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Frontiers of Astronomy: Galactic Cannibalism

Date: Thu. March 3rd, 2016, 8:00 pm-9:00 pm
Location: Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106

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.

Kathryn V Johnston is an astronomer who studies how galaxies form and evolve, what they contain and how they are structured. She describes some of these interests in a recent article in the December 2014 issue of Scientific American.

She is now the Chair of the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University, where she teaches undergraduate courses and mentors graduate students in research projects.  She completed an undergraduate degree in mathematics at Cambridge University, a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz, postdoctoral work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and her first faculty position at Wesleyan University. Her lifelong interest in astronomy has been fueled since childhood by a love science fiction – reaching for the stars with the imagination in and outside of work. She grew up in Yorkshire in the north of England and now lives in suburban New Jersey with her husband, their two kids and the family dog.

These talks are held in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History at 8:00pm on Thursday nights. Admission is free to the general public; parking is available in the museum lot for a $6 charge.

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