Friday 5th February 2021 at 7.30 pm on Zoom,

The Looking Glass Universe – From Baryogenesis to Biogenesis

Is there a connection between the excess of matter over antimatter and handedness in biology?

Roger Blandford (KIPAC, Stanford University)

Image credit: ESO/APEX & MSX/IPAC/NASA and A.Symes

The laws of physics were long thought to be unchanged when viewed in a mirror.
We have known for over sixty years that they are not.
As Sakharov first explained, this asymmetry, in action during the first moments of the universe, may account for the prevalence of matter over antimatter today.
Likewise, as Pasteur first showed, the laws of biology are similarly asymmetric, as is exhibited by the structure of DNA.
In this talk I will discuss how there might be a causal connection between these two qualities, mediated by cosmic rays.
On the way, I will illustrate this uneven-handedness using recent, exciting, astronomical discoveries, involving black holes, neutron stars and exoplanets.

Roger Blandford took his BA, MA and PhD degrees at Cambridge University. Following postdoctoral research at Cambridge, Princeton and Berkeley he took up a faculty position at Caltech in 1976 where he was appointed as the Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in 1989. In 2003 He moved to Stanford University to become the first Director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) and the Luke Blossom Chair in the School of Humanities and Science. His research interests include black hole astrophysics, cosmology, gravitational lensing, cosmic ray physics and compact stars. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008-2010, he chaired a two year National Academy of Sciences Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He was awarded the 1998 Dannie Heineman Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the 2013 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the 2016 Crafoord Prize for Astronomy and the 2020 Shaw Prize for Astronomy.

As a lecture of exceptional interest, this is classed as a BRLSI premier event with tickets available from Eventbrite at £7 and £4 (Please note that BRLSI and Herschel Society members qualify for the lower price). Follow the link to Eventbrite below to reserve tickets.

Friday 5th March at 7.30 pm on Zoom

NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter

Dr. Fran Bagenal
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
University of Colorado, Boulder

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars. With its suite of science instruments, Juno is investigating the interior structure, mapping Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measuring the distribution of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere. JUNO is also the first spacecraft to fly over Jupiter’s aurora and measuring both the energetic particles raining down on the planet and the bright “northern & southern lights” they excite. A huge bonus is the small public outreach camera that is taking fantastic images of Jupiter’s beautiful clouds. The images – some science, some art – are processed and shared by the public around the world. NASA’s JUNO mission was launched in August 2011 and has been in orbit over Jupiter’s poles since 4th July 2016.

Dr. Fran Bagenal is a research scientist and professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and is co-investigator and team leader of the plasma investigations on NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Juno mission to Jupiter. Her main area of expertise is the study of charged particles trapped in planetary magnetic fields and the interaction of plasmas with the atmospheres of planetary objects, particularly in the outer solar system. She edited the monograph Jupiter: Planet, Satellites and Magnetosphere (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Born and raised in the UK, Dr. Bagenal received her bachelor degree in Physics and Geophysics from the University of Lancaster, England, and her doctorate degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from MIT (Cambridge, Mass) in 1981. She spent five years as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College, London, before returning to the United States for research and faculty positions in Boulder, Colorado. She has participated in several of NASA’s planetary exploration missions, including Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo, Deep Space 1, New Horizons and Juno.

Follow the link to Eventbrite below to reserve tickets (BRLSI and Herschel members at the lower price).

Wednesday 18th November at 7.00 pm on MS Teams, Caroline Herschel Prize Lecture, Supermassive Black Holes – the Ultimate Galaxy Killers?

Image credit: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

The talk is being run by the University of Bath in conjunction with the Herschel Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

There are over one billion galaxies in the Universe, each home to over a billion stars and one central supermassive black hole weighing in at up to a billion times the mass of the Sun. Theoretical astrophysicists think that these supermassive black holes can either heat or remove the cold hydrogen gas within a galaxy needed to form new stars through a huge outburst of energy. This process has to occur in computer simulated universes to stop galaxies evolving and growing too large. However, the big problem is that astronomers have never actually observed this process happening in our Universe.

This talk will focus on the research of astrophysicists trying to understand the conflict between observations of galaxies and their supermassive black holes and the current best model of the Universe. In particular Dr. Smethurst will highlight the work being done by the MaNGA survey team who are attempting to map the insides of over 10,000 galaxies in order to solve this long-standing problem.

Dr Becky Smethurst is an astrophysics research fellow at Christ Church at the University of Oxford working with the innovative data provided by the SDSS MaNGA survey to determine the effects of supermassive black holes on their host galaxies. She was awarded her PhD by the University of Oxford, using the public’s classifications of the shapes of galaxies from the online citizen science project Galaxy Zoo in her thesis on galaxy evolution. She then had a research fellowship at the University of Nottingham where she also started presenting videos for the science YouTube channels Sixty Symbols and Deep Sky Objects.

You can join the live online lecture from 19:00 – 20:30 on Wednesday 18 November 2020 by registering on the link below. There is no charge, but you need to register. A further link will be emailed to you before the event allowing you to view the lecture on Zoom.

Friday 6th November 2020 at 7.30 pm on Zoom, Dr Bob Fosbury, How the Sun Paints the Sky (Full recording now available to view)

Unless they are astronauts, humans must view the Universe through the window of the Earth’s atmosphere. Although a clear sky is relatively transparent to visible light, bright astronomical objects — most noticeably the Sun — can paint the entire sky with luminosity, colour and shadow to be captured by both landscape painters and photographers. How does this happen and what physical processes are responsible for these beautiful colours, gradations and patterns? The talk explains some of this and is illustrated with spectacular images of the sky from space and from above the European observatories in the Chilean Atacama desert.

Robert (Bob) Fosbury is currently an emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory and an honorary professor at the Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL.

The recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view.

Friday 2nd October 2020 at 7.30 pm on Zoom, John I. Davies, Joint BIS/HS lecture – First Steps to Interstellar Probes- i4is Project Glowworm (Full recording now available to view)

The lecture will explain i4is Project Glowworm – a near term low earth orbit demonstration of laser push technology. This is a first step to interstellar probes using that technology. The lecture will explain the motivation for this project, set out the history of, and physical basis for, laser propulsion, summarise the alternative means of interstellar propulsion, outline the planning for the probe and mention some other i4is work including Project Lyra, planning probes to reach interstellar objects such as 1I/’Oumuamua.

The lecture will be given by John I. Davies of the Initiative & Institute for Interstellar Studies (i4is).

The recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view.

Friday 4th September 2020 at 7.30 pm on Zoom, Dr Dirk Froebrich, The HOYS-CAPS Project – Hunting Outbursting Young Stars (Full recording now available to view)

The talk will introduce the Hunting Outbursting Young Stars (HOYS) citizen science project. They work with amateur astronomers to study the formation of stars and planets. We will give a brief overview on how stars and planets are forming and discuss how the project relies almost exclusively on data taken by Amateur Astronomers. The second half of the talk will be used to show some of the interesting results they have obtained. The lecturer will also briefly explain how people can participate in the data collection and data analysis.

Dr Dirk Froebrich is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, School of Physical Sciences, University of Kent

The recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view.