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Carnegie Observatories 2016 Lecture Series

Mar 23, 2016

600px-Center_of_the_Milky_Way_Galaxy_II_–_Hubble_(Visible)Our friend Vicki Laidig informed us of a lecture series that is, in her opinion, out of this world—the Carnegie Observatories annual spring lecture series—which is free, open to the public, and begins on April 4.

A bit of history we found fascinating (and addictive):

In 1904, George Ellery Hale “seeking clearer skies than existed near his native Chicago”¹ was able to curry favor and financial support from the newly established Carnegie Institution of Washington. The result? Mount Wilson Solar Observatory, which housed a 60-inch, then the 100-inch Hooker telescope, “each the largest in the world at the time of its construction.”

 

The 100-inch telescope glass being hauled up the one-way dirt toll road from Altadena to Mt. Wilson by truck in 1917—it was boxed in and draped with an American flag; photo from the Herald-Examiner Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 100-inch telescope glass being hauled up the one-way dirt toll road from Altadena to Mt. Wilson by truck in 1917—it was boxed in and draped with an American flag; photo from the Herald-Examiner Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Mount Wilson telescopes transformed astronomy and astrophysics. It was with these that Shapley mapped the globular cluster system of the galaxy, Hubble discovered the expanding universe, Baade first recognized the phenomenon of stellar populations, and Adams, Joy, Sandage, and others established the empirical basis for theories of stellar structure and evolution. (Obs.CarnegieScience.edu/about/history)

Striving to push deeper into the universe, in 1928 the Carnegie and Mount Wilson astronomers persuaded the Rockefeller Foundation to fund a 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain. Title was given to the California Institute of Technology, which joined with Carnegie to form the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, a partnership that lasted until 1980.

 

The Andromeda Galaxy, which Walter Baade was able to observe and "led him to define distinct 'populations' for stars (Population I and Population II); photo by Adam Evans [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Andromeda Galaxy, which Walter Baade (1893-1960) was able to observe and which “led him to define distinct ‘populations’ for stars (Population I and Population II)”; photo by Adam Evans [CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Carnegie astronomers desired an observing station in the Southern Hemisphere, wishing to learn more about the Magellanic Clouds and the center of the Milky Way. The site for the Las Campanas Observatory, established in 1969, is in the southern area of Chile’s Atacama Desert. In the mid-1980s, light pollution in the L. A. basin made the Mount Wilson location less than ideal and Las Campanas became Carnegie’s principal observing site. Yet the main offices for Carnegie Observatories remains on Santa Barbara Street in Pasadena. Here, Carnegie staff members and fellows are allowed the freedom to pursue their research, inventions, and relationships completely as they wish and without the obligation of applying for grants, searching for funding, or teaching.

Carnegie is a very special place, and the environment of the Observatories reflects the values of an institution dedicated to enabling exceptional scientists to pursue their ideas with complete freedom. (Obs.CarnegieScience.edu/about/history)

 

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Five lectures compose the 2016 Carnegie Lecture Series. All lectures are held at the Huntington Library and are free and open to the public—though as seating is limited, reservations are required. The evenings begin at 6:45 p.m. with a musical performance by students from The Colburn School, while the lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. Light refreshments are available and the Huntington Cafe is open from 5:30-7:15 p.m.

2016 Carnegie spring lectures:

Monday, April 4: “Las Campans Observatory: A Southern Window on the Universe” with Dr. Mark Phillips, Director of Las Campanas Observatory and Associate Director for Magellan Carnegie Institution for Science.

Monday, April 18: “A Short History of Planet Formation” with Dr. Anat Shahar, staff scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution for Science.

Monday, May 2: “Exoplanets” with Dr. Kevin Schlaufman, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and a Carnegie-Princeton Fellow.

Monday, May 16: “The Secret Lives of Galaxies” with Dr. Katherine Alatalo, Hubble Fellow, Carnegie Observatories.

For complete details of each lecture and other information, please visit CarnegieScience.edu/lectureseries2016 or call 1.626.304.0250.

 

 

Dr. Phillips received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1977, and spent many years working at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile before moving to the Observatories of the Carnegie Institute of Washington in 1998. He has worked in a wide variety of astronomical fields during his career, but is most celebrated for his seminal work in establishing the utility of exploding stars -- ``supernovae'' -- as cosmological distance indicators; photo source, San Diego State University

Dr. Phillips received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1977, and spent many years working at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile before moving to the Observatories of the Carnegie Institute of Washington in 1998. He has worked in a wide variety of astronomical fields during his career, but is most celebrated for his seminal work in establishing the utility of exploding stars — “supernovae” — as cosmological distance indicators; photo source, San Diego State University

 

 

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¹ Source information obtained from Obs.CarnegieScience.edu/about/history.

Photo (partial), top right, center of the Milky Way, Galaxy II – Hubble (visible) by NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/CXC/STScI (NASA JPL Photojournal: PIA12348) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

 




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