To most people astronomy means the stars in the night sky and constellations. Modern astronomers deal with far more than that. It is a dynamic and exciting area of science. Recent (and not so recent) discoveries have revealed a Universe that is, to borrow a phrase from JBS Haldane, not just stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine.
Science does not mean hours in a laboratory with a white coat, to an astronomer science is the birth of the Universe, stars tearing themselves apart in destructive events of huge magnitudes, the collapse of objects into points so bizarre that even the laws of science break down. Yet however strange these might be, science gives us the tools to understand it. This course builds on a basic knowledge of astronomy and goes from the simple observation of the Universe to comprehending the Universe. Although no science or maths knowledge is required the notes that accompany the course will refer to the science and maths that underlies the content. All these sections can be omitted if desired.
We start with an overview of the instruments we use and push beyond the visible to open new vistas. Then we take a look at the Sun and see how science can understand what is happening in the Sun without even using those instruments. When we understand the Sun we can understand the other stars and their lives. Then we expand our horizons even further with an exploration of what the Universe looks like on the large scale.
Over the six weeks we cover several current theories and research areas in modern astronomy, expand on some of the ideas in the introductory course and gain an understanding how modern scientific methods can explore the Universe.
On our journey we will answer questions about what we really mean by relativity and gravity and how they can lead to some of the strangest objects in the Universe. How strange? Ultimately we end up with more understanding but the Universe remains, to borrow a phrase from JBS Haldane, “Stranger than we can imagine”.
Course lecturer: Jarvis Brand
Please wear warm clothing and sensible footwear and please bring a torch. There is a break half way through the lecture and hot drinks can be purchased at the reduced rate of just £1 per hot drink. Cold drinks and snacks can be purchased at the regular price.
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The Observatory Science Centre is part of Science Projects Ltd, a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 02186073 and a registered charity No: 298542. The registered office is 3 – 15 Stirling Road, Acton, London. W3 8DJ. UK.