DISCOVERING HOW PLANETARY SYSTEMS FORM
On Friday 12 December, the distinguished astronomer Professor Anneila Sargent of the California Institute of Technology will tell astronomers in London about the exciting range of new instruments and techniques poised to reveal how planetary systems such as our own form in disks of dust and gas around stars similar to the Sun. This burgeoning area of astronomical discovery is the subject of the Royal Astronomical Society's prestigious George Darwin Lecture, to be given by Professor Sargent at 5 pm in the Lecture Theatre of the Geological Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, as part of the RAS's monthly meeting (beginning at 4 pm). The lecture is open to all. Media are welcome to attend. Professor Sargent will be available for interviews earlier in the day.
Anneila Sargent is Director of Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory, and Director of the Combined Array for Research in Millimeterwave Astronomy (CARMA). A native of Scotland, she received her B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Edinburgh, and her Ph.D. in Astronomy from Caltech. Her current research is on the way in which other planetary systems are created and evolve. With her collaborators she uses the Owens Valley millimeter-wave array, the Keck telescopes, and data from NASA Space Science Missions, to search for and study potential planetary systems from their earliest stages of formation, when dense cores in interstellar clouds collapse to form stars, to the epochs when individual planets may be born.
In 1988, Professor Sargent was Caltech's "Woman of the Year". She was awarded the NASA Public Service Medal in 1998. In 2002 she was University of Edinburgh Alumna of the Year. Between 2000 and 2002 she served as President of the American Astronomical Society and earlier this year was appointed to the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.
"Everything we think we know about how planetary systems form is about to be revolutionised", says Professor Sargent. She will use the George Darwin Lecture to highlight some of the latest results in the field and preview what astronomers expect and hope for from a whole range of new observing facilities for millimetre-wave and infrared astronomy, which hold the key to studying planetary systems in the making.
Date: 8 December 2003
Issued by Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Press Officer.