Category for past lectures/events with recordings and/or text version available.

Friday 1 April 2022 7.30 pm BRLSI Zoom lecture projected at the BRLSI and delivered from Texas The Water Cycle of a Cold Early Mars and its Potential Role in the Persistence of a Northern Ocean

Stephen Clifford
Senior Research Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Image credit: (c) National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Investigations by robotic spacecraft have provided persuasive evidence that early Mars was water-rich, hosting numerous lakes and possibly a northern ocean that covered as much as a third of the planet. This talk will review the evidence for such an ocean as well as the process that may have affected its timing, duration, and ultimate loss.

Steve Clifford has cooperated with Mike Carr who gave the lecture on 5th November last year on Mars: Ancient rivers, lakes and oceans. But where is the water now? – so this lecture will follow on from Mike Carr’s.

Stephen Clifford is a Senior Research Scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he conducts research on the hydrologic and climatic behavior of water on Mars. His research has included studies of the stability and replenishment of Martian ground ice; glacial flow and polar evolution; the seismic and hydrologic effects of impact cratering; large-scale groundwater transport; and the and geophysical investigations of planetary environments with deep-sounding radars. Steve has been involved with radar investigations on a number of European Space Agency missions including the MARSIS orbital radar sounder on the Mars Express, the CONSERT radar on the Rosetta comet mission, and the WISDOM Ground penetrating radar on the ExoMars rover (which will be launched in September). He received his Master’s in Physics and PhD in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts.

This talk was being given remotely from Texas and the video recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExiAHoLlQZc&t=16s

Friday 4th March 2022 BRLSI in-person lecture also available online

The James Webb: The Next Generation of Hubble Telescope

Professor Martin Ward
Emeritus Temple Chevallier Professor of Astronomy at Durham University.

Image credit: (c) National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Hubble Space Telescope has become an icon of Astronomy and it is now more than 30 years old. The new and much more powerful James Webb Space Telescope will soon extend our frontiers of observation. Professor Martin Ward has been involved in this exciting project for many years, and in this lecture he will give you a flavour of what is to come.

Lecturer background

Martin received his BSc. From Imperial College London. He then studied for his Masters and PhD degrees at Sussex University, combined with working at The Royal Greenwich Observatory, based at Herstmonceux Castle, in Sussex. He then accepted a Fellowship at Cambridge University. After this he moved to the USA, and worked at the University of Washington in Seattle, on preparations for the launch of Hubble Space Telescope, before returning to the UK to take up a lectureship at Oxford University. His first appointment as a professor was at Leicester University, where he was involved in the National Space Centre project based in Leicester. In 2004 he move to Durham to become the first holder of the title Temple Chevallier Professor of Astronomy. At Durham University he was Head of the Physics Department and the Science Director of the Institute of Advanced Study.

He has been an advisor to NASA and the European Space Agency in various roles, and has been associated with the James Webb Space Telescope project for more than 20 years. He has published nearly 400 papers in scientific journals. He has long standing interests in public outreach, and has appeared on the Sky at Night, with Patrick Moore, In Our Time, with Melvyn Bragg, and Start the Week, with Andrew Marr.

Image

NASA engineer Ernie Wright looks on as the first six flight ready James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror segments are prepped to begin final cryogenic testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

This represents the first six of 18 segments that will form NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror for space observations. Engineers began final round-the-clock cryogenic testing to confirm that the mirrors will respond as expected to the extreme temperatures of space prior to integration into the telescope’s permanent housing structure.

The video recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI Youtube Channel: go to the following link to view it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5npYJXGFpOI

Friday 4th February 2022 BRLSI Zoom lecture projected at the BRLSI and delivered from California

A Tour of the Dynamic Universe

Dr Jeffrey Scargle
NASA Ames Research Center, retired.

Image credit: (c) National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Casual observation of the night sky leads one to view the Universe as well-ordered and stable, changing only in minor ways and regularly, smoothly and predictably at that. Even intensive study with telescopes — starting with Galileo, and including William Herschel, Edwin Hubble and many others — only reinforced this vision of a Clockwork Universe. Space-based missions (including the Herschel and Hubble Observatories, named after the mentioned pioneers) opening up new wavelengths, as well as advances in technology enabling better ways of discovery, have led to a quite opposite view: the Dynamic Universe. This talk is essentially a guided tour of some remarkable events in this ever-changing, highly active universe. We start nearby with the Earth and our Sun, transit the Solar System, pass by exploding stars, active galaxies, gamma-ray bursts, ending with perhaps the most dramatic events of all: merging black holes, accessible through a completely new mode of observation in the form of gravitational radiation, “ripples in space-time.”

Jeff Scargle graduated from Pomona College and gained a PhD from the California Institute of Technology. Subsequently he was at the
University of California at Santa Cruz, Lick Observatory and then became a research astrophysicist in the Astrobiology and Space Science Division, NASA Ames Research Center.

This talk is being given remotely from California and can be attended either remotely on Zoom or at the BRLSI where it will projected. 

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

https://youtu.be/_9eJUX48Jlg.

Thursday 18 November 2021 7 – 8.30 pm online only, The Caroline Herschel Prize Lecture 2021 – Earth versus Sun: a precarious relationship in Space

Sponsored by the Herschel Society, the University of Bath and the Royal Astronomical Society

Dr Jenny Carter, University of Leicester

The video recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Bath University YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view it.

https://bath.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=cac0cc8e0532cc1f0d8b4f42b&id=f05887de26&e=ff5a10df75

Friday 5th November 2021 BRLSI Zoom lecture delivered from California

Mars: Ancient rivers, lakes and oceans. But where is the water now?

Michael Carr
Leader of the Imaging Team for NASA on the Viking Orbiter and subsequent missions.

Image credit: (c) NASA/THEMIS

The history of water on Mars has huge implications for the possibility of life on Mars and the future of life on Earth. This is the first of two lectures on this subject, with the second lecture to be given by Steve Clifford in February.

Widespread fluvial dissection of the heavily cratered martian highlands indicates that, around 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had a warm, wet, Earth-like hydrologic system with precipitation, rivers, lakes and oceans. Mars then cooled and developed a kilometers-thick permafrost. Around 3.0-3.4 billion years ago massive eruptions of groundwater trapped beneath the permafrost caused huge floods that flowed into the low-lying northern plains to create an ocean that rapidly froze. The water subsequently sublimated away, some to form the present polar caps but most being lost to space, mainly during periods of high obliquity.

Michael Carr received a BSc from University College, London in 1956 and a Ph.D from Yale in 1960, both in Geology. After a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario he joined the U.S. Geological Survey in 1962. He first started working on Mars in 1970, after joining the Mariner-9 imaging team. Subsequently, between 1976 and 1980, as leader of the Viking Orbiter Imaging team, he supervised the acquisition of 55,000 images of Mars. He was also involved with every following Mars mission until he retired in 2004. He has written over 200 papers on Mars and three books, The Surface of Mars (1981), Water on Mars (1996) and The Surface of Mars (2006). He lives in Woodside, California.

This talk was given remotely from California and it was planned to be available either remotely on Zoom or at the BRLSI where it would have been projected.  In fact it was online on Zoom only.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4lvTPzm5ik&list=PLJW1gdt3yAhdurWMK_vHNdlR9w_kHEiwC&index=4

Friday 1st October 2021 at 7.30 pm on Zoom and at the BRLSI

Life on Mars? A Short History of 19th-Century Exploration of the Red Planet

Dr Joshua Nall
Curator of Modern Sciences at the University of Cambridge’s Whipple Museum of the History of Science

Image: (c) Whipple Museum, University of Cambridge (Wh. 6211)

Humans have long been intrigued by the possibility that Mars might harbour life. Planetary scientists nowadays continue to hunt for evidence of it, and space technologists even advocate settling ourselves there permanently. These are bold projects, and in this talk I suggest that we look back before we look forward, to consider how humans studied and thought about Mars before the Space Age. Investigating 19th-century arguments over whether the red planet was teeming with intelligent life, and exploring fantastical stories about what that life might do to us, reveal important lessons, I will argue, for how we understand the next century of Martian exploration.

Joshua Nall is Curator of Modern Sciences at the University of Cambridge’s Whipple Museum of the History of Science. He is an historian of 19th- and 20th-century astronomy and physics with a particular interest in empires and extraterrestrials. His book, News from Mars: Mass Media and the Forging of a New Astronomy, 1860–1910 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019) won the History of Science Society’s 2020 Philip J. Pauly Prize for the best first book on the history of science in the Americas.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oboiZuF8_H8&list=PLJW1gdt3yAhdurWMK_vHNdlR9w_kHEiwC

Friday 10th Sep 2021 at 7.30 pm on Zoom

The Lunar South Pole Environment

Dr Daniel Batcheldor
Senior Scientist and Subject Matter Expert in Physics as a contractor at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Image credit: (c) JPL/NASA Moon Trek

Humanity is preparing to return to the moon; this time not simply as tourists. Lunar regolith (dust) presents a risk when landing and operating anywhere on the lunar surface, but at the south pole this same material may also become a resource. However, the lunar south pole presents other interesting risks and opportunities particularly when it comes to the impact of the Sun. The perpetually low Sun angle, as it tracks around the horizon, will provide almost constant illumination for surface operations and photovoltaic power systems, but it may also generate a complex electromagnetic environment. In addition, large areas of the lunar surface will be in permanent, or near permanent shadow. Such shadows may be the location of significant resources but they may also hamper surface operations. In this talk, the effects of dust and the sun angle on lunar surface operations will be discussed, and technologies currently under development to help alleviate some of these issues will be presented.

Dr. Dan Batcheldor, astrophysicist, is a Senior Scientist and Subject Matter Expert in Physics as a contractor at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. He was previously the Head of the Department of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. He moved to the US in 2004 and won multiple opportunities to use the Hubble Space Telescope. His research has covered all the sci-fi classics of Black holes, planets around other stars, and Mars. He is currently supporting the Artemis mission to land the first woman and  first person of color to the lunar south pole in the coming years.

Dr. Batcheldor attended the University of Hertfordshire after coming up through King Edward’s School on Broad Street and North Road. He is author of “Astronomy Saves the World: Securing our Future Through Exploration and Education” that advocates for the introduction of astronomy as part of core school curricula, thus improving the scientific literacy of the general public.”

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bcJjZV6tRI

Friday 25th June 2021 at 7.30pm on Zoom,

Light Pollution is Bad for All

Bob Mizon, Dr Bob Fosbury, Sophie Spencer, & Charles Draper

Astronomers are aware of the difficulties light pollution can pose for the pursuit of their activities. However, there is increasing evidence of much broader impacts on our health and environment that bring much wider interests to bear. Artificial light offers many benefits. But it needs to be the right light at the right times and in the right places. Getting this wrong is bad for human health (mental and physical), and harmful to many forms of wildlife. More lighting doesn’t always mean more security, and our communities lose contact with the pleasures of the night sky. Reducing energy wasted on unnecessary artificial lighting can also contribute to climate change targets, and save costs.

These issues need to be addressed at several levels. National governments have a key role. The recently published report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dark Skies proposed 10 Policies for the UK Government. One of them was to set standards for the brightness and colour temperature of lighting. Another was to create a dark sky towns and cities initiative. Here the requirement is for a tailored approach that meets the needs of different parts of the community. This requires engagement with local government, businesses, public sector institutions, residents’ groups and special interests. Astronomers both professional and amateur can play a key role in engaging these wider interests for the benefit of all.

The Panel (Bob Mizon, UK Coordinator of the Commission for Dark Skies; Dr Bob Fosbury Astronomer Emeritus, ESO, and Hon. Prof., UCL Inst. Ophthalmology; Sophie Spencer, Director, CPRE Avon and Bristol; and Charles Draper, Chairman of Bath and Surrounds Starlit Skies Alliance and the Herschel Society) will set the national scene in the context of the APPG Report, and then describe how this is being attempted in the Bath area, and more broadly in the West of England, as an example for discussion and the sharing of good practice.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXPdPMZu9iE&t=44s

Friday 7th May 2021 at 7.30 pm on Zoom

The Search for Advanced Extraterrestrial Civilisations via Anomalies in Astronomical Survey Data

Prof. Michael (Mike) Garrett
University of Manchester
Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

Image credit: NASA

Energy-intensive civilisations are likely to have a significant impact on both their local and extended environments – we already see evidence for this here on Earth. Advanced technical civilisations may reveal themselves to other civilisations by introducing anomalous signals into astronomical data. Artificial radio signals are perhaps the best known example but there are also many other possibilities e.g. excess infra-red emission due to waste heat losses. I will present a non-exhaustive description of some of the main anomalies or “techno-signatures” that astronomers around the world are currently seeking, with a focus on the recent work being conducted at Manchester and the Breakthrough Listen initiative (BLI). BLI has recently produced its first candidate signal – BLC1 – I will  discuss this new development and the future role long-baseline interferometry can play in follow-up observations and future surveys. I will also talk about the need for astronomers to broaden our horizons – to open up our minds to new possibilities and concede that there is a lot about the Universe we do not understand. As the universe continues to evolve for billions of years to come, we speculate on whether other, non-biological forms of intelligence and consciousness, may be out there awaiting discovery.

Biography of the speaker

Prof. Michael (Mike) Garrett is the inaugural Sir Bernard Lovell Chair of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, and Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/michael.garrett.html). He is a former director of JIVE (2003-2007) and Director General of ASTRON (2007-2016) in the Netherlands. He did his first degree at the University of Glasgow (1986) and received a Ph.D. from Manchester in 1990. 

As General Director of ASTRON, Garrett was responsible for the final design, construction, commissioning, and operational phase of the 150M€ LOFAR telescope.  He also helped define the design of the Square Kilometre Array telescope, and previously coordinated several large European projects (EXPReS, RadioNet, and ASTERICS). Garrett’s scientific interests range from studies of compact cosmic objects in our own Galaxy to investigations of high-redshift systems in the early Universe. 

Garrett has a significant interest in SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) and related public outreach activities. He is currently co-chair of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) SETI Permanent Committee, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the SETI Institute and Breakthrough Listen Initiative. In 2018, he developed a new multi-disciplinary course at the University of Manchester – Are we Alone? The course regularly attracts 150 students/yr.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R99qCO9QcSk.

Friday 9th April 2021 at 7.30pm on Zoom,

Hipparcos and Gaia: space astrometry — unravelling the formation and evolution of our Galaxy

Dr Michael Perryman

Image credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2013

The Hipparcos satellite project of the European Space Agency was dedicated to measuring the accurate positions of more than 100,000 stars. Doing so from space represented a fundamentally new discipline in space science. With the publication of the scientific results from the Hipparcos mission in 1997, ESA adopted the Gaia mission, a follow-on and vastly more advanced star-mapping satellite, in 2000. Gaia was launched in 2013 and continues to operate from its advantageous location at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point, L2. Gaia is measuring the positions of more than two billion stars in our Galaxy with extreme accuracy, and is set to revolutionise many areas of astronomy and astrophysics. The talk will explain why the measurement of star positions is of such scientific importance. It will review the two thousand year history of this branch of astronomy, called astrometry, explain why these measurements are being made from space, illustrate how the very exacting measurements are made in practice, and present some of the many areas of astronomy that are being impacted by these new experimental insights.

Michael Perryman obtained a degree in physics, and a PhD in radio astronomy, at Cambridge University. During a 30-year career with the European Space Agency, he was the scientific leader of the Hipparcos mission between 1981-1997, also serving as project manager during its operational phase, 1989-1993. He was the co-originator of the Gaia satellite mission, and ESA’s project scientist from its earliest concepts in 1995 until the Critical Design Review in 2008, establishing the instrument concept, technical feasibility, operational and data analysis principles, its organisational structure, and coordinating its scientific case. He was Professor of Astronomy at Leiden University, The Netherlands, between 1993-2009, and has received various awards for his leadership of space astrometry, including the Gold Medal of the French Astronomical Society, the Academy Medal of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the Tycho Brahe Prize of the European Astronomical Society. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Lund University in Sweden in 2010, and was the Bohdan Paczynski Visiting Professor, Princeton University, in 2013.

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2hbITqu6a0