The conference fee is $495 and includes all seminars below plus a Science of Star Trek Q&A.
LAWRENCE KRAUSS, PH.D.
JOHN HARVEY, PH.D.
RICHARD KEEN, PH.D.
The earth lives in the "Goldilocks" zone where things are “just right” for life to form. Liquid water, limited comet bombardment, organic materials. But how did it get that way? Why are we not living on Venus, or Mars? Why wasn’t the earth frozen when the Sun was cooler? When will there be a runaway greenhouse effect? Why is there Oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere? Where will be the best place in the solar system to look for life, existing or fossilized? These are some of the mysteries that we will discuss and explain.
Are we Alone? Perhaps the most pressing question many of us have about the universe is whether we are alone. Happily, the last decade has observationally confirmed what theorists had hoped for decades before. Planets are everywhere! We not only know of over 500 planets around other stars, but we already have tentative evidence of perhaps another 1000. Moreover, planets exist in places that we never would have thought was possible. If anything, the variety of solar systems existing in the Universe dwarfs anything that was in the imagination of theorists before the current rash of discoveries. How do we find exoplanets, and what are we looking for if we want to find out if there is another green Earth in the cosmos?
Our Sun has been around for 4.5 billion years. It likely only formed because another star was kind enough to die in order to trigger its birth. How is our Sun different than other stars, and how is it the same? How do different stars evolve and die? What will the cosmos look like in the future?
It took a man who was willing to break all the rules to tame a theory that breaks all the rules. Learn about the scientific legacy of one of the greatest and most colorful scientists of the 20th century, and in turn get insights into the questions driving the science of the 21st century.
Why is there Something rather than Nothing? The oldest question humans have asked about the Universe is, why is it here, and what is it made of? Revolutions in observational cosmology and particle physics have completely changed how we think about these questions, and our understanding of our origins, and our future. In the process we have learned that the things we cannot see in the Universe are probably far more important than the things we can see.
The Sun is the only astronomical object crucial to life on Earth. It sustains us and structures our lives. What is the Sun like now, how was it different in the past, and what will its future be? The Sun changes in time over scales of billions of years down to fractions of a second. Some of these changes determine our ultimate fate and others affect our society. Solar research strives to understand enough about the Sun to be able to predict its behavior and informs us about physical processes that occur throughout the universe. Gain an important understanding of the natural history of our star and the current work to interpret its phenomena.
Once feared by viewers of total solar eclipses, the corona was first thought to be either the atmosphere of the moon or scattered light in our atmosphere. These ideas were quickly dismissed but the corona turns out to be even more fantastic. The corona is very hot, but what heats it? It is structured by the Sun’s magnetic field but in ways that cannot yet be explained. It is tethered to the surface but rotates differently. Dramatic explosions occur there but what causes them? How do cool clouds form and survive for weeks in the coronal heat? Pick up the latest on these mysteries in the light of recent observations and discoveries.
The discovery of sunspots forever changed our view of the cosmos. Four hundred years of study has revealed that sunspots are the most obvious manifestations of magnetism of the Sun. The magnetic activity of the Sun varies in a cycle whose characteristics defy our attempts to predict it. Moreover, the changing magnetic field of the Sun is the source of space weather from the Sun to edges of the Solar System. The strongest space weather events threaten our technological society and the safety of humans in space. Join Dr. Harvey in a look at solar magnetism and find out how to monitor and prepare for the space weather it generates.
Studying the solar interior is an excellent example of how science works at its best. Hidden from view, the interior was long the sole domain of fantastic speculation and later, theoretical modeling. Luckily, neutrinos and sound waves move easily through the interior and provide ways to “see” the interior. Making the observations is not trivial in either case. Pioneering observations upset the foundations of physics and theoretical predictions about the structure and motions inside the Sun. Current observations continue to reveal new information and one major unresolved problem. Learn the state-of-the-art theory of solar structure, plus hear a rare first-person account of the early days of solar research from the South Pole where Dr. Harvey worked in 1981, 1987, 1988, 1990, and 1994.
The Sun has been an object of human awe and curiosity for all of recorded history. Yet so much is still unknown. Is the Sun special compared to other stars? What drives the sunspot cycle and will we ever be able to predict it? Does the Sun affect our climate? What triggers violent solar eruptions? Why do sunspots look and behave the way they do? How variable is the Sun’s energy output that sustains life on Earth? We are in the golden age of studies of the Sun. Find out about new projects that address these pressing Big Questions.
Total solar eclipses are among nature’s grandest spectacles. These events are so rare, and yet so awe-inspiring, that people like you travel to distant, exotic lands to see them. Why do total solar eclipses happen, and why are they so rare that one occurs only about once every several centuries from any given location on Earth? And how do total solar eclipses differ from lunar eclipses, partial eclipses, and annular eclipses?
In this talk, Sky & Telescope editor in chief Robert Naeye will answer these questions, while also providing key information about this November 2012 peclipse. He will discuss why humans are extremely fortunate to live on Earth during a narrow window in time when total solar eclipses occur. He will describe what to look for and how to observe the Sun safely. He will give pointers about how to take great photographs of the eclipse. He will also preview upcoming total solar eclipses, including the great eclipse of August 21, 2017, whose path of totality will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.
Because of their rarity and odd appearance, lunar and solar eclipses have played prominent roles in human history. Because of superstition and a lack of understanding of the physical causes of eclipses, past generations of humans perceived eclipses as omens for good or evil. For example, a total lunar eclipse was a significant factor in the crushing Athenian defeat in the Sicilian Expedition of 415–13 BC. And yet once eclipses became well understood, they provided scientists with opportunities to investigate the Sun’s outer atmosphere (corona) and the very nature of space and time. A 1919 eclipse expedition by British astronomer Arthur Eddington provided crucial observational support for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, turning the former Swiss patent clerk into a global celebrity.
In this talk, Sky & Telescope editor in chief Robert Naeye will discuss the history of eclipse observations, the science learned from eclipses, how eclipse predictions and maps have improved over the past few centuries, and the colorful modern phenomena of eclipse chasing.
Just 16 years ago, astronomers didn’t know for certain whether other stars like our Sun were accompanied by planets. But since 1995, a scientific revolution has revealed more than 700 “extrasolar planets.” These worlds exhibit a much wider diversity of properties and orbits than those in our solar system, and they have taught astronomers a great deal about how planetary systems form and evolve.
Incredibly, and against all expectations, amateur astronomers have participated in this revolution. Observing with their own backyard telescopes, amateurs have played a key role in the discovery and characterization of several extrasolar planets. Professional research astronomers have come to deeply respect the skill of these amateurs, and amateurs are listed as coauthors of numerous papers published in the leading astronomical journals. These contributions demonstrate how dedicated amateurs, using relatively inexpensive equipment, can advance human knowledge in one of the most important areas of modern scientific research, a field of research that bears directly on the question of whether or not we are alone in our galaxy. Join Sky & Telescope editor Robert Naeye as he shares the remarkable story of how amateur astronomers are contributing to one of the most exciting fields in science.
Huge asteroids slamming into Earth and wreaking havoc in our modern civilization have been a source of Hollywood blockbusters and TV documentaries. But how real is the actual threat? Is such a catastrophe likely in the near future? What would happen if a large asteroid (or comet) collided with our home planet? And if astronomers found an object on a collision course with Earth, what, if anything, could we do about it? Sky & Telescope Editor in Chief Robert Naeye explains the odds of impact, and the latest scientific efforts to mitigate the threat. He explains that there are two actual threats, small objects that collide relatively frequently and which could destroy a region, and the much larger bodies that collide extremely infrequently, but which could take out an entire region, or even human society.
Since long before the days of the Pharaohs and their sun god Ra, the Sun has been seen as the eternal and immutable giver of light and life. Galileo got in trouble for challenging the perfection of the Sun, and more recently the light from the Sun was thought permanent enough for its intensity to be called the “Solar Constant”. We now know that the Solar Constant is, indeed, not constant. One of the profound realizations of modern science is that the Sun is like most of its brethren in the universe, a variable star.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, humans have benefited and suffered from climate change since civilization sprang up after the end of the Ice Age. Since then, the ups and downs of the climate appears to have influenced, if not caused, the rise and fall of many local civilizations. The Sun is the driver of the climate of Earth (and of the other planets as well), and many of the climate “events” of the past can be traced to events and cycles on the Sun. We’ll step through the history of the Sun, the climate, and even a bit of civilization over recent millennia; explain how we know these events occurred and how we measure them using trees and telescopes; and explore some hypotheses of how the Sun actually can affect the climate. Today, the Sun may be experiencing changes unprecedented in the lifetimes of anyone reading this, and we’ll speculate on what those changes could mean here on Earth.
Here are the slides (5mb file).
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