This lecture took place on Friday 7th March 2014

Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre



The story of a serendipitous astronomical discovery

Dr Steve Fossey (Dept. Physics and Astronomy, UCL)


On 2014 January 21st, during a routine evening's teaching at UCL's University of London Observatory in Mill Hill, North London, a group of students led by Dr Steve Fossey came across the spectacular death of a star in a galaxy more than 11 million light years away. In this talk, Dr Fossey explained the sequence of events that led to the discovery, and why this type of exploding star is so important in astronomy for finding the distances to remote galaxies and measuring the expansion and hence, the age of the Universe.

 More information here.

 This lecture was attended by more than 60 people.

SN2014J before and after



Galaxy M82 before and after the supernova explosion as imaged at the University of London Observatory by Dr Steve Fossey and students Ben Cooke, Guy Pollack, Matthew Wilde and Thomas Wright.



This lecture took place on Saturday 8th March 2014

Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre



The amazing energy of star death

Dr Francisco Diego (Dept. Physics and Astronomy, UCL)


supernova FD

We live in a Universe that develops increasing complexity from pure and simple energy of the Big Bang. In this lecture went back in time to explore those initial conditions, when the primordial energy was confined in a handful of fundamental particles, the building blocks of the Universe to be brought together at different  stages by the four known basic forces.
 We traveled deep inside stars to witness some of those forces at work, assembling together the nuclei of light atoms along millions of years; a process highly intensified during the brief and spectacular death of massive stars. At that point, the nuclei of the heaviest atoms are put together, atoms that are essential in our modern society. Their ticking energy telling us the age of our planet. Their burning energy destroying malignant tissues in our bodies, powering our civilisation and sadly, achieving the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
 In the last part of the lecture we realised that we have in our hands the enormous power of stars that lived and died billions of years ago and that as we enter our second century of atomic radioactivity we must find wise ways of using that cosmic power to ensure our survival and expansion.

 This lecture was attended by more than 50 people and was followed by an extended discussion.

Star death (artwork by Dr Francisco Diego)