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Upcoming Events

Event Date and Location Summary
Frontiers of Astronomy: Bill Janesh Thu. March 7th, 2019
8:00 pm-9:00 pm
at Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106

Lions, Archers, and Bears: Dwarf Galaxies in the Local Group

Bill Janesh (Case Western Reserve University)

The Local Group is our cosmic neighborhood — home to the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, and dozens of smaller objects called dwarf galaxies. Dwarf galaxies are valuable tools for answering questions about how the Universe works. How do stars and galaxies form and change over time? How do galaxies interact with each other? What is a galaxy, anyway? In this talk, we will take a closer look at some of the dwarf galaxies in the Local Group and how they can contribute to our knowledge of the Universe.

Frontiers of Astronomy: Stephen Zepf Thu. April 11th, 2019
8:00 pm-9:00 pm
at Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106

Black Holes and Globular Clusters

Stephen Zepf (Michigan State Univ)

Black Holes have long excited the imagination of both scientists and the broader public. However, black holes are not easy to find because they emit very little light of their own. Often the best way to find a black hole is through its gravitational effect on a very nearby star. Seemingly excellent places to look for these interactions between stars and black holes are globular clusters with many stars all located very close together. I will talk about this search for black holes in globular clusters,

Past Events

Event Date Summary
Frontiers of Astronomy: Kelsey Johnson Thu. December 13th, 2018
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

How were the most ancient objects in the universe formed?

Kelsey Johnson (University of Virginia)

Ancient remnants from the early universe surround our galaxy. These relics, know as “globular clusters” have the potential to provide insight into the prevailing physical conditions during an epoch that cannot be directly observed. While some progress has been made, and we now know globular clusters can still be formed during extreme episodes of star formation in the relatively nearby universe, the actual physical conditions that give rise to globular clusters has vexed both observers and theorists for decades.

Frontiers of Astronomy: Rachel Bezanson Thu. November 15th, 2018
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Galaxy Cannibals: The Evolution of Massive Galaxies Through Cosmic Time

Rachel Bezanson (University of Pittsburgh)

Massive galaxies reside in the densest and oldest regions of the Universe, yet we are only beginning to understand their formation history. Once thought to be relics of a much earlier time, the most massive local galaxies are red and dead elliptical galaxies, with little ongoing star formation or organized rotation. In the last decade, observations of their assumed progenitors have demonstrated that the evolutionary histories of massive galaxies have been far from static. Instead, billions of years ago,

Frontiers of Astronomy: Benoit Famaey Thu. October 11th, 2018
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Galaxy dynamics: a tale of light and darkness

Benoit Famaey (CNRS/University of Strasbourg)

Galaxy dynamics is confronted with one of the deepest problems of modern physics: the dark matter problem. The motions of stars and gas observed exceed what can be explained by the mass visible in those same stars and gas. Either (i) there is a vast amount of unseen mass in some novel form – dark matter – or (ii) the data indicate a breakdown of our understanding of dynamics on the relevant scales, or (iii) both. We shall review the observational evidence for an intimate connection between the baryonic surface density and the total gravitational field in galaxies.

Frontiers of Astronomy: Other Earths and Origins of Life Thu. April 12th, 2018
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Other Earths and Origins of Life

Dimitar Sasselov, Harvard University

The lecture will discuss the new field of scientific research on the emerging frontier where astronomy meets biochemistry. In the past year astronomers have discovered planets that resemble Earth around nearby stars and now prepare to explore them with a new generation of telescopes. In the meantime, chemists and biologists have narrowed down the environments necessary for early forms of Earth life and are helping the astronomers in defining their targets. The search is on!

Frontiers of Astronomy: The New Moon Thu. March 1st, 2018
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The New Moon

Brett Denevi, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Although we may not think of the Moon as a dynamic place (the first lunar explorers described the landscape’s “magnificent desolation”), its past was one of intense bombardment, floods of lavas, and intrusive volcanism, and even today it continues to change. Understanding the Moon’s past and present may provide our best opportunity to gain new insights topics as diverse as the early evolution of the Solar System and the timeline of the first development of life on Earth. The Moon also yields insights into how a planetary body evolves from a fiery magma ocean to a solid world still cooling off today,

Frontiers of Astronomy: Simulating the Universe Thu. December 14th, 2017
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Simulating the Universe

Mark Vogelsberger (MIT)

Modern supercomputer simulations model the evolution of the Universe starting briefly after the Big Bang until today – spanning about 13.7 billion years. These simulations describe correctly the growth, structure, and composition of galaxies. I will give an overview of recent simulation efforts, and demonstrate that the virtual universes are nearly indistinguishable from the real Universe. However, our models are still not perfect and I will also show where simulations disagree with observational data and how we can improve our models to arrive at a better understanding of the evolution of our Universe.
Frontiers of Astronomy: The Universe on A Computer: The Formation of Galaxies, Stars, and Planets in a Violent Cosmos Thu. November 16th, 2017
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The Universe on A Computer: The Formation of Galaxies, Stars, and Planets in a Violent Cosmos

Philip Hopkins, California Institute of Technology

Astronomers have now discovered planets around distant stars, the relics of the “first generation” of stars in the Universe, and the light from the first galaxies when the Universe was but a fraction of its present age. However, a human life is infinitesimally small compared to the cosmic time scales over which these systems evolved, so we see only snapshots, instants in time. To link them together and understand how our Universe evolved,

Frontiers of Astronomy: Mapping the Universe: New Vistas, New Lands Thu. October 12th, 2017
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Mapping the Universe: New Vistas, New Lands

David Silva, National Optical Astronomy Observatory

To be human is to explore. Today’s astronomers are cosmic explorers, creating maps of the Universe, near and far. The earliest star maps were painted thousands of years ago on the walls of caves. Our maps today are spectacular, full of objects and phenomena that were completely undiscovered even 20 years ago. Yet, great mysteries remain. Is a civilization ending asteroid lurking in the darkness? Do Earth‐like planets orbit nearby stars and do they harbor life? How did our home galaxy,

Frontiers of Astronomy: The Frontier From Space Thu. April 13th, 2017
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The Frontier From Space

Daniela Calzetti, University of Massachusetts – Amherst

In 2015 the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 25th anniversary. Hubble has produced a paradigm shift in how both astronomers and the general public understand the Universe, and it may be time to take stock of all the accomplishments of the many space missions undertaken by numerous agencies — ESA and NASA in particular — over the past 30 years. We will do this with an eye to set the stage for the next game‐changing space missions.

Daniela Calzetti is Professor of Astronomy at the Department of Astronomy,

Frontiers of Astronomy: Our Future Off-Earth Thu. March 9th, 2017
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Our Future Off-Earth

Chris Impey, University of Arizona

The Space Age is half a century old. Its early successes were driven by a fierce superpower rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, which tended to obscure the fact that exploration and risk‐taking is built into human DNA. Decades after we last set foot on the Moon, and several years after the Space Shuttle was retired, the space activity is finally leaving the doldrums. A vibrant private sector led by SpaceX and Virgin Galactic plans to launch supplies cheaply into Earth orbit and give anyone the chance of a sub‐orbital joy ride.

Frontiers of Astronomy: The Quest for Infinite Telescope Aperture: Are We There Yet? Thu. December 8th, 2016
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The Quest for Infinite Telescope Aperture: Are We There Yet?

Michael Skrutskie, University of Virginia

Since the invention of the telescope somewhere in the Netherlands around the end of the 16th century one thing has generally mattered most to builders and users of these instruments… larger apertures collect more light and reveal finer detail, ultimately opening the door to studies ranging from observations of the most distant observable universe, the direct detection and characterization of extrasolar planets, and “spacecraft quality” observations of Solar System objects. Individual institutions, entire nations, and now consortia of nations are striving to build bigger and better telescopes.

Frontiers of Astronomy: A Space‐time Symphony of Gravitational Waves Thu. November 10th, 2016
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

A Space‐time Symphony of Gravitational Waves

Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Vanderbilt University

On February 11, 2016, scientists announced the first detection of gravitational waves, a Nobel Prize‐level achievement and a profound moment for humankind. Prior to that moment, the only way we learned about the distant Universe is through the light we received. Light revealed that we live in an extraordinarily beautiful expanding and accelerating Universe — full of exoplanets, stellar explosions, other galaxies, and dark matter that pervades everything. And now, humanity has observed the ripples in space‐time caused by the motion of massive objects like black holes;

Frontiers of Astronomy: Pluto’s Lonely Ice Cap Thu. October 13th, 2016
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Pluto’s Lonely Ice Cap

Doug Hamilton, University of Maryland

The icy white heart of Pluto became an instant sensation after the 2015 New Horizons flyby, featured on websites, blogs, and T‐shirts worldwide. The actual feature on Pluto is composed of frozen nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane, substances that can all be either in the solid or gaseous states at the cold temperatures of this distant world. Water plays the same role on Earth, being found as a solid in our twin polar ice caps, and Mars too has a pair of polar caps composed,

Frontiers of Astronomy: Biography of the Milky Way Thu. April 14th, 2016
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Biography of the Milky Way

James Bullock, University of California, Irvine

The Universe on the grandest scales is a vast network of galaxies.  Dotted along an expanding cosmic web,  galaxies shine with the collective light of thousands to billions of stars.  More than just collections of stars however, galaxies are dynamic ecosystems.  They allow multiple generations of stars to build new atoms that had never before existed.  They foster complex chemistry, even organic chemistry, in an otherwise sterile universe.  One galaxy, the Milky Way, is special to us.  Without it, we would not exist. 

Frontiers of Astronomy: Galactic Cannibalism Thu. March 3rd, 2016
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Galactic Cannibalism

Kathryn Johnston, Columbia University

Galaxies! Images of these objects are awe-inspiring – spirals of billions of stars, along with the gas and dust from which stars form, spinning slowly in the sky. Yet these majestic objects are thought to have formed quite violently through the agglomeration of smaller objects. Even our own home – the Milky Way galaxy – seems to be in the process of devouring several smaller galaxies! This talk examines why we think galaxies are cannibals in general, and what this means about the past and future evolution of the Milky Way in particular.

Frontiers of Astronomy: Gamma Ray Bursts: The Biggest Explosions Since the Big Bang Thu. December 10th, 2015
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Gamma Ray Bursts: The Biggest Explosions Since the Big Bang

Edo Berger, Harvard University

Representing Nature’s biggest explosions since the Big Bang itself, gamma-ray bursts were first accidentally spotted in the 1960s by Department of Defense satellites hunting for terrestrial nuclear blasts. Prof. Berger will describe the ensuing decades-long quest to decipher the origin and energy source of these mysterious explosions.

Edo Berger is a professor of astronomy at Harvard University.  He received his B.S. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999, and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2004. 

Frontiers of Astronomy: The History of the Milky Way Written in the Stars Thu. November 12th, 2015
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

The History of the Milky Way Written in Stars

Jennifer Johnson, Ohio State University

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, did not always look as it does now, a multi-armed spiral galaxy with at least one neighborhood hospitable to life. The Galaxy has been growing and evolving for the last 13 billion years, creating billions of stars throughout its life. These stars, through their age, chemical composition, and motions, record the history of the Galaxy and provide a “fossil record” if we can observe enough of it to interpret it. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been observing stars,

Frontiers of Astronomy: 25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope Thu. October 15th, 2015
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

In April 1990, astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope into Earth orbit, and launched a new era of astronomical discovery. Now, 25 years later, we celebrate a remarkable milestone for a space observatory whose ground-breaking investigations have brought revolutionary changes in our understanding from planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies to the very frontiers of the cosmos. Explore the trials and triumphs of NASA’s first Great Observatory, and experience a compendium of some of the greatest imagery the universe has ever known.

Stellar Mergers and Interactions: Yes, Virginia, Stars Do Collide Thu. April 16th, 2015
8:00 pm-10:00 pm

Stellar Mergers and Interactions: Yes, Virginia, Stars Do Collide

Alison Sills, McMaster University

Professor Sills will discuss strong interactions between stars in a variety of environments. Despite the vast (average) interstellar distances, stars are social creatures and tend to live in pairs, multiples, or groups. Under these circumstances, stars can, and do, modify each other’s mass, radius, composition, and overall evolution through gravitational encounters ranging from wind mass transfer in a binary system to complete stellar collisions and mergers. She will show how such events can change our understanding of particular stellar systems, how they can explain the properties of many unusual objects,

Stars and Galaxies at the Dawn of Time Thu. March 5th, 2015
8:00 pm-10:00 pm

Stars and Galaxies at the Dawn of Time

Volker Bromm, University of Texas, Austin

How and when did the cosmic dark ages end? I will present the remarkable story of how the first stars and galaxies formed, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. These first sources of light fundamentally transformed the early universe from an initially very simple state to one of ever increasing complexity. Until now, our knowledge of this period of cosmic dawn relies on supercomputer simulations. But over the next decade, a number of new-generation observational facilities, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope,

Probing the Dark Universe Thu. December 11th, 2014
8:00 pm-10:00 pm

Probing the Dark Universe

Josh Frieman, University of Chicago / FermiLab

Over the last two decades, cosmologists have made a remarkable discovery about our Universe: only 4% is made of ordinary matter—atoms, molecules, etc. The other 96% is dark, in forms unlike anything with which we are familiar. About 25% is dark matter, which holds galaxies and larger‐scale structures together, and may be a new elementary particle. And 70% is thought to be dark energy, which is driving the expansion of the Universe to speed up. This talk will introduce the Dark Universe, overview what we have learned about it,

Directions to the Nearest Alien Earth-like Planet Thu. November 13th, 2014
8:00 pm-10:00 pm

Directions to the Nearest Alien Earth-like Planet

Sarah Ballard, University of Washington

Astronomers used to hedge at the question of whether the Sun and its system of planets are unusual in the cosmos. The study of exoplanets – planets around other stars – is relatively new. State-of- the-art instruments just brush up against the sensitivity to find planets similar to our very own planet Earth. I will summarize findings from the past couple years that contextualize Earth as one potentially habitable, rocky planet among many. However, the environments of these worlds are by-and-large astoundingly different from the conditions that have nourished life here at home.


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