close to our standards. Posting to ArXiv is and always has been allowed, but authors should discuss the specifics with their institutional public affairs officers before doing so. Lapses in professional ethics seem to be on the rise? I will discuss some examples, and what we should be doing to keep astronomy clean.


Video
Tuesday March 23, 2010
Prof. Michael Heller
Vatican Observatory, Italy

Abstract

A Friedman-like cosmological model, based on noncommutative geometry, is presented. Its Planck level is totally nonlocal with no space and no time. The dynamics on this level is strongly probabilistic which makes the initial singularity statistically insignificant. Space, time and the standard dynamics emerge when one goes from the non-commutative regime (on the Planck level) to the usual "commutative physics".


Video
Monday March 22, 2010
Prof. Richard McMahon
Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK

Abstract

Survey operations with the VISTA telescope with it wide field near IR camera started in Feb 2010, following a science verification phase that started in Oct, 2009. I will describe this new 4.2m wide field telescope and the ESO VISTA Public survey program. I will give details of all ESO six public surveys which will be used for a range of galactic and extragalactic science. I am the PI of the largest, by area, VISTA survey, I will focus my talk on the VISTA Hemisphere Survey and I will show how this survey will be used to find quasars in the Epoch of Reionization at redshift greater than 7. The VISTA Hemisphere Survey (VHS) has been been awarded 300 clear nights on the 4.2m ESO VISTA telescopes. VHS observations started i February, 2010 and the survey will take 5 years to complete. The VHS will cover the whole southern celestial hemisphere (dec<0) to a depth 4 magnitudes fainter than 2MASS/DENIS in at least two wavebands J and K. In the South Galactic Cap, 5000 square degrees will be imaged deeper, including H band, and will have supplemental deep multi-band grizY imaging data provided by the Dark Energy Survey (DES). The remainder of the high galactic latitude sky will be imaged in YJHK and combined with ugriz wavebands from the VST ATLAS, SDSS BOSS and Skymapper optical surveys. The medium term scientific goals include: a huge expansion in our knowledge of the lowest-mass and nearest stars; deciphering the merger history and genesis of our own Galaxy; measurement of large-scale structure out to z=1 and measuring the properties of Dark Energy; discovery of the first quasars with z > 7. In my talk, I will describe the scientific motivation and methodology of the search for quasars with z > 7.

Video
Friday March 19, 2010
Prof. Francisco Sánchez
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain

Abstract

La Astronomía, quizá la ciencia organizada más antigua, presente en todas las culturas, que en este Siglo XXI es fundamentalmente Astrofísica, intenta penetrar en el conocimiento de la naturaleza y evolución del Universo, en su conjunto y en detalle. En tan desmesurada aventura, la clave para avanzar sigue siendo la observación astronómica. Y Canarias ha tenido la suerte de que la atmosfera de sus cumbres posea condiciones excepcionales para la observación astronómica. Por eso los observatorios del Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) reúnen la batería más completa de telescopios. Estos observatorios de Canarias constituyen una reserva astronómica mundial, protegida por ley, donde tienen telescopios e instrumentos más sesenta instituciones de dieciocho países. En el Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, además, acaba de entrar en operación el Gran Telescopio Canarias, construido por España. Siendo, con sus 10.4 m. de apertura, el mayor y más avanzado telescopio óptico-infrarrojo del momento. Pronto, esperamos, que a él también venga el Telescopio Europeo Extremadamente Grande (E-ELT) de 42 m., haciendo de en nuestras Islas el centro de gravedad de esta rama de la Ciencia.

La Astrofísica demanda la última tecnología para sus instrumentos en tierra y espacio. Por eso es germen de desarrollo tecnológico e industrial. Lo que supone riqueza económica y social. Sin dejar de ser por ello, como toda ciencia básica, fuente de cultura, al tratar de dar respuestas a las preguntas fundamentales del ser humano, y dotarle de nuevas cosmovisiones.


Video
Thursday March 18, 2010
Prof. James J. Binney
Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics, Oxford University, UK

Abstract

The study of the Milky is expected to have a major impact on our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve. "Near-field cosmology" is being vigorously pursued through a series of major surveys of the Galaxy's stellar content (2-MASS, SDSS, RAVE, Hermes, Apogee, Gaia) that are either in hand or pending. It will be argued that what we want to know is deeply buried in these data and can only be extracted by comparing the surveys with a hierarchy of dynamical models of ever increasing complexity. Work currently being done to build such hierarchical models will be described, and some early results from this work will be summarised.

Video
Thursday March 18, 2010
Prof. Kip S. Thorne
University of Caltech, USA

Abstract

There is a "Warped side" of our universe, consisting of objects and phenomena that are made solely or largely from warped spacetime. Examples are black holes, singularities (inside black holes and in the big bang), and cosmic strings. Numerical-relativity simulations are revolutionizing our understanding of what could exist on our universe's Warped Side; and gravitational-wave observations (LIGO, VIRGO, LISA, ...) will reveal what phenomena actually do exist on the Warped Side, and how they behave.


Video
Monday March 15, 2010
Prof. Kip S. Thorne
University of Caltech, USA

Abstract

Over the next decade or so, the gravitational-wave window onto the Universe will be opened in four frequency bands that span 22 orders of magnitude: The high-frequency band, 10 to 10,000 Hz (ground-based interferometers such as LIGO and VIRGO), the low-frequency band, 10-5 to 0.1 Hz (the space-based interferometer LISA), the very-low frequency band, 10-9 to 10-7 Hz (pulsar timing arrays), and the extremely-low-frequency band, 10-18 to 10-16 Hz (polarization of the cosmic microwave background). This lecture will describe these four bands, the detectors that are being developed to explore them, and what we are likely to learn about black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs and early-universe exotica from these detectors' observations.


Video
Friday November 20, 2009
Dr. Robert Williams
Space Telescope Science Institute, USA

Abstract

Spectroscopic observations of novae date back a century, and the fundamental nature of the outburst has been understood for 50 years. Yet, recent observations suggest possible major modifications to the standard nova paradigm. A high-resolution spectroscopic survey of novae has revealed short-lived heavy element absorption systems near maximum light consisting of Fe-peak and s-process elements. The absorbing gas is circumbinary and it must pre-exist the outburst. Its origin appears to be mass ejection from the secondary star, implying large episodic mass transfer events from the secondary that initiate the nova outburst. The spectroscopic evolution of novae is interpreted in terms of two distinct interacting gas systems in which the bright continuum is produced by the outburst ejecta but absorption and emission lines originate in gas ejected by the secondary star in a way that may explain dust formation and X-ray emission from novae.

Video
Thursday November 5, 2009
Prof. Rony Keppens
Centre for Plasma-Astrophysics, K. U. Leuven, Belgium

Abstract

I will present grid-adaptive computational studies of both magnetized and unmagnetized jet flows, with significantly relativistic bulk speeds, as appropriate for AGN jets. Our relativistic jet studies shed light on the observationally established classification of Fanaroff-Riley galaxies, where the appearance in radio maps distinguishes two types of jet morphologies. We investigate how density changes in the external medium can induce one-sided jet decelerations, explaining the existence of hybrid morphology radio sources. Our simulations explore under which conditions highly energetic FR II jets may suddenly decelerate and continue with FR I characteristics. In a related investigation, we explore the role of dynamically important, organized magnetic fields in the collimation of the relativistic jet flows. In that study, we concentrate on morphological features of the bow shock and the jet beam, for various jet Lorentz factors and magnetic field helicities. We show that the helicity of the magnetic field is effectively transported down the beam, with compression zones in between diagonal internal cross-shocks showing stronger toroidal field regions. For the high speed jets considered, significant jet deceleration only occurs beyond distances exceeding hundred jet radii, as the axial flow can reaccelerate downstream to internal cross-shocks. This reacceleration is magnetically aided, due to field compression across the internal shocks which pinch the flow.


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