Public astronomy lectures presented each month by the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.
In the vast cold reaches of space life has been able to gain a foothold and flourish on at least one planet- ours. We know that water is critical to life, but we do not know how Earth got it. In this talk, we will first explore the ongoing search for the source of Earth's water. Next, we will talk about some of the exciting ways in which we are utilising our knowledge of life on this planet to search for and possibly identify life in other parts of the Universe. Presented on 22 July 2016.
Galaxies are the largest structures of matter in our Universe. Our own Milky Way has been studied in glorious detail. We know it has billions of stars, around most of which planets are likely to be found. There is a super massive black hole at its center where anything that gets too close will be consumed. There are intricate dust lanes that obscure the main disk of the galaxy. There is the life-force of stars, hydrogen gas. Finally, there is the mysterious dark matter that acts as a gravitational glue holding the ordinary matter together. But our galaxy is just one of many, and since their discovery, understanding how these complex objects form and evolve has been a focus of astronomers. There are many pathways to reveal more about the nature and evolution of galaxies. In this talk, Dr Rebecca Allen from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, will share how she uses the sizes of galaxies to understand more about their growth. Presented on Friday 12 May 2017.
The whole Universe was in a hot dense state, then nearly 14 billion years ago expansion started. Wait... is the Bang Bang true and how do we know? In this talk Associate Professor Emma Ryan-Weber from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing will describe the observational evidence for Big Bang Cosmology and how it sets the initial conditions for every atom in the Universe. The talk is especially suitable for year 11 teachers and students studying VCE Physics Unit 1, area of study 3 "What is matter and how is it formed". Presented on 10 February 2017.
Most of the elements in the periodic table heavier than hydrogen and helium were forged in stars. Through the combined studies of stellar spectroscopy, nuclear physics, geochemistry, and astrophysics, humans have been able to work out the origin of many of the chemical elements that naturally occur in our Solar System. We know for example that most of the oxygen in the air was forged in ancient supernova explosions, which are the end product of very massive stars. The carbon in our bodies was synthesized instead by stars covering a wide range of stellar masses, from solar-type stars like our Sun through to massive stars. The biggest mystery today concerns the origins of the elements heavier than iron. In this talk I will take you on a journey through the origin of the elements, with a special focus on where the heaviest elements in nature are formed. in order to do this, I will discuss some basics about the life cycle of stars, which is intimately connected to the story of the origin of the elements through t…
The information carried by these signals will give us new insight into the hearts of some of the most violent events in the Cosmos - from black holes to the beginning of the Universe. A global network of gravitational wave detectors is in now reaching the final stages of construction, with first data expected in 2015. The nature of gravitational waves, how the detectors work and what the data from the detectors can tell us about the Universe we inhabit will be discussed. Recorded on 17 October 2014.
In the last 50 years astronomers have come to realise that there exists an invisible type of mass in the Universe, outweighing all of the atoms in every star, planet and person five times over. It' responsible for holding the galaxy together, for making the galaxies form where they do in the cosmos and is our best guide to physics beyond the Higgs boson, aka the 'god' particle. Yet astronomers are no nearer to understanding its nature. Using a combination of baby universes created on Australia's most powerful telescopes, next generation telescopes like the Australian SKA Pathfinder, and a wine glass, Alan will explore what we know about the invisible and how Australia may uncover the most sought after particle in physics with the world's first dark matter detector in the Southern Hemisphere, SABRE. Presented on 17 June 2016.
As part of a 14 billion years old expanding universe, we are able to directly experience only a tiny part of its history. In order to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the universe, it is fundamental to study the properties of objects which are billions of light years away from us. In fact, the light coming from these galaxies travels at a finite speed, giving us a picture of how they were when the universe was much younger. However galaxies are complex systems that evolve as they form new stars and interact with each other. As galaxies become old they acquire an apparently featureless elliptical morphology that, despite its structural simplicity, encloses all the complexities involved in galaxy evolution. Likewise a collection of family portraits that tells about the human society at the time when the pictures were taken, the observation and the subsequent comparison of nearby and distant elliptical galaxies allow us to reconstruct the evolution of the universe. In this talk we will present some result…
Black holes are amongst the most bizarre objects predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Many people may not realise that our own galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole at its centre that is three million times more massive than our own Sun! In this talk Associate Professor Darren Croton discusses the physics of black holes and their formation, how they can grow to become so massive, active black hole "quasars" in the distant universe and the unexpected impact that a supermassive black hole can have on the evolution of an entire galaxy. We will finish by side stepping into the exotic world of wormholes, the black hole's tormented cousin.
Where did the Earth come from? How can we know? How can particles no larger than those in smoke come together to make a planet thousands of kilometers wide? Amazingly, radio telescope observations of material surrounding infant stars are starting to show us signs of planet formation in action. This talk will introduce some of the basic ideas and open questions of planet formation, starting with naked eye observations and proceeding to the latest images from giant radio telescopes, including the new international Atacama Large Millimeter Array of 66 antennas sited at 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.
Astronomers and Physicists have an interesting ongoing relationship. Normally, physicists explain natural phenomena, and tell astronomers what they should be probing in space. Once in a while, however, astronomers point out observations that cause the theorists to poke in the dark for interpretations. Dr. Kazin will bring the audience up to speed on the frontiers of these golden ages of cosmology and explain why scientists are still baffled about the mysterious dark nature of the Universe.