Scheduled Discussion Topics:

Please note the talks start at slightly different times because they vary in length and the aim is to finish them around 9.30pm, so they will start promptly. Arrive early if you want to settle down and listen to them with a cup of tea or coffee.

The Golden Age of Exoplanet Exploration Part 2.

18th May 8.45pm

Since the discovery of the first exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star in 1995, several thousand more have been discovered. We’ve peered into the atmospheres of some, and we’ve found whole families of planets orbiting strange stars -- many in configurations starkly different from our own. We’ve learned a lot from NASA's Kepler mission, which launched 10 years ago and ceased operations in November 2018. A new NASA planet-hunting spacecraft called TESS, which began science operations as Kepler was winding down, will give us thousands of new discoveries in the coming years. And the Spitzer Space Telescope has provided us valuable insights into what these worlds might be like. This show will look at the state of exoplanet science and give us a view of what future discoveries may be around the corner.

Speaker: Karl Stapelfeldt, Chief Scientist, NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program Office, JPL

Small Worlds, Big Science

15th June 8.30pm

Among the planets and far beyond are small worlds that hold clues to the formation of our solar system. NASA's robotic spacecraft allow us to visit comets, asteroids, and dwarf planets up close. We are just beginning to figure out what these places are like, what they are made of, and how they formed.

Speaker: Dr. Carol Raymond DAWN Principal Investigator and Manager of the JPL Small Bodies Program

Darkness Surrounds Us

13th July 8.45pm

All the material we can see is just a small fraction of the universe. The rest, a full 95 percent, is invisible and mysterious. These are the enigmatic dark matter and dark energy. While dark matter keeps things like galaxies together, dark energy acts in an opposite way – it pushes groups of galaxies apart and expands the universe itself. This event will discuss how astronomers are working to map the universe’s dark matter so they can see the effects of dark energy. The results could help us understand if the universe will expand at an accelerating rate forever.

Speakers: Alina Kiessling and Jason Rhodes both Astrophysicists at NASA-JPL

Some possible future discussion topics:

  • Mars Exploration: Curiosity and Beyond - with Anita Sengupta (Royal Institution lecture)
  • Spectroscopy in astronomy – Part 1, Visible light
  • Thomas Wright of Durham (led by Jason Hill)
  • Gravitational waves (led by Jason Hill)
  • It's about time! (the adoption of GMT)
  • The Liberation Monument
  • The Moon illusion
  • Stereoscopic views of the universe
  • Apollo 8 – The 50th anniversary
  • Aurora