The University of Chicago News Office
March 15, 1996 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

"Imag(in)ing the Universe": Spring Compton Lecture Series

Learn about the exotic ways astronomers “see” the universe in a series of free public lectures at the University of Chicago, beginning Saturday, Mar. 30. The series of ten lectures, titled “Imag(in)ing the Universe: Novel Techniques for Developing World Views,” will be given Saturday mornings at 11a.m. through June 1, in Room 115 of the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, 5720 S.Ellis Ave.

Physicist Suzanne Staggs will deliver the lectures, explaining the different tools astronomers use to look at the universe. “The Hubble telescope has given us a huge number of optical images of things you could see yourself if only your eyes were more sensitive,” she said. “But astrophysicists also get information about the universe by collecting microwaves, radio waves and radiation from other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of which are invisible to our eyes.”

Staggs added, “Sometimes it’s what astronomers don’t see–missing power in the spectrum, for example–that provides information about what might be in front of the object they’re looking at.” Topics range from pulsars (rhythmically flashing stars) and quasi-stellar objects–fantastically bright, distant sources silhouetting objects in front of them–to the cosmic microwave background radiation, the last detectable remnants of the primeval fireball of the Big Bang.

Staggs, who studies the cosmic microwave background, received her B.A. in physics from Rice University in 1987 and her Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1993. She is currently a Hubble Fellow in the Enrico Fermi Institute.

The talks are the 43rd series of Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. Arthur Holly Compton was a University of Chicago physicist and a Nobel laureate best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He was also a member of the research team that in 1942 produced the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles of matter to the history of the universe. All of the lectures are free of charge and open to the public. For more information, call (773)702-7823.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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