Monday, January 12, 2009

See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1380)

Today I went to the lecture series about Galilei and the consequences of his research. Today's lecture was about the investigation of our home galaxy, the Milky Way and the upcoming European Space Agency's GAIA Mission, which will map the Milky Way to provide information about star formation histories, merging events, intergalactic streams etc, for nearby galaxies of the Local Group (which is -if I understood the lecturer Eva Grebel properly- our own and the Andromeda galaxy).

Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

What I expected was an up-to-date synopsis on our knowledge about the Milky Way, but it was more about how the Milky Way was seen through history. Starting with Democrit, who was the first to claim that the Milky Way consisted of stars and not the Greek goddess Hera's milk, she left out medieval Persian scientiest and went straight to Thomas Wright and William Herschel, who made this kinda fancy pic of our galaxy:


Of course it wasn't accurate, because he didn't know about stars, being variably bright and interstellar gas and dust. After a lot of yaddah yaddah blah blah we arrived in the 20th century. Edwin Hubble could prove firsthand that outside of our galaxy were actually a lot more galaxies.

We then had a look at different types of galaxies, and learnt that our sprial form is due to a black hole and the ominous 'dark matter' which is an arithmetically necessary tool, but otherwise we do have any knowledge about. So I wonder what C is saying in his presentation about dark matter in roughly two weeks. Since we don't know anything it should be quite short *LOL*


The second thing that hurt was her claim that at her institute they are doing 'galaxy archaeology' and that their 'fossils' are the stars. I have to say it again, and next time I'm wearing my T-shirt:

Archaeologist are not interested in fossils and WE DO NOT DIG DINOSAURS!!!!!!!!!!!

From Galilei to Gaia: The exploration of our galaxy. Prof. Eva K. Grebel, Centre for Astronomy of the University of Heidelbergd
Von Galilei bis Gaia: Die Erforschung unserer Galaxis. Prof. Eva K. Grebel, Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg

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