Public Talks 2003

Public Talks (Munich) on December 1, 2003On Monday, December 1, 2003, two public talks by outstanding scientists will be given at the Deutsches Museum in Munich (Bavaria, Germany).

On the occasion of the "OECD Global Science Forum Workshop on Large-Scale Programmes and Projects in Astronomy and Astrophysics" that takes places in Munich (December 1 - 3, 2003), the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is organising this special event in the Hall of Honours (Ehrensaal) of the Deutsches Museum, from 18:00 to 19:30 hrs CET.

The speakers are Malcolm Longair , Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy and Head of Laboratory, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (UK) and Martin Harwit , Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, Cornell University, and former Director of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC (USA). The talks will be given in English.

The entry to this public event is free, but no more than 200 participants can be accommodated. Cards will be available at the main entrance to the Deutsches Museum from 17:30 hrs CET .

The Director General of ESO, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky , will open the event. It will be chaired by Professor Ralph Bender , Director of the Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

Professor Longair will speak on:

"Astrophysics and Cosmology in the Twenty-First Century"

There have been spectacular advances in astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology over recent years. In this lecture, many of these achievements will be described and used as examples of how these subjects may advance in the 21st century. The role of technological advance in enabling new types of astronomy to be undertaken will be emphasised.

Topical examples will include the discovery of extrasolar planets, the origin of stars, the physics of black holes and active galactic nuclei, and the origin of the Universe itself. To advance these studies, not only are many ambitious programmes being proposed, but new types of astronomy will also advance understanding by tackling old problems in new ways. Examples include neutrino astronomy, gravitational wave astronomy, ultra-high energy particle physics and astrobiology.

The lecture will be profusely illustrated with images and animations from many different types of telescope, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Wilkinson MAP observatory. The lecture will be delivered at the non-technical level.

Professor Harwit will speak on:

"The Growth of Understanding of our Universe"

All that we know about the universe beyond our solar system has been conveyed to us by radio and light waves, X-rays and cosmic-ray particles arriving from great distances. These alone inform us of stars that shine for many eons, of explosions that destroy entire suns, of black holes and colliding galaxies, and of the origins of our universe more than ten billion years ago. Recognition of these striking phenomena has come about thanks to progressively more powerful observational tools, without which no advances would have been possible.

Observational tools, however, can only reveal the existence of new phenomena. They do not explain their origins. To gain this added insight, to truly understand the workings of the universe, new theoretical tools have had to be introduced, disclosing for us the real significance of what our telescopes observe.

This search for ever more powerful and, of necessity, increasingly expensive observational and theoretical tools has led astronomy into the realm of Big Science, where every additional new tool requires enormous investments, often in the Billion-Euro range. These investments are steadily changing the nature of astronomy and its place in modern society. The search for understanding of the universe becomes a matter of sorting out society's major needs and priorities, and a balanced allocation of funds. This is an aspect of their work that astronomers are only just beginning to truly appreciate.

The talk will be aimed at a general audience. Youngsters who attend the talk and might be too shy to ask questions in English, should feel free to ask in German. The speaker will be glad to answer questions posed in either language.