Public Lecture Series to Explain Wonders of Astronomy

Eight monthly talks have been scheduled at UC Riverside covering a range of topics in astronomy

A gravitational lens mirage. Pictured above, the gravity of a luminous red galaxy (LRG) has gravitationally distorted the light from a much more distant blue galaxy. More typically, such light bending results in two discernible images of the distant galaxy, but here the lens alignment is so precise that the background galaxy is distorted into a horseshoe — a nearly complete ring. Since such a lensing effect was generally predicted in some detail by Albert Einstein over 70 years ago, rings like this are now known as Einstein Rings. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Riverside is hosting a new series of eight public lectures aimed at making astronomy understandable to all. The free lectures will take place the first Thursday of every month (except the one in January 2015).

The first lecture of the series, scheduled for 6 p.m., Nov. 6, will address how gravitational lenses can be used to study the distant universe. Titled “Einstein’s Telescope: Using Gravitational Lenses as Telescopes to Reveal the Distant Universe,” the one-hour talk will be given by Brian Siana, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside. It will take place in Room 3035 in the Physics Building on campus.

“A century ago, Einstein predicted that massive objects bend space, causing light to change direction,” Siana said.  “Today, astronomers are using this phenomenon to focus light and magnify distant galaxies.  In this talk, I will explain this phenomenon and show how astronomers are using it to study everything from planets outside our solar system to the most distant galaxies ever seen.”

The series will continue next month with a talk, scheduled for Dec. 4, on the evolution of galaxies. The first talk next year will take place on Jan. 8 (instead of Jan. 1). The series will conclude with the talk on June 4, 2015.

“For now, the talks are being held in Room 3035 in the Physics Building,” said Mario De Leo Winkler, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who is organizing the lecture series. “Depending on the turnout, we may move in the future to a larger room.”

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