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Department of Physics

Grubb Parsons Lectures

An annual public lecture series set up to commemorate the achievements of the Newcastle optics firm of Grubb Parsons when closed after 150 years of operation. Throughout the second part of the twentieth century, Grubb Parsons built mirrors for many large telescopes throughout the world, culminating in the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands.

2013 Grubb Parsons Lecture

The 2013 Grubb Parsons Lecture, sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society, on Wednesday 4 December 2014, entitled The European Extremely Large Telescope: A new giant for the next decade and beyond", will be given by Professor Isobel Hook, from the University of Oxford and INAF - Observatory of Rome, on the next generation of massive telescopes.

As the Chair of the E-ELT Science Working Group and a current member of the E-ELT Project Science Team, Isobel Hook has been central to the development of the most ambitious project ever attempted by European astronomers.

The lecture will take place at 4.30pm in the Appleby Lecture Theatre (W103), in the Geography Building, opposite the Department of Physics, on the Lower Mountjoy Site, South Road, Durham. 

2012 Grubb Parsons Lecture

The Herschel Space Observatory: Exploring the Origins of stars and Galaxies

Professor Matt Griffin, University of Cardiff

Professor Matt Griffin is the Principle Investigator of the SPIRE instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory.  The Herschel is a European Space Agency satellite launched in May 2009 to study the far infrared properties of the Universe. The satellite has performed well above expectations and has produced important results ranging from asteroids to the most distant galaxies. In his lecture, Professor Griffin will describe the scientific impact of Herschel and the future prospects for far infrared wavelength astronomy.

The lecture took place on: Wednesday 6th June 2012 at 4:30pm in The Calman Learning Centre, Science Site, Rosemary Cramp Lecture Theatre (CLC202)

Grubb Parsons Lecture Poster 2012

2011 Grubb Parsons Lecture

The Grubb Parsons Lecture was delivered by Dr Jill Tarter from the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research in San Francisco, California.

It took place in the Appleby Lecture Theatre (W103) at 4.30pm on Wednesday, May 18, 2011.

Called "Are we alone?", the lecture explored the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the prospects of finding it in the next few decades.

Abstract: Aliens abound on the movie screens, but in reality we are still trying to find out if we share our universe with other sentient creatures. Intelligence is very difficult to define, and impossible to directly detect over interstellar distances.

Therefore, SETI is actually an attempt to detect evidence of another distant technology.  If we find such evidence, we will infer the existence of intelligent technologists.

For the past 50 years, the SETI community has had a very pragmatic definition of intelligence - the ability to build large transmitters.

The majority of SETI searches to date have looked for radio signals coming from distant civilizations. We've recently begun looking for very short optical pulses as well.  As our own technology matures and innovates, we may try other means of searching, and we will certainly improve upon the searches that we are already conducting.

>> Watch the Video

From Left to Right: Sue Bowler (RAS), Prof. Martin Ward (Durham), Dr Jill Tarter (SETI), Dr Alistair Edge (Durham), Shana Tarter

From Left to Right: Sue Bowler (RAS), Prof. Martin Ward (Durham), Dr Jill Tarter (SETI), Dr Alistair Edge (Durham), Shana Tarter

2009 Grubb Parsons Lecture

The 2009 Grubb Parsons Lecture took place on Wednesday 18th March 2009,  at 4.30pm in W103 (Applebey Lecture Theatre). It was given by Prof. Rob Kennicutt, Plumian Professor, for the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. The talk was entitled ('Hot Results on Cool Galaxies: The Hidden Universe Revealed')

Half of the starlight in the Universe is hidden from visible telescopes, having been quenched by fine clouds of dust particles in interstellar space. This missing energy reappears in the infrared and terahertz regions of the spectrum, and can only be studied fully from spaceborne observatories. Now thanks to a series of international space observatories this hidden Universe has been fully revealed. The data from these telescopes reveal new classes of objects and phenomena, including the discovery of the most luminous and active star-forming galaxies in the Universe. These objects provide glimpses into the early history of galaxies like our own, and new insights into the star and galaxy formation processes that shaped the Hubble sequence.

The lecture highlighted what has been learned from the infrared observations, and previewed anticipated results from the Herschel Space Observatory, which was scheduled for launch in April 2009.

From Left to right - Dr Sue Bowler, University of Leeds, Prof Martin Ward, Durham University, Prof Rob Kennikutt, University of Cambridge, Prof Carlos Frenk, Durham University and Prof Ray Sharples, Durham University

2007/08

 

The 2007/08 Grubb Parsons Lecture took place on Wednesday 21st November 2007,  at 4.30pm in W103 (Appleby Lecture Theatre). It was given by Professor Ewine F. van Dishoeck of the Leiden Observatory, Leiden University and was entitled 'Building Planets and the Ingredients of Life between the Stars'

One of the most exciting developments in astronomy is the discovery of planets around stars other than our Sun. More than 200 exo-planets have now been detected. But how do these planets form, and why are they so different from our own solar system? Which ingredients are available to build them? Thanks to powerful new telescopes, astronomers are now starting to address these age-old questions. In this talk, an overview will be given of how stars and planets are born in the extremely cold and tenuous clouds between the stars in the Milky Way. These clouds also contain a surprisingly rich variety of organic material. Which chemical compounds do we find in space? Can they end up on new planets and form the basis for pre-biotic material?

Building Planets and the Ingredients of Life between the Stars

2006/07

The 2006/07 Grubb-Parsons Lecture took place on Wednesday 28 February 2007 at 4.30pm in room CG93 (the Scarborough Lecture Theatre) .  The lecturer was given by Professor John Zarnecki from the Open University whose lecture, Touchdown on Titan, dealt with the voyage of the European Space Agency's Huygens probe which landed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, following its seven year journey from Earth.  Professor Zarnecki was the principal investigator of the Huygens probe to Titan. 

Professor John Zarnecki with members of the Durham Physics Department

Professor John Zarnecki with members of the Durham Physics Department [Photograph: V. Greener]

2005/06

The 2005/06 Grubb Parsons Lecture took place at 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday 30 November 2005 in the CY93 (Scarborough Lecture Theatre).  It was given by Professor Reinhard Genzel, entitled Massive Black Holes.

Professor Genzel is the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching and a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. His research career includes world-leading discoveries spanning the physics of star formation, active galactic nuclei, black holes and galaxy dynamics. He is also an acknowledged expert in the development of innovative astronomical instrumentation for the world's largest telescopes.

2004/05

The 2004/05 Grubb Parsons Lecture took place at 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday 2 February 2005 in CG93 (Scarborough Lecture Theatre) and was given by Professor George Efstathiou FRS entitled 'The Fate of the Universe'.

The Fate of the Universe
The lecture covered recent advances in our understanding of the geometry of the Universe and their implications for the eventual fate of the Universe. The observational foundations of this work comes from new, high-quality maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background, large-scale redshift surveys of the local Universe and studies of Supernovae at high redshifts. Prof. Efstathiou discussed the theoretical implications of these new discoveries on models of the growth of structure in the Universe and the properties and nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Professor George Efstathiou FRS
Prof. Efstathiou is a world expert in theoretical and observational cosmology. His research career includes the development of the Cold Dark Matter model of the growth of structure in the Universe and his recent work deals with the measurements of the fundamental structure and evolution of the Universe from large scale galaxy surveys and the Cosmic Microwave Background. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994 and currently holds the Chair of Astrophysics and the Directorship of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University.

Previous Grubb-Parsons Lectures

YearName of lecturerInstitution at time of lectureTitle of lecture
2013 Professor Isobel Hook University of Oxford The European Extremely Large Telescope: A new giant for the next decade and beyond
2012 Professor Martin Griffin University of Cardiff The Herschel Space Observatory: Exploring the Origins of Stars and Galaxies
2011 Dr Jill Tarter Centre for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) San Francisco Are we Alone?
2009 Professor Rob Kennicutt Plumian Professor, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge Hot Results on Cool Galaxies:The Hidden Universe Revealed 
2007 Professor Ewine F. van Dishoeck Leiden Observatory, Leiden University Building Planets abd the Ingredients of Life between the Stars 

2007

Professor John Zarnecki

Open University

Touchdown on Titan

2005 Professor Reinhard Genzel Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching and University of California, Berkeley  Massive Black Holes
2005 Professor George Efstathiou FRS  Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge The Fate of the Universe
2003 Alexandre Martynov and Alexandre Alexandrov  Energia Rocket Space Corporation Life in Space
2002 Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith FRS Oxford University Towards a Theory of Everything? Quarks, Higgs Bosons and All That
2002 Professor Sir Martin Rees Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge The Beginning and End of the Universe
2000 Professor Tim de Zeeuw University of Leiden Giant Black Holes and Cosmic Collisions
1999 Professor Richard Ellis Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge World Without End: New Data on the Cosmic Expansion
1997 Professor Jerry Nelson University of California, Santa Cruz Giant Telescopes for the Millennium
1996 Professor Simon White Max Planck Institut für Astrophysik Cosmic Architecture: How the Universe was built
1995 Dr Alan Dressler Observatories of the Carnegie Institute, Washington Galaxy evolution: A journey through space and time
1994 Professor Alvio Renzini University of Bologna The Chronology of Stars and Galaxies
1993 Dr Vera Rubin Observatories of the Carnegie Institute, Washington Bright Galaxies and Dark Matter
1992 Professor Allan Sandage Observatories of the Carnegie Institute, Washington Giant Telescopes and the Search for the Curvature of space
1991 Professor Joachim Trümper Max Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik ROSAT: A new look at the X-ray Sky
1990 Professor Robert Kirshner Harvard University Exploding stars and the size of the Universe
1989 Professor Roger Angel Steward Observatory, University of Arizona The Revolution in Making Giant Telescopes