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Public outreach events

Blaauw lecture

Each year the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute organizes the Blaauw lecture. This is a lecture by an internationally renowned astronomer which everyone, including the general public, can attend. The level of the lecture is such that everyone should be able to understand it. This year, the Blaauw Lecture will take place on Wednesday October 19 in the Aula of the Academy Building of the University of Groningen. It starts at 8 p.m.

Blaauw lecture 2016: The Cosmological Context of the Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way Galaxy is a typical large disc galaxy and can be used as a template for understanding how galaxies form. We can obtain much more detailed information about the stars that make up our Galaxy than we can for more distant galaxies. Stars retain memory of the conditions in which they formed and stars of mass like the Sun live for essentially the age of the Universe. We can thus use old stars nearby to probe the early epochs of galaxy evolution, in a very complementary way to direct observations of galaxies at high redshift. I will discuss how observations of stars in the Milky Way and in its satellite galaxies shed light on fundamental questions such as the nature of the dark matter that dominates how galaxies form and evolve, and the stellar initial mass function at high redshift.

Professor Rosemary F.G. Wyse (The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) is the 2016 Blaauw Professor. She is a world-leading authority on the formation, evolution, structure, and dynamics of our own Milky Way galaxy and its satellites. Professor Wyse was the first to recognize the galactic thick disk as a consequence of the dynamical evolution of the young Milky Way and has been a leader in the study of dim but dark-matter-dominated dwarf galaxies that orbit our Galaxy. She has authored five major, influential reviews of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Professor Wyse is a key member of RAVE, the RAdial Velocity Experiment, one of the first high-precision kinematic surveys of the Milky Way, and is currently co-chair of the team developing the science case for studying the Local Group with the proposed PFS instrument on the Subaru Telescope in Hawai’i. Her research, leadership, and mentorship have led to her being the recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Dynamical Astronomy’s 2016 Dirk Brouwer Award. She has also won the Annie Jump Cannon award from the American Association of University Women, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. Professor Wyse received her PhD from Cambridge University in 1983. She has held fellowships at Princeton University, the University of California Berkeley, and the Space Telescope Science Institute; has held an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship; has been a visiting Fellow at both Wadham and New Colleges in Oxford; and has been a Distinguished Visitor of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance and Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Wyse has been on the faculty at The Johns Hopkins University since 1988.

The Blaauw chair and the Blaauw lecture

The Blaauw chair and Blaauw lecture were initiated in 1997 as one of six visiting professorships in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. This was an idea of Prof. Dr. P.C. van der Kruit, the dean of the faculty at that time. The Blaauw professor is selected by the scientific staff of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute through advice to the board of the Faculty which then makes the actual appointment. The Blaauw professor will be at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute for approximately two months and will have as much contact as possible with students, graduate students and postdocs. The criteria for the selection are excellence in research, broad knowledge of astronomy and an outstanding international status in astronomy.

The chair is named after Prof. A. Blaauw in honor of his outstanding scientific and organisational achievements and his extremely important impact on astronomy in Groningen, The Netherlands and the world.

The Blaauw professors

Michael Feast (South-African Astronomical Observatory and University of Cape Town, South-Africa, 1999)

Rob Kennicutt (Steward Observatory and University of Arizona, USA, 2001)

Martin Harwitt (Cornell University, USA, 2002)

Ken Freeman (Mount Stromlo Observatory and Australian National University, Australia, 2003)

Joe Silk (Oxford University, UK, 2004)

Simon  White (Max-Plack-Institut fur Astrophysic, Germany, 2005)

Colin Norman (Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, USA, 2006)

Donald Lynden-Bell (Cambridge University, UK, 2007)

Andrea Ferrara (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy, 2008)

Scott Tremaine (Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, USA, 2009)

Ron Ekers (Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO, Australia, 2010)

Françoise Combes (Paris Observatory, LERMA, France, 2011)

Roger Blandford (Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at SLAC, Stanford University, 2012)

Daniela Calzetti (University of Massachussets, Amhurst, USA, 2013)

Alex Szalay (Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, 2014)

Mark Krumholz (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA, 2015)

Professor Adriaan Blaauw

Professor Blaauw was born in Amsterdam in 1914. He studied at Leiden University and worked from 1938 in Groningen with Professor P.J. van Rhijn. In 1945 he went back to Leiden but shortly after he finished his thesis which resulted in his promotion with Professor Van Rhijn at the RUG in 1946. His thesis was titled: "A study of the Scorpio-Centaurus cluster". In the following years he worked twice during a longer period at the Yerkes observatory in Chicago and took part in astrometry expeditions to Kenya organised by Leiden University in which precise positions of stars were measured. In 1953 he left for an appointment as associate professor at the Yerkes Observatory and the University of Chicago. In 1957 he returned to Groningen to become director of the "Sterrenkundig Laboratorium Kapteyn". He was very successful as director and managed to revive astronomy in Groningen after a bad period, and bring it back to the prominent position it had at the time of Kapteyn.

Professor Blaauw was closely involved in the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) which now is a leader in astronomy world wide with the largest optical telescope in the world at Paranal, Chile. From 1970 until 1975 he was General Director. At the end of his term he decided to go to Leiden where he stayed until his pension in 1981. During that time he was President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). He also led the process of defining the scientific programme for the very successful astrometric satellite Hipparcos. After his pension Professor Blaauw returned to Groningen where he was connected to the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute as emeritus professor.

Besides his prestigious international positions he has continued doing research throughout his career. His area of research is the structure of our Galaxy and the formation of stars. His main contributions are the explanation of the origin of stars that move with high velocity in our galaxy and the description of star formation in associations.

After his retirement in 1981, Professor Blaauw returned to the Kapteyn Institute in Groningen. In his later years he wrote books on the history of the IAU and of ESO, as well as historical studies of the characteristic farms in the province of Drenthe. He remained active in research on young stellar groups, on "runaways" and their relationship with pulsars and supernovae, and he played an active role in scientific discussions at the Kapteyn Institute. Up to his final months he gave numerous interviews and presentations on the history of Dutch and worldwide astronomy. He passed away on December 1st, 2010.

Every year the Kapteyn Institute organises the Blaauw-lecture. Here you find the Blaauw professor for the current year and some background information regarding this chair and lecture.

Last modified:02 February 2017 09.29 a.m.