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International Forum in Astronomy and Astrophysics

International Forum in Astronomy and Astrophysics AUT’s Centre for Radiophysics and Space Research is to host an international forum of world experts in astronomy and astrophysics next week (March 1-4).

The forum, held at AUT’s Wellesley Campus on the evenings of March 3 and 4, is a rare opportunity to hear a series of presentations from leading international and national experts on the latest developments in radio astronomy. These lectures are open to academics and the general public and are free.

Abstracts from the speakers: Thursday from 6pm

Ron Ekers (IAU President) Radio Astronomy: Paths to Discovery” Thursday, 3rd March. Session One: 6:10pm - 7pm One of the most important events in 20th century astronomy was the birth of radio astronomy. For the first time, astronomers were able to view the Universe in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum outside the narrow optical window. The early pioneers who explored this new radio window discovered a plethora of cosmic phenomena that revolutionised our knowledge of the universe. Radio astronomy became a big science and more discoveries rolled in – the pulsars, the relic radiation from the big bang, the mysterious dark matter. Ron will explore what we can learn from the past about the future of the new class of radio telescopes planned for the 21st century.

John Hearnshaw (Canterbury Uni): “the Detection of Planets beyond our Solar System” Thursday, 3rd March. Session One: 7pm - 7:40pm John will discuss the methods used for the detection of planets beyond our solar system and the results obtained at the present time. He will first discuss the early history of planetary searches and then to cover the Doppler, astrometric, transit and microlensing techniques. Techniques based on direct planet detections may also be possible in the future, though several technical challenges need to be overcome. A number of planned space missions should greatly increase the number of known extrasolar planets in the next decade or so.

Brian Boyle on “SKA: Astronomical Instrument of the 21st Century” Thursday, 3rd March. Session Two: 8pm – 8:40pm Brian is director of the Australian Telescope National Facility and vice-president of the International SKA Committee. He has published more than 200 papers in astronomy. Brian will discuss the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project and its use in the 21st century. He will also discuss Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid to host this billion dollar science project – the largest of its kind in the world.

Elaine Sadler (Sydney Uni): “Key Questions in Astrophysics, 2005-2025” Thursday, 3rd March. Session Two: 8:40pm - 9:20pm Elaine will speak about the future of Astrophysics and Radio Astronomy and about the projects which will determine this future, in particular, the Square Kilometre Array project; the world’s largest science project.

John Storey (NSW Uni) on: “Antarctic Astronomy” Thursday, 3rd March. Session Two: 9:20pm to 9:55pm Some of the best astronomical observing conditions on the surface of the earth are found on the Antarctic plateau. John will discuss how the combination of high altitude, low temperature, low absolute humidity, low wind and extremely stable atmosphere offers astronomers gains in sensitivity and measurement precision that can exceed two orders of magnitude over even the best temperate sites. New spectral windows are opened up – particularly in the far-infrared and terahertz regions – that are otherwise only accessible from high-flying aircraft or from space. John says established telescopes at the South Pole are to be joined by a new generation of instruments at Concordia Station. These Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) represent the largest optical telescopes ever proposed and enable the possibility of detecting earth-like planets in other star systems and spectroscopically analysing their atmospheres.

Friday from 6pm

Sir Ian Axford (AUT Adjunct Prof) on: “The Origin of Cosmic Rays” Friday, 4th March. Session Three: 6pm – 6:50pm Sir Ian will speak about the three kinds of cosmic rays: Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRI and GCRII) and Extra-Galactic Cosmic Rays (EGCR) that exist. The latter must be made outside our galaxy and their origin is unclear although several suggestions have been made. The remainder are of galactic origin and have their source, based on total power considerations, in supernovae remnants, the mechanism being shock acceleration.

The absence of certain unstable species that decay by electron capture indicates that the source material must be at least 500,000 years old before it is accelerated to form cosmic rays, indicating that a two stage process is involved. He will mention the most likely scenario which involves supernova shocks propagating through the debris left behind previous supervovae in supernovae associations ('superbubbles').

Dick Manchester (past-president of Astronomical Society of Aust) on: “Pulsars – Celestial Clocks” Friday, 4th March. Session Three: 6:50pm - 7:30pm One of the most famous radio astronomers in the world, Dick will talk about pulsars; those rotating neutron stars formed at the death of massive stars in supernova explosions. They are tiny - only about 30 km across – and can spin at rates as fast as several hundreds of times a second. As they spin, they send out a rotating beacon like a lighthouse.

If this beam sweeps across the Earth, we see one pulse per revolution of the star. Over 1700 pulsars are now known and almost all of them are in our Milky Way Galaxy. Dick will speak about how more than half of the known pulsars, including the first-known double-pulsar system, have been discovered in the past few years using a multibeam system on the Parkes radio telescope and he will talk about pulsars and their most important application to studies of gravitation and gravity waves. A collaborative project designed to detect and study gravity waves based on pulsar timing observations at Parkes will be described.

Manfred Simon (director of PAMELA, Germany) on: “PAMELA: Detection of Antiparticles in Space” Friday, 4th March. Session Four: 7:45pm - 8:25pm

Manfred will speak about PAMELA, a new international satellite experiment which will be launched in the year 2005. It is designed to measure with an unprecedented precision the energie spectra of protons, antiprotons, electrons, positrons and of light elements up to energies of some hundreds of GeVs. It will also be able to look for Anti-Helium down to a level of about 10-8. These observations have strong links to particle physics, to astrophysics and cosmology. They are connected to Dark Matter search and to propagation aspects of these particles in the interstellar medium. His talk will describe the Pamela experiment and the scientific objectives and will illustrate how Pamela fits into the framework of cosmic ray research in general.

Prof Jack Baggeley (Canterbury Uni) on: “Interstellar Dust in the Solar System” Friday, 4th March. Session Four: 8:25pm - 9pm The generation and re-cycling of interstellar dust is a fundamental galactic process: the sources of these particulates, their transport and formation into stellar and systems are important to our understanding of our Galaxy and how life evolved on Earth. Jack will speak about how methods using analysis of starlight can provide some limited information about the dust, but the prospect of in-situ sampling within the Solar System by spacecraft and its remote sensing from the ground offer the prospect of more direct examination - the first physical connection with the distant stars. At Canterbury University, they have developed a radar system that maps the Solar System inflow of interstellar dust. Their project operated in collaboration with the European Space Agency is able to secure dynamical information complementary to space-craft sampling.

Phil Yock (Auckland Uni) on: “Microlensing in Astrophysics” Friday, 4th March. Session Four: 9pm – 9:40pm Phil will speak about the physical process of gravitational lensing, whereby light from a distant star or distant galaxy is bent by the gravitational field of an intervening star or galaxy, and thereby amplified by it, was conceived by Einstein almost 100 years ago. Although Einstein predicted the effect would never be observed, it is now being observed regularly with modern instrumentation. Phil’s talk will focus on the situation where both the sources of light, and the lens, are stars. This is the situation that is commonly referred to as "gravitational microlensing". The process is proving to be remarkably fruitful. Results have been reported in recent years on dark matter, stellar structure, galactic structure and extra-solar planets. Examples of these applications will be described.

Further Information The Forum is part of a week-long conference which includes a mini “Summer School” where general techniques and recent developments in radio astronomy will be discussed, and a workshop entitled “Radio Astronomy: New Zealand Perspectives”, which will review the current status of activities in NZ and make use of the presence of experts in the field to map out a course of action for the future development of radio astronomy in NZ.

AUT is also hosting the Australian Square Kilometre Array Consortium Committee (ASKACC) meeting of which NZ is now a member. NZ has its own Square Kilometre Array committee (SKANZ), which consists of representatives of universities, CRI’s and industry, under the umbrella of Royal Society of NZ.

Also attached is a backgrounder about the speakers.

Summer School – Radio Astronomy

When: Thursday, 3 March 2005 Time: 9-3pm Where: AUT Technology Park, James Fletcher House, Level 4
581 – 585 Great South Road
Penrose, Auckland To register email Tim Natusch on:

Technical Workshop – Radio Astronomy: NZ Perspectives

When: Friday, 4 March 2005 Time: 11am - 3pm Where: AUT Technology Park James Fletcher House, Level 4 581-585 Great South Road Penrose, Auckland Free: to register email: Tim Natusch on:

Public Forum – **free**

When: Thursday and Friday evenings (3-4 March, 2005) Time: 6pm - 9:55pm Where: AUT’s Wellesley Campus Lecture Centre Main Building (A), WA220 55 Wellesley St, Auckland

For more information email: Tim Natusch on

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