Friday 10th May 7.30pm at the BRLSI. Beacons in the Night: Mapping the Universe with Variable Stars

Dr Vicky Scowcroft has kindly agreed to reschedule her lecture of 1st February which had to be cancelled because of the snow.

Abstract:

For centuries, variable stars have been crucial in the study of stellar populations. Astronomers have conducted rigorous observations over many decades in order to understand the physics behind their varying brightnesses. These unique objects come in many flavours, some changing regularly and predictably, with others changing erratically, sometimes lying dormant for years at a time. The changes that occur in a variable star occur on human timescales, making them one of the few astronomical objects whose evolution we can observe in real time.

However, these variables are not just fascinating probes of stellar evolution; they are also powerful distance indicators, enabling us to measure distances to objects within our Galaxy and beyond. Over the past 100 years, variable stars have made essential contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the Universe, and continue to be at the forefront of modern astrophysics to this day.

In this lecture, I will discuss the vast contributions that variable stars have made to astronomy and cosmology. I will describe how variable stars are used to create three-dimensional maps of nearby galaxies, revealing new details about their structure and evolution. I will discuss the advances in cosmology brought about through variable star studies, such as Hubble’s discovery of the expanding Universe, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating, and what this tells us about the ultimate fate of our Universe.

Background of Lecturer:

Dr Vicky Scowcroft is a Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Bath. She moved to Bath in 2016 as a University of Bath 50th Anniversary Prize Fellow. After receiving her PhD in Astrophysics from Liverpool John Moores University in 2010, she moved to The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, California, working as part of the Carnegie Hubble Program team to make the first measurement of the expansion rate of the Universe using mid-infrared observations. Her research uses variable stars as precision distance indicators in order to determine the structure of nearby galaxies and the evolutionary history of our Universe.

 

Friday 5th April 7.30pm at the BRLSI. Professor Mark Birkinshaw. “Variety in Astronomical Orbits.”

Variety in astronomical orbits

Gravitation dominates the dynamics of the Universe on scales larger than a few kilometres, and so orbital motion is the basic motion of bodies in the Universe. The variety of orbital motions is much wider than the set of elliptical shapes that are used as an approximation in the Solar System. In this lecture I will extend the concept or orbital motion into more general classes of orbits, such as those around rotating black holes.

Mark Birkinshaw

… is the William P. Coldrick Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Bristol, and also holds visiting appointments with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Chalmers University. He is well-known for work on jets from active galaxies, structures in the microwave background radiation, and perturbation theory in jet physics and general relativity.

Poster

Friday 1st March 7.30pm at the BRLSI. WHS Annual Lecture. Dr Chris North. “Herschel: A Space Observatory’s Legacy” BRLSI 7.30pm

Herschel: A Space Observatory’s Legacy

Dr Chris North will recap the Herschel Space Observatory, in terms of the mission design and its science goals, and the discoveries that have been made from it. From planets to supermassive galaxies, the range of discoveries is vast. The science continues apace, even nearly 10 years after Herschel’s launch, and new results are continuing to come out. He’ll look to the future, and what upcoming missions will do to build on the legacy of Herschel.

The Herschel Space observatory was an infrared telescope and so this lecture will complement the Herschel Museum’s current theme of infrared which was famously discovered to be a constituent of the solar spectrum by William Herschel.

Friday 5th October. “To Mars via Kazakhstan Beagle 2, lost on Mars but found 11 years later.” Terry Ransome

The final highlight in Terry Ransome’s working life was to work at the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where Yuri Gagarin embarked on the first human spaceflight.  It is still busy today launching astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station and lots more.

He took with him the UK’s Mars Lander Beagle2, the probe that was ‘lost’ on Mars on Christmas 2003, but ‘found’ 11 years later.

In this talk he tells of his Beagle2 and Kazakhstan experiences and how Beagle2 was eventually found and identified on the Red Planet. A
postscript tells of the latest (2016) European attempt at a Mars landing and looks ahead to the future.

Wednesday 21st November – Caroline Herschel Prize Lecture. Bath University.

Dr Sarah Rugheimer (Simons Research Fellow at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews) is an outstanding early career researcher studying the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, and the potential of these atmospheres to provide fingerprints of conditions that can sustain life. Her key results include showing how clouds can complicate the detection of oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, and how a star’s ultraviolet radiation affects the ability to detect signatures of life on its orbiting planets. Her energy and vision were central to the creation of the Centre for Exoplanet Science at St Andrews, where she has integrated and utilised insights ranging from the geochemical and isotopic character of the Earth’s rock archive to the fundamental physics of how a planet’s atmosphere forms. Her lectures demonstrate a rare clarity of understanding, and she has proved effective at presenting scientific concepts to the public.

30th November 2018 – Early Indian Astronomy and the Birth of Zero, Dr Peter Ford MBE and Deepali Gaskell

This talk starts in Georgian Bath where former members of the British East India Company came to take the waters and exchanged ideas about the mathematics that they had found in Bengal. It will trace the development of Indian Mathematics and the vital concept of Zero from its origins in ancient astronomy to its use in commerce and science.

Dr Peter Ford was a shadow trustee of the reformed BRLSI from 1990-1993. He was then one of the first trustees representing the University of Bath and later the membership of the BRLSI. He has lived in Lansdown Crescent for forty years half of which was spent in the Physics Department of the University of Bath. He was chair of the William Herschel Society for nine years. In 2008 he was awarded MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for “services to higher education and science”.
Deepali Gaskell. Marriage brought Deepali to Bath, where she now lives. Her interest in Astronomy and Mathematics nurtured by her mother who was an historian and archaeologist was revived when she came across, in her voluntary work with the National Trust, the collection of books in the library at Stourhead which included the Asiatick Researches commissioned by the British East India Company in the 1770’s. This has provided much of the material for this talk.
Deepali has also referred to the Records Office and to the collection in the archives of BRLSI, where she found Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Max Muller’s translation from the Veda, and Journals of the East India Company all of which helped to produce this talk. Deepali is on the Publications and Website committees at BRLSI.