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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: Cassini - The Grand Finale
Date: 14 Nov 2017
Time: 13:00

Cassini - The Grand Finale

Professor Michele Dougherty, Imperial College London

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

 

On 15 September 2017, after almost 20 years in space, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, sending back new and unique science and completing the end of its remarkable story of exploration: its Grand Finale.
In this lecture, Professor Dougherty will share some of the highlights from the Cassini mission and look at what we have learnt, and hope to learn, from the last six months of the mission when Cassini undertook a daring set of 22 orbits diving between the planet and its icy rings, exploring this unique region for this first time. Professor Dougherty will also explain why it was necessary for Cassini to have such a spectacular end to its mission.

 

Michele Dougherty is a space physicist who is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter. Amongst other important findings, her work led to the discovery of an atmosphere containing water and hydrocarbons around Saturn's moon Enceladus — opening up new possibilities in the search for life.

 

Michele is principal investigator for the magnetometer (MAG) instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft on its mission to explore Saturn and its neighbourhood. She and her team measured the level and direction of magnetic materials from the atmosphere of Saturn and the moons visited by Cassini. Michele's innovative use of magnetic field data has therefore had an enormous impact on our understanding of the moons in our Solar System.

 

Michele was the lead investigator for the European Space Agency's JUICE spacecraft, scheduled to go into orbit around Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, in 2032, and was recently selected as Principal Investigator for its magnetometer. She received the Royal Astronomical Society's 2017 Gold Medal recognising her lifetime achievements.




RAS Public Lecture: Cassini - The Grand Finale
Date: 14 Nov 2017
Time: 18:00

Cassini - The Grand Finale
Professor Michele Dougherty, Imperial College London


(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking via Eventbrite www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cassini-the-grand-finale-tickets-38763126555 

 

On 15 September 2017, after almost 20 years in space, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, sending back new and unique science and completing the end of its remarkable story of exploration: its Grand Finale.
In this lecture, Professor Dougherty will share some of the highlights from the Cassini mission and look at what we have learnt, and hope to learn, from the last six months of the mission when Cassini undertook a daring set of 22 orbits diving between the planet and its icy rings, exploring this unique region for this first time. Professor Dougherty will also explain why it was necessary for Cassini to have such a spectacular end to its mission.

 

Michele Dougherty is a space physicist who is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter. Amongst other important findings, her work led to the discovery of an atmosphere containing water and hydrocarbons around Saturn's moon Enceladus — opening up new possibilities in the search for life.

 

Michele is principal investigator for the magnetometer (MAG) instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft on its mission to explore Saturn and its neighbourhood. She and her team measured the level and direction of magnetic materials from the atmosphere of Saturn and the moons visited by Cassini. Michele's innovative use of magnetic field data has therefore had an enormous impact on our understanding of the moons in our Solar System.

 

Michele was the lead investigator for the European Space Agency's JUICE spacecraft, scheduled to go into orbit around Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, in 2032, and was recently selected as Principal Investigator for its magnetometer. She received the Royal Astronomical Society's 2017 Gold Medal recognising her lifetime achievements.

 

Please be aware there is no admittance for late arrivals once the lecture begins at 6 pm (tickets will be reallocated to those queuing for no-shows).


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: How the Earth Works: 50 years of Plate Tectonics
Date: 12 Dec 2017
Time: 13:00

How the Earth Works: 50 years of Plate Tectonics

Dr Sue Bowler, A&G Editor

 

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

 

1967 was the year when modern geophysics began; this was the year when plate tectonics became the new paradigm for understanding our home planet. This revolutionary new way of thinking about the Earth took place because of new technology, including the advent of computers in scientific research that radically changed both the amount and quality of observations of our planet. Dan McKenzie of the University of Cambridge was one of a handful of researchers worldwide who established this new model of the Earth with a key paper published in 1967; this talk uses his archive to show how geophysics revealed the history of the oceans, the origins and locations of vast hydrocarbon deposits, and the mechanisms behind volcanic eruptions and dangerous continental earthquakes – and what it can tell us about the possibility of life on other planets.

 

Dr Sue Bowler is a professional editor, writer and communicator covering astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science and geophysics and for the past 20 years has edited the Royal Astronomical Society Fellows' magazine, A&G.

 

After working at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux, she took a BA degree in Natural Sciences (Geological Sciences) at the University of Cambridge, then a PhD at the University of Leeds on mountain-building. After post-doctoral work in the Western Alps, she joined New Scientist magazine as Earth Sciences Editor, where she covered everything from the centre of the Earth to the edge of the solar system. She continued to act as a Consultant to New Scientist when she returned to Leeds and began teaching Earth sciences and editing for professional-interest magazines such as Geology Today. In 1996 she launched Astronomy & Geophysics magazine for the RAS, developing it into a news and reviews magazine and associated website, A&G Forum, for RAS Fellows to share news of their activities.

 

She also taught physics at Leeds and continues to teach communication skills both at university and professionally. She works as a freelance editor and writer, preparing press releases and producing magazines, booklets and websites for, among others, the RAS, the British Geological Survey, and the Geological Society of London.

 




RAS Public Lecture: How the Earth Works: 50 years of Plate Tectonics
Date: 12 Dec 2017
Time: 18:00

How the Earth Works: 50 years of Plate Tectonics

Dr Sue Bowler, A&G Editor

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking required via Eventbrite - booking opens approx mid-November)

 

1967 was the year when modern geophysics began; this was the year when plate tectonics became the new paradigm for understanding our home planet. This revolutionary new way of thinking about the Earth took place because of new technology, including the advent of computers in scientific research that radically changed both the amount and quality of observations of our planet. Dan McKenzie of the University of Cambridge was one of a handful of researchers worldwide who established this new model of the Earth with a key paper published in 1967; this talk uses his archive to show how geophysics revealed the history of the oceans, the origins and locations of vast hydrocarbon deposits, and the mechanisms behind volcanic eruptions and dangerous continental earthquakes – and what it can tell us about the possibility of life on other planets.

 

Dr Sue Bowler is a professional editor, writer and communicator covering astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science and geophysics and for the past 20 years has edited the Royal Astronomical Society Fellows' magazine, A&G.

 

After working at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux, she took a BA degree in Natural Sciences (Geological Sciences) at the University of Cambridge, then a PhD at the University of Leeds on mountain-building. After post-doctoral work in the Western Alps, she joined New Scientist magazine as Earth Sciences Editor, where she covered everything from the centre of the Earth to the edge of the solar system. She continued to act as a Consultant to New Scientist when she returned to Leeds and began teaching Earth sciences and editing for professional-interest magazines such as Geology Today. In 1996 she launched Astronomy & Geophysics magazine for the RAS, developing it into a news and reviews magazine and associated website, A&G Forum, for RAS Fellows to share news of their activities.

 

She also taught physics at Leeds and continues to teach communication skills both at university and professionally. She works as a freelance editor and writer, preparing press releases and producing magazines, booklets and websites for, among others, the RAS, the British Geological Survey, and the Geological Society of London.

 


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Space - so what!
Date: 16 Jan 2018
Time: 13:00

Space - so what!
Professor Anu Ojha, National Space Centre

 

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

 

Since the birth of the Space Age in 1957 with the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, the discoveries made through the applications of space science and engineering have changed humanity's perspective of our position in the Universe. But what difference has space science and technology made to our everyday lives? Has it really been worth all of the money spent? Could space science save us from the mass extinction of life on Earth? What science did British astronaut Tim Peake doing on the International Space Station (ISS) during his six month mission in space? And is Mars always going to be a dream of future exploration or are we truly entering the era of humanity becoming a multi-planet species?

 

Anu Ojha is Director of the UK's National Space Academy programme and a Director of the National Space Centre. A member of the UK's Space Growth Partnership team, he leads the UK's strategic space education work with China and the Gulf States. He was Principal Investigator for the Astro Academy Principia educational experiment programme conducted by Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station and is a Co-Investigator on the University of Leicester's SPLIT planetary geotechnics tool concept. A current skydiver with over 1300 jumps, Anu was involved as an independent science analyst for the Red Bull Stratos stratospheric jump programme.

 

Anu is a former Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and National Lead Practitioner (Physics) for the UK Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and led the delivery of student and teacher programmes for the UK Space Agency, ESA and other organisations across the United Kingdom, Europe, UAE, the USA and China.

 

He continues to teach physics on the National Space Academy's Space Engineering (A level pre-University) and Higher Apprenticeship (undergraduate) courses run in partnership with Loughborough College and the University of Leicester. In 2014 he was appointed OBE for services to science education and in 2017 was appointed as an Ambassador for the Lloyds' Register Foundation.




RAS Public Lecture: Space - so what!
Date: 16 Jan 2018
Time: 18:00

Space - so what!
Professor Anu Ojha, National Space Centre

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking required via Eventbrite - booking opens approx mid-December)

 

Since the birth of the Space Age in 1957 with the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, the discoveries made through the applications of space science and engineering have changed humanity's perspective of our position in the Universe. But what difference has space science and technology made to our everyday lives? Has it really been worth all of the money spent? Could space science save us from the mass extinction of life on Earth? What science did British astronaut Tim Peake doing on the International Space Station (ISS) during his six month mission in space? And is Mars always going to be a dream of future exploration or are we truly entering the era of humanity becoming a multi-planet species?

 

Anu Ojha is Director of the UK's National Space Academy programme and a Director of the National Space Centre. A member of the UK's Space Growth Partnership team, he leads the UK's strategic space education work with China and the Gulf States. He was Principal Investigator for the Astro Academy Principia educational experiment programme conducted by Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station and is a Co-Investigator on the University of Leicester's SPLIT planetary geotechnics tool concept. A current skydiver with over 1300 jumps, Anu was involved as an independent science analyst for the Red Bull Stratos stratospheric jump programme.

 

Anu is a former Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and National Lead Practitioner (Physics) for the UK Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and led the delivery of student and teacher programmes for the UK Space Agency, ESA and other organisations across the United Kingdom, Europe, UAE, the USA and China.

 

He continues to teach physics on the National Space Academy's Space Engineering (A level pre-University) and Higher Apprenticeship (undergraduate) courses run in partnership with Loughborough College and the University of Leicester. In 2014 he was appointed OBE for services to science education and in 2017 was appointed as an Ambassador for the Lloyds' Register Foundation.




RAS Public Lecture: Einstein's Relativity: Tested to the Limit with Pulsars
Date: 20 Feb 2018
Time: 13:00

Einstein's Relativity: Tested to the Limit with Pulsars

Dr Rene Breton, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester

 

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

 

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity was published in 1915. In over a century it has not failed a single time despite hundreds of tests and experiments. One of the most extreme environments in which to benchmark Relativity and possible alternative theories of gravity is around pulsars (after black holes, the densest objects in the Universe). In this talk, I will discuss the formidable achievements of the last 50 years in using pulsars to test Einstein's theory and describe some of the strange behaviours of space and time when submitted to extreme gravity. I will also highlight future prospects of detecting gravitational waves with pulsars.

 

Dr Rene Breton received his PhD in Physics from McGill University, Canada, in 2009. He is a Reader at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester and he currently holds a prestigious European Research Council Starter Grant. His main research interests revolve around the study of pulsars, which he uses to attempt to understand matter under extreme density, gravity and magnetic fields. Some of his past work enabled us to test 'geodetic spin precession' - a phenomenon predicted to exist in General Relativity - for the first time in the strong gravity environment. Rene also has a keen interest for science communication. He co-funded Pulsar Hunters, a citizen science project seeking help from volunteers to find new pulsars.




RAS Public Lecture: Einstein's Relativity: Tested to the Limit with Pulsars
Date: 20 Feb 2018
Time: 18:00

Einstein's Relativity: Tested to the Limit with Pulsars
Dr Rene Breton, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking via Eventbrite - booking opens mid January 2018)

 

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity was published in 1915. In over a century it has not failed a single time despite hundreds of tests and experiments. One of the most extreme environments in which to benchmark Relativity and possible alternative theories of gravity is around pulsars (after black holes, the densest objects in the Universe). In this talk, I will discuss the formidable achievements of the last 50 years in using pulsars to test Einstein's theory and describe some of the strange behaviours of space and time when submitted to extreme gravity. I will also highlight future prospects of detecting gravitational waves with pulsars.

 

Dr Rene Breton received his PhD in Physics from McGill University, Canada, in 2009. He is a Reader at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester and he currently holds a prestigious European Research Council Starter Grant. His main research interests revolve around the study of pulsars, which he uses to attempt to understand matter under extreme density, gravity and magnetic fields. Some of his past work enabled us to test 'geodetic spin precession' - a phenomenon predicted to exist in General Relativity - for the first time in the strong gravity environment. Rene also has a keen interest for science communication. He co-funded Pulsar Hunters, a citizen science project seeking help from volunteers to find new pulsars.

 


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Magnetic Fields in Space
Date: 20 Mar 2018
Time: 13:00

Magnetic Fields in Space

Dr Chris Hales, Newcastle University

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

 

Magnetic fields are amazing. Their invisible presence can be illuminated by the classic experiment to sprinkle iron filings over a bar magnet. They make your compass point north, and protect the Earth and your smartphone from harmful radiation from space. But have you ever wondered what would happen if you followed your compass out beyond Earth into deep space? What types of cosmic magnets you would encounter? And how strongly they would deflect your compass' needle? In this lecture, Dr Hales will lead us on a tour of magnetic fields throughout space, spanning the smallest scales in the Universe to the largest. Dr Hales will explore a range of ingenious techniques that astronomers have developed to effectively sprinkle iron filings over the cosmos, revealing the directions that compasses will point and the importance of magnetic fields for understanding the formation of objects like stars, galaxies, and perhaps even the Universe itself.

 

Dr Chris Hales is an astronomer whose research seeks to unveil the role that interstellar and intergalactic magnetic fields play in the evolution of galaxies and the Universe. Dr Hales began his career as an aerospace engineer before discovering his passion for astronomy. Following completion of a PhD in his hometown of Sydney, Australia, he moved to New Mexico, USA, to work alongside the powerful Very Large Array radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 2017 he moved to Newcastle University where he is currently working as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow.




RAS Public Lecture: Magnetic Fields in Space
Date: 20 Mar 2018
Time: 18:00

Magnetic Fields in Space

Dr Chris Hales, Newcastle University

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking via Eventbrite - booking opens end February 2018)

 

Magnetic fields are amazing. Their invisible presence can be illuminated by the classic experiment to sprinkle iron filings over a bar magnet. They make your compass point north, and protect the Earth and your smartphone from harmful radiation from space. But have you ever wondered what would happen if you followed your compass out beyond Earth into deep space? What types of cosmic magnets you would encounter? And how strongly they would deflect your compass' needle? In this lecture, Dr Hales will lead us on a tour of magnetic fields throughout space, spanning the smallest scales in the Universe to the largest. Dr Hales will explore a range of ingenious techniques that astronomers have developed to effectively sprinkle iron filings over the cosmos, revealing the directions that compasses will point and the importance of magnetic fields for understanding the formation of objects like stars, galaxies, and perhaps even the Universe itself.

 

Dr Chris Hales is an astronomer whose research seeks to unveil the role that interstellar and intergalactic magnetic fields play in the evolution of galaxies and the Universe. Dr Hales began his career as an aerospace engineer before discovering his passion for astronomy. Following completion of a PhD in his hometown of Sydney, Australia, he moved to New Mexico, USA, to work alongside the powerful Very Large Array radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 2017 he moved to Newcastle University where he is currently working as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow.

 


Website: www.ras.org.uk




RAS Public Lecture: Where next for cosmology?
Date: 17 Apr 2018
Time: 13:00

Where next for cosmology?

Dr Andrew Pontzen, University College London

 

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

 

The last 15 years have been a remarkable time for cosmology; a number of key predictions have been confirmed, ranging from the pattern of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background to the distribution of galaxies through the universe. But these predictions are based on hypothetical, poorly-understood ingredients such as dark matter, dark energy and the inflation. At present it is unclear whether and when the real physical nature of these components will be clarified. How did we reach this point, and where is the best place to focus research efforts when the next breakthrough could equally well arrive tomorrow — or in 50 years' time? Andrew Pontzen guides us through some of these profound challenges, along the way discussing some of his group's recent work on galaxies and on the large scale structure of the universe.

 

Dr Andrew Pontzen is a Royal Society University Research Fellow in theoretical cosmology at University College London. His research, which won the 2016 Royal Astronomical Society's Fowler Award for early-career achievement, spans the early universe to the present day. It pieces together how our modern cosmos was built from ingredients like dark matter. He has written for New Scientist and is a regular guest on BBC shows such as Radio 4's Curious Cases, Inside Science, More Or Less, Infinite Monkey Cage, as well as BBC2's Stargazing Live and BBC4's Sky at Night.




RAS Public Lecture: Where next for cosmology?
Date: 17 Apr 2018
Time: 18:00

Where next for cosmology?

Dr Andrew Pontzen, University College London

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking via Eventbrite)

 

The last 15 years have been a remarkable time for cosmology; a number of key predictions have been confirmed, ranging from the pattern of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background to the distribution of galaxies through the universe. But these predictions are based on hypothetical, poorly-understood ingredients such as dark matter, dark energy and the inflation. At present it is unclear whether and when the real physical nature of these components will be clarified. How did we reach this point, and where is the best place to focus research efforts when the next breakthrough could equally well arrive tomorrow — or in 50 years' time? Andrew Pontzen guides us through some of these profound challenges, along the way discussing some of his group's recent work on galaxies and on the large scale structure of the universe.

 

Dr Andrew Pontzen is a Royal Society University Research Fellow in theoretical cosmology at University College London. His research, which won the 2016 Royal Astronomical Society's Fowler Award for early-career achievement, spans the early universe to the present day. It pieces together how our modern cosmos was built from ingredients like dark matter. He has written for New Scientist and is a regular guest on BBC shows such as Radio 4's Curious Cases, Inside Science, More Or Less, Infinite Monkey Cage, as well as BBC2's Stargazing Live and BBC4's Sky at Night.




RAS Public Lecture: Why Antimatter Matters
Date: 15 May 2018
Time: 13:00

Why Antimatter Matters

Professor Tara Shears

 

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

 

Antimatter, an identical, oppositely charged version of normal matter, is one of the most mysterious substances in the Universe. We think it formed half the universe at the time of the Big Bang, however, very little of it survives today. Understanding why so much antimatter disappeared so quickly, to allow our matter-dominated Universe to form, is one of the biggest challenges today in particle physics. In this talk Professor Tara Shears will explain what antimatter is, how it fits into our understanding of particle physics, and why we think it matters so much. She'll describe the experiments at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, and on the International Space Station, that we've built to study and understand it better. Finally she'll show you what they've found. You'll see their latest results, so you can judge how close they've come to understanding the nature of this elusive substance.

 

Professor Tara Shears is an experimental particle physicist. Her research focusses on testing aspects of the Standard Model of particle physics using the LHCb experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. She is particularly interested in understanding the reasons why that there is so little antimatter in the Universe, and where and how our current understanding breaks down. When not researching, she enjoys communicating her science to anyone who wants to listen.

 

Tara studied at Imperial College London (BSc 1991), and the University of Cambridge (PhD 1995). I held PPARC postdoctoral (University of Manchester), CERN and Royal Society University Research fellowships (University of Liverpool) prior to being appointed to University of Liverpool academic staff in 2007. She was appointed Professor in 2012, and was the first female Professor in her department. She currently leads the University of Liverpool LHCb experimental group.




RAS Public Lecture: Why Antimatter Matters
Date: 15 May 2018
Time: 18:00

Why Antimatter Matters
Professor Tara Shears

 

(Venue: Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre - booking via Eventbrite - booking opens mid April 2018)

 

Antimatter, an identical, oppositely charged version of normal matter, is one of the most mysterious substances in the Universe. We think it formed half the universe at the time of the Big Bang, however, very little of it survives today. Understanding why so much antimatter disappeared so quickly, to allow our matter-dominated Universe to form, is one of the biggest challenges today in particle physics. In this talk Professor Tara Shears will explain what antimatter is, how it fits into our understanding of particle physics, and why we think it matters so much. She'll describe the experiments at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics, and on the International Space Station, that we've built to study and understand it better. Finally she'll show you what they've found. You'll see their latest results, so you can judge how close they've come to understanding the nature of this elusive substance.

 

Professor Tara Shears is an experimental particle physicist. Her research focusses on testing aspects of the Standard Model of particle physics using the LHCb experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. She is particularly interested in understanding the reasons why that there is so little antimatter in the Universe, and where and how our current understanding breaks down. When not researching, she enjoys communicating her science to anyone who wants to listen.

 

Tara studied at Imperial College London (BSc 1991), and the University of Cambridge (PhD 1995). I held PPARC postdoctoral (University of Manchester), CERN and Royal Society University Research fellowships (University of Liverpool) prior to being appointed to University of Liverpool academic staff in 2007. She was appointed Professor in 2012, and was the first female Professor in her department. She currently leads the University of Liverpool LHCb experimental group.


Website: www.ras.org.uk