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PUBLIC LECTURES

The RAS hosts popular 45-minute lunch- or evening-time lectures for non-specialists, at which members of the public can listen to leading scientists talk about their work. Please note that attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no charge, and doors open 30 minutes before the start of each lecture.

Venue: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BQ, UK

London Underground: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus

Contact the Events Manager or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.




RAS Public Lecture: The Invisible Universe
Date: 13 Dec 2016
Time: 13:00

The Invisible Universe

Dr Jen Gupta, University of Portsmouth

(Venue: Geological Society Lecture Theatre - no booking required)

 

Gazing at the night sky with our eyes or telescopes reveals twinkling stars and far away galaxies. But what we see is only a small part of the story. From radio waves to gamma-rays, the Universe is aglow with 'light' that we humans just cannot see.

Fortunately, we can build telescopes and instruments to detect this invisible light, revealing a view of the Universe that is hidden from our eyes. In this talk I will show you the Universe at other wavelengths, from familiar objects like our Sun to weird and wonderful distant quasars, and explain some of the physics behind them. Along the way I will touch on the stories of some of the pioneers in these areas of astronomy and astrophysics, who dedicated their careers to furthering our understanding of the invisible Universe.

 

Dr Jen Gupta is an astrophysicist and science communicator based in the south of England. She is the SEPnet/Ogden Outreach Officer for the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, where her job is to ensure that the department's world class research is shared with the wider world. She also works in the planetarium at the Winchester Science Centre, and is the host of the Seldom Sirius podcast. Jen did her PhD at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester where she studied radio-loud active galactic nuclei. She was highly commended in the 2015 Asian Women of Achievement Young Achievers Award, and is featured in the RAS's portrait series of female Fellows.




RAS Public Lecture: The Invisible Universe
Date: 13 Dec 2016
Time: 18:00

The Invisible Universe

Dr Jen Gupta, University of Portsmouth

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking opens 9th November, please email events@ras.org.uk for tickets)

 

Gazing at the night sky with our eyes or telescopes reveals twinkling stars and far away galaxies. But what we see is only a small part of the story. From radio waves to gamma-rays, the Universe is aglow with 'light' that we humans just cannot see.

Fortunately, we can build telescopes and instruments to detect this invisible light, revealing a view of the Universe that is hidden from our eyes. In this talk I will show you the Universe at other wavelengths, from familiar objects like our Sun to weird and wonderful distant quasars, and explain some of the physics behind them. Along the way I will touch on the stories of some of the pioneers in these areas of astronomy and astrophysics, who dedicated their careers to furthering our understanding of the invisible Universe.

 

Dr Jen Gupta is an astrophysicist and science communicator based in the south of England. She is the SEPnet/Ogden Outreach Officer for the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, where her job is to ensure that the department's world class research is shared with the wider world. She also works in the planetarium at the Winchester Science Centre, and is the host of the Seldom Sirius podcast. Jen did her PhD at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester where she studied radio-loud active galactic nuclei. She was highly commended in the 2015 Asian Women of Achievement Young Achievers Award, and is featured in the RAS's portrait series of female Fellows.


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Gravitational lensing, or how to detect and measure the warps of space-time
Date: 10 Jan 2017
Time: 13:00

Gravitational lensing, or how to detect and measure the warps of space-time
Prof David Valls-Gabaud
(Venue: Geological Society Lecture Theatre- no booking required)

 

Gravitational lensing is an ubiquitous phenomenon which allows astronomers to detect exoplanets, dark matter in galaxies, weigh clusters of galaxies, and even constrain the topology of the universe. Contrary to a widespread -but wrong- consensus, Newton was not the first scientist to ponder on this effect, which is produced by the distortion of space-time, and is best described by Einstein's general relativity. This talk will review the surprising evolution in the concept of gravitational lensing over two centuries.

 

Professor David Valls-Gabaud is Director of Research at CNRS and works at the Observatoire de Paris. Elected Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in 2015, he was educated at the universities of Madrid, Paris and Cambridge. He has hold research positions in Toronto, Cambridge, Hawaii and Beijing, as well as visiting positions at the European Southern Observatory. He was also awarded a Senior International Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

His fields of expertise range from the cosmic microwave background to stellar populations through galaxy evolution and gravitational lensing. While his research activities are mostly focused on theoretical and modelling issues, he currently leads the MESSIER satellite project to map the low surface brightness sky at optical and UV wavelengths.

 

A member of professional astronomical societies in France, UK, Spain, and USA, he is currently the secretary of commission C3 (History of Astronomy) of the International Astronomical Union, and vice-president of the Societe Astronomique de France (funded in 1887).




RAS Public Lecture: Gravitational lensing, or how to detect and measure the warps of space-time
Date: 10 Jan 2017
Time: 18:00

Gravitational lensing, or how to detect and measure the warps of space-time
Prof David Valls-Gabaud

(Venue: RAS Lecture Theatre- booking opens 14 December, please email events@ras.org.uk for tickets)


Gravitational lensing is an ubiquitous phenomenon which allows astronomers to detect exoplanets, dark matter in galaxies, weigh clusters of galaxies, and even constrain the topology of the universe. Contrary to a widespread -but wrong- consensus, Newton was not the first scientist to ponder on this effect, which is produced by the distortion of space-time, and is best described by Einstein's general relativity. This talk will review the surprising evolution in the concept of gravitational lensing over two centuries.

 

ProfessoDavid Valls-Gabaud is Director of Research at CNRS and works at the Observatoire de Paris. Elected Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in 2015, he was educated at the universities of Madrid, Paris and Cambridge. He has hold research positions in Toronto, Cambridge, Hawaii and Beijing, as well as visiting positions at the European Southern Observatory. He was also awarded a Senior International Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

His fields of expertise range from the cosmic microwave background to stellar populations through galaxy evolution and gravitational lensing. While his research activities are mostly focused on theoretical and modelling issues, he currently leads the MESSIER satellite project to map the low surface brightness sky at optical and UV wavelengths.

 

A member of professional astronomical societies in France, UK, Spain, and USA, he is currently the secretary of commission C3 (History of Astronomy) of the International Astronomical Union, and vice-president of the Societe Astronomique de France (funded in 1887).


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Exploring the Solar System with Robots
Date: 14 Feb 2017
Time: 13:00

Exploring the Solar System with Robots

Dr Chris Arridge, Lancaster University

(Venue: Geological Society Lecture Society - no booking required)

 

Since the early 1960s starting with the flyby of Venus by Mariner 2, we have launched spacecraft into interplanetary space to study our Solar System. Pictures from across our solar system are often in the media and show us fascinating and diverse worlds. The light travel time from Earth to one of these spacecraft can be significant so these complex machines - these robots - must be capable of working semi-autonomously. These machines have returned petabytes of data from distant regions of our Solar System, including Voyager 1 from interstellar space. In this talk we go from the birth of the space age, to the present day, and beyond to look at how we explore our solar system. We will focus on recent results from the Cassini spacecraft and how the spacecraft has been operated to make these discoveries. We will also look at the Juno mission to Jupiter, New Horizons at Pluto and Charon, and the Mars Curiosity Rover, and will finish with a look at the challenges for exploring the poorly-understood ice giant Uranus, and European efforts to launch a new spacecraft out to this distant object.


Chris works on the magnetospheres and space environments of the giant planets, using data from missions like Cassini-Huygens and theoretical modelling. He is part of a large international team that advocates for the exploration of Uranus and Neptune and is also involved in ESA's JUICE mission to Jupiter and Ganymede. Chris is a Royal Society Research Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Physics at Lancaster University. Before arriving in the North West he did his PhD at Imperial College and held a series of appointments at University College London.




RAS Public Lecture: Exploring the Solar System with Robots
Date: 14 Feb 2017
Time: 18:00

Exploring the Solar System with Robots
Dr Chris Arridge, Lancaster University


(Venue: RAS Lecture Society - booking required - booking opens 11 January 2017 - please email events@ras.org.uk to book)

 

Since the early 1960s starting with the flyby of Venus by Mariner 2, we have launched spacecraft into interplanetary space to study our Solar System. Pictures from across our solar system are often in the media and show us fascinating and diverse worlds. The light travel time from Earth to one of these spacecraft can be significant so these complex machines - these robots - must be capable of working semi-autonomously. These machines have returned petabytes of data from distant regions of our Solar System, including Voyager 1 from interstellar space. In this talk we go from the birth of the space age, to the present day, and beyond to look at how we explore our solar system. We will focus on recent results from the Cassini spacecraft and how the spacecraft has been operated to make these discoveries. We will also look at the Juno mission to Jupiter, New Horizons at Pluto and Charon, and the Mars Curiosity Rover, and will finish with a look at the challenges for exploring the poorly-understood ice giant Uranus, and European efforts to launch a new spacecraft out to this distant object.

 

Chris works on the magnetospheres and space environments of the giant planets, using data from missions like Cassini-Huygens and theoretical modelling. He is part of a large international team that advocates for the exploration of Uranus and Neptune and is also involved in ESA's JUICE mission to Jupiter and Ganymede. Chris is a Royal Society Research Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Physics at Lancaster University. Before arriving in the North West he did his PhD at Imperial College and held a series of appointments at University College London.

 


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Gaia – Mapping the Milky Way from Space
Date: 14 Mar 2017
Time: 13:00

Gaia – Mapping the Milky Way from Space
Professor Gerry Gilmore, Cambridge University
(Venue: Geological Lecture Theatre, no booking required)

Gaia is the European Space Agency mission which is revolutionising our knowledge of our Milky Way Galaxy, providing a census of positions, motions, colours, and properties of 1.5billion stars. Gaia's data are revolutionising most of astronomy, from near-Earth asteroids, through stellar evolution, the structure, formation and evolution of our Milky Way Galaxy, the distribution of Dark Matter in the Milky Way, the number of planetary systems around other stars, the cosmological distance scale, and fundamental tests of General Relativity. Gaia was launched in 2013, is operating well 1.5million km from Earth, making ultra-precise measurements for the first massive survey of stellar parallaxes, and hence distances. Gaia's billion-pixel camera measures some one million stars, 10million position measurements and 300,000 spectra of 100,000 stars per hour, over an initial 5-year mission. The Gaia satellite is the most precise large mission ever developed, with precision equivalent to measuring the thickness of a single human hair from a distance of 1000km, requiring some impressive big-data challenges. In addition to the wealth of position data Gaia's camera repeatedly scanning the sky discovers variable and new sources. These are published immediately for follow up by professional astronomers and by amateur astronomers and school classes, using remotely controlled telescopes across the world. Gaia's first major data release happens on Sept 14 2016. You can learn more, follow the mission, and download the app at https://gaia.ac.uk. Further information is available at the ESA website http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/home.

 

Professor Gerry Gilmore FRS is Professor of Experimental Philosophy at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University. He is the UK Principal Investigator for the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, which includes groups in Cambridge, MSSL/UCL, RAL, Leicester, Bristol and Edinburgh, and the Cambridge Gaia Data Processing Centre. Originally from New Zealand he has been involved in Gaia since it began in the early 1990s, and was one of the 4 presenters of the mission for ESA acceptance in 2000. His research interests cover Galactic structure – he discovered the Galactic thick disk in the 1980s; Galaxy evolution – he discovered the Sgr galaxy, the ongoing merger which is forming the outer Milky Way today; stellar dynamics – he determined the first modern robust measurement of the dark matter distribution near the Sun; and stellar chemical abundances – he is co-PI of the Gaia-ESO Spectroscopic survey, the largest large-telescope survey of stellar chemical abundances, mapping the history of the chemical elements of which we are made. He has published over 700 scientific articles which have been cited by other articles some 30,000 times.




RAS Public Lecture: Gaia – Mapping the Milky Way from Space
Date: 14 Mar 2017
Time: 18:00

Gaia – Mapping the Milky Way from Space
Professor Gerry Gilmore, Cambridge University

 

(Venue: RAS Lecture Theatre, booking required - booking opens 15/02/2017 - email events@ras.org.uk for tickets)

 

Gaia is the European Space Agency mission which is revolutionising our knowledge of our Milky Way Galaxy, providing a census of positions, motions, colours, and properties of 1.5billion stars. Gaia's data are revolutionising most of astronomy, from near-Earth asteroids, through stellar evolution, the structure, formation and evolution of our Milky Way Galaxy, the distribution of Dark Matter in the Milky Way, the number of planetary systems around other stars, the cosmological distance scale, and fundamental tests of General Relativity. Gaia was launched in 2013, is operating well 1.5million km from Earth, making ultra-precise measurements for the first massive survey of stellar parallaxes, and hence distances. Gaia's billion-pixel camera measures some one million stars, 10million position measurements and 300,000 spectra of 100,000 stars per hour, over an initial 5-year mission. The Gaia satellite is the most precise large mission ever developed, with precision equivalent to measuring the thickness of a single human hair from a distance of 1000km, requiring some impressive big-data challenges. In addition to the wealth of position data Gaia's camera repeatedly scanning the sky discovers variable and new sources. These are published immediately for follow up by professional astronomers and by amateur astronomers and school classes, using remotely controlled telescopes across the world. Gaia's first major data release happens on Sept 14 2016. You can learn more, follow the mission, and download the app at https://gaia.ac.uk. Further information is available at the ESA website http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/gaia/home.

 

Professor Gerry Gilmore FRS is Professor of Experimental Philosophy at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge University. He is the UK Principal Investigator for the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium, which includes groups in Cambridge, MSSL/UCL, RAL, Leicester, Bristol and Edinburgh, and the Cambridge Gaia Data Processing Centre. Originally from New Zealand he has been involved in Gaia since it began in the early 1990s, and was one of the 4 presenters of the mission for ESA acceptance in 2000. His research interests cover Galactic structure – he discovered the Galactic thick disk in the 1980s; Galaxy evolution – he discovered the Sgr galaxy, the ongoing merger which is forming the outer Milky Way today; stellar dynamics – he determined the first modern robust measurement of the dark matter distribution near the Sun; and stellar chemical abundances – he is co-PI of the Gaia-ESO Spectroscopic survey, the largest large-telescope survey of stellar chemical abundances, mapping the history of the chemical elements of which we are made. He has published over 700 scientific articles which have been cited by other articles some 30,000 times.

 


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Our Dynamic Sun
Date: 11 Apr 2017
Time: 13:00

Our Dynamic Sun

Dr Helen Mason (Cambridge)

 

(Venue: Geological Lecture Theatre, no booking required)

 

Several solar spacecraft have been observing the Sun over the past few years:
SoHO, Stereo, Hinode, SDO and most recently IRIS. We now have detailed
images and movies of the Sun, which show that it is very complex and dynamic.
This talk will review what we have learnt about our Sun from these space observations, in particular what we know about solar activity and solar flares, together with the impact that the Sun can have on the Earth's environment (space weather).

 

Dr Helen Mason is a solar scientist at the University of Cambridge. She has worked on many solar space projects in the UV and X-ray wavelength ranges (most recently: SoHO, Hinode, SDO and IRIS).

 

In 2014, Helen was awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education and to Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. She has participated in many outreach projects and given science presentations to audiences at many venues, including the Royal Institution. She has participated in several TV programs, most recently BBC4's 'Seven Ages of Starlight'. She leads the Sun|trek project

(www.suntrek.org) which explores the Sun and its effects on the Earth. Most recently she has been working with schools on science projects linked to Tim Peake's flight on the ISS.




RAS Public Lecture: Our Dynamic Sun
Date: 11 Apr 2017
Time: 18:00

Our Dynamic Sun

Dr Helen Mason (Cambridge)

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Lecture Theatre - booking required and opens 15/03/2017 - please email events@ras.org.uk for your free ticket)

 

Several solar spacecraft have been observing the Sun over the past few years:
SoHO, Stereo, Hinode, SDO and most recently IRIS. We now have detailed
images and movies of the Sun, which show that it is very complex and dynamic.
This talk will review what we have learnt about our Sun from these space observations, in particular what we know about solar activity and solar flares, together with the impact that the Sun can have on the Earth's environment (space weather).

 

Dr Helen Mason is a solar scientist at the University of Cambridge. She has worked on many solar space projects in the UV and X-ray wavelength ranges (most recently: SoHO, Hinode, SDO and IRIS).

 

In 2014, Helen was awarded an OBE for her services to Higher Education and to Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. She has participated in many outreach projects and given science presentations to audiences at many venues, including the Royal Institution. She has participated in several TV programs, most recently BBC4's 'Seven Ages of Starlight'. She leads the Sun|trek project

(www.suntrek.org) which explores the Sun and its effects on the Earth. Most recently she has been working with schools on science projects linked to Tim Peake's flight on the ISS.


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: ESA's Space Science and Exploration Missions
Date: 9 May 2017
Time: 13:00

ESA's Space Science and Exploration Missions

Professor Mark McCaughrean

 

(Venue: Geological Society Lecture Theatre - no booking required)

 

The European Space Agency operates and is partner in a fleet of spacecraft studying the Sun, probing the Earth's magnetic field, orbiting various solar system bodies, and collecting photons across the electromagnetic spectrum, from corners of the Universe near and far.

 

In this talk, Prof. Mark McCaughrean will present some key recent results from ongoing missions, including the Milky Way surveyor Gaia, the gravitational wave technology testbed LISA Pathfinder, and present results from two major solar system missions, namely the Rosetta comet chaser, which ended its mission at Comet 67P in September 2016, and the ExoMars 2016 mission, which arrived at Mars in October 2016. He will conclude with a look forward to the exciting new mission currently being built for launch in coming years.

 

Prof. Mark McCaughrean is Senior Science Advisor in the Directorate of Science at the European Space Agency. He is also responsible for communicating results from ESA's astronomy, heliophysics, planetary, and fundamental physics missions to the scientific community and wider general public. Following a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, he worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, followed by astronomical institutes in Tucson, Heidelberg, Bonn, and Potsdam, and taught as a professor of astrophysics at the University of Exeter before joining ESA in 2009. His personal scientific research involves observational studies of the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and he is also an Interdisciplinary Scientist for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.




RAS Public Lecture: ESA's Space Science and Exploration Missions
Date: 9 May 2017
Time: 18:00

ESA's Space Science and Exploration Missions

Professor Mark McCaughrean

 

(Venue: Royal Astonomical Society Lecture Theatre, booking required - booking opens 12 April 2017 - please email events@ras.org.uk for free tickets)

 

The European Space Agency operates and is partner in a fleet of spacecraft studying the Sun, probing the Earth's magnetic field, orbiting various solar system bodies, and collecting photons across the electromagnetic spectrum, from corners of the Universe near and far.

 

In this talk, Prof. Mark McCaughrean will present some key recent results from ongoing missions, including the Milky Way surveyor Gaia, the gravitational wave technology testbed LISA Pathfinder, and present results from two major solar system missions, namely the Rosetta comet chaser, which ended its mission at Comet 67P in September 2016, and the ExoMars 2016 mission, which arrived at Mars in October 2016. He will conclude with a look forward to the exciting new mission currently being built for launch in coming years.

 

Prof. Mark McCaughrean is Senior Science Advisor in the Directorate of Science at the European Space Agency. He is also responsible for communicating results from ESA's astronomy, heliophysics, planetary, and fundamental physics missions to the scientific community and wider general public. Following a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, he worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, followed by astronomical institutes in Tucson, Heidelberg, Bonn, and Potsdam, and taught as a professor of astrophysics at the University of Exeter before joining ESA in 2009. His personal scientific research involves observational studies of the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and he is also an Interdisciplinary Scientist for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.




Website: www.ras.org.uk


Website: www.ras.org.uk