PUBLIC LECTURES ON THE HIDDEN UNIVERSE

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HERSCHEL SPACE OBSERVATORY AND ALMA EXPLORE DEEP INTO SPACE

THIS LECTURE TOOK PLACE ON 27th MARCH 2015 IN THE GUSTAVE TUCK LECTURE THEATRE

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DR MATSUURA'S FRIENDLY DELIVERY WAS ENHANCED BY ASTONISHING AND REALISTIC ANIMATIONS
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Dr Mikako Matsuura, UCL, now at the School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff

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Mikako I

The Herschel Space Observatory is the largest space telescope so far. Since its launch in 2009 it has explored deep into the space that is hidden behind interstellar dust. It has found how stars are formed inside the cocoon of cold gas and dust and revealed that the Universe used to form stars much more actively in the past. Following Herschel success, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) started operation in 2012 in the Chilean desert. ALMA has far better angular resolution than Herschel, unveiling previously unseen detail in structures hidden behind dust. I highlighted Herschel discoveries made during its 4-year scientific exploitation and the astonishing ALMA findings.

My research interest is observational astronomy at infrared, submillimetre and millimetre wavelengths. Particularly, the main targets are dust and molecules in evolved stars and supernovae, with an interest of how much dust and molecules are formed in these stars, and their contribution to the global dust budget of the interstellar medium. Recently, our work with the Herschel Space Observatory allowed us to find a significant mass of dust and cold molecules from the supernova 1987A.

alma sky III

Now I am investigating how the dust and molecules have been formed in supernova explosions. Traditionally, stars in their late evolutionary stage are considered to be one of the important dust sources in the interstellar medium. We investigate dust formation in evolved stars of other galaxies, to find out how the abundance of metals impacts on dust formation in these stars

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The Atacama Large Millimetre Array in the Chajnantor plateau, 5000m high in northern Chile. (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, NRAO)


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LIGHT INTO THE DARK MYSTERY OF THE INVISIBLE UNIVERSE

A panel discussion about the fundamental nature of the Universe, from tiny particles to gigantic clusters of galaxies

THIS EVENT TOOK PLACE ON 28th MARCH 2015 TO A PACKED AUDIENCE IN THE GUSTAVE TUCK LECTURE THEATRE

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                  PROF BUTTERWORTH SIGNED COPIES OF HIS NEW BOOK 'SMASHING PHYSICS'

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This is the greatest adventure ever attempted by modern science. We were guided by a panel of major detectives who deal with an elusive and colossal ghost that keeps hidden 96% of the entire Universe. We learned about the Large Hadron Collider, the historical discovery of the Higgs boson and the ambitious underground experiments for the detection of dark matter. On the largest scale, the Dark Energy Survey that has just started, might confirm that Einstein was right even when he said he was wrong. With all this in mind, we were going to ask if our Universe has been fine tuned in order for us to be here or if humankind is inevitable, but this will have to wait for the next time. The audience discussion went over one hour and it could have been longer. With the LHC back at even higher energies, the next year will be full of amazing discoveries.

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Our panelists were:

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Prof Jonathan Butterworth

Head of Dept. Physics and Astronomy, UCL

Jon Butterworth

Jon Butterworth is a particle physicist at UCL, working on the Large Hadron Collider. He grew up in Manchester and did his degrees at Oxford University. He worked at the DESY laboratory in Hamburg, first employed by Penn State University (1992-1995), then by UCL. Since 2000 he has worked on the ATLAS experiment at CERN, first helping build it, then analysing the data, especially on hadronic jets. He is currently head of Physics & Astronomy at UCL. He writes regularly for the Guardian, and recently published a book, Smashing Physics, about his experiences working on the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Jon highlighted the possibility of dark matter production at the Large Hadron Collider and the possible connection between the Higgs boson with the phenomenon of cosmic inflation in the very early Universe.

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                                                                                                   (picture by Claudia Marcelloni)

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Prof Ofer Lahav, Perren Chair of Astronomy, UCL

Ofer_Lahav

Prof Lahav is interested in cosmological probes of dark matter and dark energy, large galaxy surveys and the history of astronomy. Since 2004 he has been the Perren Professor of Astronomy at UCL. He is the co-chair of the International Dark Energy Survey  (DES) Science Committee and chair of DES:UK. He has collaborated with philosophers, anthropologists and artists on cosmological concepts.

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Prof Lahav described the enormous challenges ahead in the observations and understanding of Dark Energy and the implications to the General Theory of Relativity, postulated by Einstein 100 years ago.

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Dr Chamkaur Ghag, High Energy Physics, UCL

Chamkaur Ghag is an astroparticle physicist working at University College London (UCL) where he leads research in the direct hunt for dark matter, operating highly sensitive detectors located in underground laboratories deep below the Earth's surface.

cham II

Chamkaur has been involved in several of the world's leading experiments over the past decade, and now works on 'LUX' (Large Underground Xenon detector), the most sensitive to-date, and 'LZ' (LUX-ZEPLIN), the future experiment that could bring a first definitive discovery of our own galaxy's dark matter. Chamkaur is active in a range of activities towards science communication and public engagement. He teaches the science communication course to 1st year physics undergraduates at UCL, and is regularly involved in notable radio and television programmes, such as 'Light & Dark' and 'The Sky at Night', as well as podcasts, online articles, public lectures, and science exhibitions.

@chamkaurghag

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sally shaw

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Sally Shaw, High Energy Physics, UCL

Sally Shaw is a PhD student in high energy physics at University College London. She works within the LUX (Large Underground Xenon detector) and LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) collaborations. LUX is currently the world's most sensitive dark matter detector and LZ will be an advanced version of LUX with much higher sensitivity. Sally's work involves optimising data analysis for LUX, improving signal recognition for dark matter events. She also gets hands on experience working on-site, 1.5km underground in the specialised Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. Sally is aspiring to be more involved in science communication; she currently blogs for Quantum Diaries and is assisting with teaching at UCL.

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Dr Donnacha Kirk, Cosmology group, UCL

donnacha kirk

Donnacha Kirk is a post-doctoral research associate in the Astrophysics Group in the UCL Dept. of Physics & Astronomy. He is a research cosmologist and a member of a number of international collaborations including the Dark Energy Survey (DES) and the European Space Agency's Euclid satellite mission. His research seeks to understand the nature of Dark Energy, measure gravity on cosmic scales and exploit gravitational lensing to learn about the history and growth of structure in the Universe.

His contribution to the discussion was be on the Dark Energy Survey conceived to investigate the accelerating expansion of the Universe. Donnacha explained how Dark Energy, supposed to constitute more than 70% of the Universe, may be related to a revolutionary understanding of gravity that may change our view of the largest scale of the Universe.

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  (page updated on 9th April 2015)