Talks given by high profile astronomers and scientists.

Thursday October 21, 2010
Prof. Michael Parker Pearson
University of Sheffield, UK


Since 2003 there has been a new period of excavation and research on Stonehenge. With two excavations inside Stonehenge and many more around it, archaeologists now have a new chronology for this famous monument as well as the prehistoric monuments with which it is associated. While theories of its use as an astronomical observatory were proposed in the late 20th century, current approaches re-interpret Stonehenge’s astronomical alignments as calendrical indicators for the timing of social gatherings, in which Stonehenge was part of a larger complex of monuments in wood and stone, centered on a short stretch of the River Avon. Many of these other monuments were also designed to mark astronomical events but these have received less attention than their more famous stone counterpart. In 2009 the Stonehenge Riverside Project, which has been conducting most of the new research, discovered a new stone circle, named as Blue stonehenge, next to the River Avon at the end of Stonehenge’s avenue.

Monday October 4, 2010
Prof. João Magueijo
Imperial College London, UK


Contrary to popular belief, on very large distance scales visible matter stubbornly refuses to "fall" according to the laws of gravity of both Newton and Einstein. The paradox has led to the introduction of dark matter, purporting to explain the observed surplus of gravitational pull. The logical possibility remains that there is no dark matter, what you see is all there is, and that the paradox simply signals the break down of the Einstein-Newton theory of gravity. I will review alternative theories of gravity that do away with the need for dark matter. Surprisingly Solar system gravitational experiments, such as those associated with the LISA Pathfinder mission, might settle the score between the two approaches.

Monday June 21, 2010
Prof. Craig McKay
Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK


A new method of imaging in the visible has given the highest resolution images ever taken anywhere. It needs a natural guide star of only 18.5 mag (I band). This talk will show how it can be done on the WHT, the VLT and even on the GTC.

Thursday June 3, 2010
Prof. Colin Cunningham
UK Astronomy Technology Centre, ROE, UK


Teams from industry, universities and institutes across Europe are contributing to the design and development phase of the European Southern Observatory's project to build the world's biggest optical/infrared telescope. I will outline some of exciting scientific prospects for a fully-adaptive 42m telescope, from studying exoplanets to the furthest galaxies, and then show how some of the technical challenges are being addressed. I will place special emphasis on the work UK teams are doing on instrumentation, detectors and adaptive optics.

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


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.

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


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.

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


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".

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


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.

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


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.

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


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.

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