Cline Observatory Fall Astronomy Day Lecture

Friday, 3 October 2014:  Jocelyn Bell Burnell

On Friday, 3 October 2014, Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell will visit GTCC to give our annual Fall Astronomy Day Lecture.  More information about the lecture will be posted later. Cline Observatory will be open for viewing after the event, weather permitting.

The 2013 Fall Astronomy Day Lecture was held on Friday, 4 October

Small Stars in a Large Context:  All Things White Dwarf - by Don Winget (U. Texas)

About the Talk: Astronomy, in contrast with other sciences, has traditionally been considered an observational science; it has not been possible to perform experiments on the objects we observe. This situation has changed in a way that is transformational. Although laboratory astrophysics has long been an important part of astronomical research, what has changed is the ability to produce large enough chunks of a star that we can make measurements and perform experiments on it.  We are now able to make macroscopic quantities of star-stuff in the lab: plasmas created under conditions that are the same as the plasmas in stars; we can now examine, on Earth, matter under more cosmically "normal" conditions.

I will describe how this came about, the technology behind it, recent results, and the potential impact of our recent laboratory experiments done at Sandia National Laboratories on Z, the most powerful x-ray source on Earth.

We will close with a summary of recent discoveries at the telescope that extend the scope of this work and outline how all this will change our understanding of the white dwarf stars and, through them, what we know about the content and evolution of the cosmos.

Cline Observatory will be open for viewing after the talk, weather permitting.

Zmachine DonWinget

About the Speaker

"I can't remember a time when I wasn't interested in astronomy and horses," says Don Winget, Harlan J. Smith Centennial Professor in Astronomyat the University of Texas at Austin.  "One of my most vivid early memories was watching a parade, after dark in Champagne, Illinois, where I grew up," he says. " I forgot all about the parade and lay on my back on the curb, wondering about those points of light on the sky."

Don says in his later school years, he and a friend went to monthly Open House nights at the University of Illinois. There, professor Stan Wyatt gave public lectures and also talked to Don about a career in astronomy. Dr. Wyatt advised Don to study physics in college, and that is what Don did.  He received a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Illinois and went on to receive a master's degree in physics from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in physics and astronomy from Rochester, as well.

Today, Don studies white dwarf stars, using them to study all different kinds of things. These include the physics of matter at high temperatures and densities, as well as the structure of galaxies, and the evolution of star populations in galaxies. He even looks for planets orbiting white dwarf stars, which would be the remnants of solar systems like our own, after its Sun had died. Recently, he has begun a project making macroscopic chunks of star stuff, reproducing the conditions at the surfaces of white dwarf stars, in the laboratory on the Z-machine at Sandia National Laboratories.  Read about Dr. Winget's research hereDr. Winget is featured in this video, which also highlights the artwork of Leah Flippen, whose painting of the Z machine was adapted for our local event poster.

Don has won many awards for his teaching at Texas, including the 2013 Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award, and has recieved several prizes for his scientific work. He is a member of the University of Texas Academy of Distinguished Teachers.  He says McDonald Observatory is his "favorite spot on this Earth."

We are honored to have him as the latest astronomy Day speaker at GTCC.


Directions to the Koury Auditorium at GTCC's Jamestown Campus.

If you have any questions please contact Tom English - 336-334-4822336-334-4822 x50023

The Cline Observatory Astronomy Day Lecture is held each fall, featuring a prominent researcher in astronomy, astrophysics, or planetary science.  Follow this link to see a list of Past Lecturers.

North Carolina Astronomers' Meeting (NCAM)

Cline Observatory also hosts the annual technical meeting of NC astronomers in association with Fall Astronomy Day. This event is open to professional astronomers and their students.  The 2013 meeting was held on Saturday, 5 Oct.  The next edition of NCAM will be on Saturday, 4 October 2014.


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Last update 05/19/2014