Carnegie Observatories Lecture Series

Each year the Observatories organizes a series of public lectures on current astronomical topics.  These lectures are given by astronomers from the Carnegie Observatories as well as other research institutions.  The lectures are geared to the general public and are free.

2011 Season

March 7, March 21, April 4, and April 28, 2011
Friend's Hall, Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
All lectures start at 7:30 p.m., with light refreshments in advance

Parking is free.  To access the parking lot, please enter The Huntington via the Allen Avenue gate.

For more information about the Carnegie Observatories or this lecture series, please contact John Mulchaey.

Monday, March 7, 2011
Life in the Universe:  Just Add Water?
Dr. Christopher Burns
Research Associate, Carnegie Observatories

Are we alone in the universe?  Like all the other Big Questions about the cosmos, the answer to this one has far-reaching implications for science, philosophy, and theology.  To date, we have no conclusive evidence of extra-terrestrial life in our Solar System.  But it's a big universe.  To predict how much life, if any, could be out there, we need to understand how life got started here on Earth.  Dr. Burns will discuss our current understanding of how life began on Earth and how likely it could begin elsewhere in our Solar System and beyond.

Monday, March 21, 2011
Mysteries of the Dark Universe
Dr. Rocky Kolb
Professor, The University of Chicago

Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing.  Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called  dark matter and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called dark energy.  We have no understanding of the natures of the stuff that makes up our universe.  Dr. Kolb will discuss the evidence for the dark matter and dark energy, and propose that unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum with the cosmos.

Monday, April 4, 2011
The Lights of Cosmic Dawn
Dr. Alan Dressler
Staff Astronomer, Carnegie Observatories

The "modern universe" began when the first stars and quasars - ravenous black holes - began to flood the darkness.  This 'first light' appeared a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, but some of it arrives at Earth every day - 14 billion years later.  Amazingly, the largest telescopes and most sensitive instruments allow astronomers to see back to this beginning, but the view is dim and difficult.  Dr. Dressler will describe what we have seen, and what the prospects are for the future, with more ambitious telescopes and new techniques.

Monday, April 18, 2011
Our Universe in a Supercomputer
Dr. Thomas J. Cox
Carnegie-Rubin Fellow, Carnegie Observatories

How did galaxies such as our Milky Way come to be?  Astronomers now have a well formed and highly accurate picture for how our universe began - with a "big bang" roughly 14 billion years ago.  However, physically mapping the initial conditions fo galaxies we see through modern telescope has proven to be a complex and elusive task.  In this talk Dr. Cox will talk about how the combination of supercomputers and today's most powerful telescopes are working together to address outstanding questions about the origin and evolution of galaxies.