K2SciCon Public Lecture


Planets and Pulsations: The New Keplerian Revolution

A public lecture by Prof. Don Kurtz

University of Central Lancashire

Tues, Nov 3, 2015, 8pm
Fess Parker Double Tree Resort, San Rafael Room, 633 East Cabrillo Boulevard Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Parking available at the hotel for a fee, or in the city parking lot at the seafront end of Calle Cesar Chavez

One of the biggest questions humans can ask is, "Are we alone?" Does Earth harbour the only life in the universe? Everyone has an opinion on this question, but as scientists,we want to know. A first step is to find other planets like the Earth, planets with rocky surfaces and liquid water where conditions are similar to home. The Kepler Space Mission has done this. With the discovery of over 4600 planets orbiting other stars Kepler has revolutionised our view. It has found entire solar systems orbiting other stars and it has even found planets orbiting double stars: Yes, Luke Skywalker's fictional home planet Tatooine really does exist out there. The Kepler mission measured the brightnesses of nearly 200,000 stars for four years, giving us a view of the stars 100 times more precise than is possible from the ground. From this a jewel box, exotic stars have been discovered, and astrophysics that used to be purely theoretical is now also observational.

This talk introduces the concepts of asteroseismology and shows a selection of exciting results from the Kepler mission in a multi-media performance of science, animations and the physics of music and the stars.

Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, and obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976. He spent the next 25 years in South Africa at the University of Cape Town, where he was Professor and Life Fellow, before becoming Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire in 2001. He is Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society UK and serves on many international committees. Don observes with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and 450 professional publications. He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He was a member of the steering committee of the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium for NASA's Kepler Space Mission, and is co-author of the fundamental textbook in a new field, “Asteroseismology”. Don enthusiastically gives up to 50 public lectures per year to diverse audiences all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is a regular guest on BBC Radio Lancashire and has appeared in prime time on the BBC's "Stargazing Live" with Dara O'Briain and on the "Sky at Night" with Patrick Moore.