Friday 3rd March 2023 Accuracy, Innovation and the Advance of Astronomy 1923 – 2023

Image of Laser guide stars in action at ESO’s VLT – credit: ESO/P. Horálek

Friday 3rd March 2023 7.30 pm given in person at the BRLSI and can be attended either in the BRLSI or remotely on Zoom.

Professor Mike Edmunds
President of the RAS and Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Cardiff University

How have advances in technology changed astronomy over the past 100 years? In this talk I will show just how closely discovery has followed technical innovation, allowing observations that would previously have seemed impossible. Obviously great advances have come with spaceflight allowing observations from outside the Earth’s atmosphere, but two other factors have also been crucial – the development of efficient detectors of electromagnetic radiation and the application of computers to both instrument control and data analysis. Driving down experimental errors in pursuit of ever-more accurate measurements has been important too. I will particularly highlight advances in cosmology, the nature of galactic nuclei and the discovery of exoplanets.

Mike Edmunds is Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University in Wales. Both his first degree (Natural Sciences) and Ph.D (Astronomy) were from the University of Cambridge. He moved to Cardiff University in 1974, where he was in succession Research Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor, serving as Head of School between 2002 and 2005. Prof. Edmunds. main areas of research have been in the determination and interpretation of the chemical composition of galaxies and the Universe, and on the origin of interstellar dust.

In recent years he has worked in the history of astronomy. He also has particular interests in physics education and public outreach. He has served on the Councils (and many committees and panels) of the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the UK Science and Technology Council. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was the 2004 George Darwin lecturer on “The Elementary Universe” for the Royal Astronomical Society, and has just retired as Chair of their Astronomical Heritage Committee. He is also Chair of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, Chair and Member of the Institute of Physics Curriculum and Welsh Education Committees and a vice-president of the Herschel Society.

A recording of this lecture is freely available here.