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Exploring the Universe with Large Telescopes

St Peter's 13-18

Exploring the Universe with Large Telescopes

Tim O'Brien, 2013

With asteroids skimming the surface of our atmosphere and fiery meteors burning up over the Ural Mountains, there was a pertinent backdrop to this public lecture given at St Peter’s School. Dr Tim O’Brien, Associate Director at Jodrell Bank Observatory, delivered a lecture entitled Exploring the Universe with Large Telescopes. His talk described how astronomers are using giant telescopes around the world and in space to see further into the Universe than ever before.

With these telescopes we are able to see the Universe as it was not long after the Big Bang and to study exotic phenomena such as black holes and dark matter. Soon, we may even be able to see evidence of life on other planets.

Tim O'Brien, 2013

The talk included the science and technology of telescopes such as the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, as well as looking forward to the James Webb Space Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array.

The St Peter’s Public Lecture series has made a strong start in 2013; other events this year have included an evening of Stargazing with The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott, an audience with England rugby star and charity campaigner Ben Cohen, and a news quiz chaired by BBC Look North’s Harry Gration. Each has been free to attend and enjoyed by hundreds of York residents.

Tim O'Brien, 2013

David Morris, Head of Physics at St Peter’s and organiser of the lecture, said: "It was great to have another full house for the latest in our series of public physics lectures. Tim O’Brien’s presentation was accessible and engaging to all present. We were expertly guided through the science and technology behind the development of telescopes and were brought bang up to date with the news from Tim that there was to be an announcement the following morning of the latest findings from Europe’s Planck Surveyor satellite.

"Planck’s mission has been to map the structure of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) with finer resolution and greater sensitivity than previous satellites, and it will allow the details of the Universe’s age and composition to be calculated more precisely than ever before. Engineers, technicians, academics and students at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics designed and built super sensitive ‘cryogenic low noise amplifiers’ for the Low Frequency Instrument (LFI) on board the Planck satellite."

Feedback Comments for Tim O’Brien’s lecture

"An excellent speaker, level of science was pitched just right, great use of images and a perfect pace. I really enjoyed learning about current/future projects such as the Square Kilometre Array."

"We enjoyed the detail given in the lecture – both revised and new information. There was also a strong historic element, which provided background and gave purpose to the topic."

"Excellent lecture last night and perfectly gauged to suit both the youngsters for Science Week and the older ones like my wife and I. Thank you."

"Thank you so much for yet another splendid evening! It was a subject I knew absolutely nothing about and I found it fascinating. A really lovely occasion."