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Kapteyn Astronomical InstitutePublic 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 11 in the Aula of the Academy Building of the University of Groningen. It starts at 8 p.m.

Blaauw lecture 2017: Dark Forces in the Invisible Universe

Magnetic fields are one of the most crucial components of the Universe. We know that magnetic fields are present everywhere: large-scale fields intersperse the gas in our own Milky Way, and contribute significantly to the turbulent motion of gas between galaxies; magnetic fields affect the evolution of all astrophysical systems – from the vast cosmic web that binds together intergalactic matter over cosmological distances, down to the smallest scales, where they are essential for the onset of star formation. However, in spite of how important magnetic fields are, we know embarrassingly little about them. Magnetic fields are elusive, we cannot see them directly - only the effect of the forces they exert on other things. I will discuss the effect that cosmic magnetic fields have on matter in the Universe, and how we can use new radio telescopes to probe these dark forces in order to understand magnetic fields better, because without understanding magnetic fields, how can you understand the Universe?

Professor Anna Scaife (MPhys Bristol; PhD Cambridge) is head of the Jodrell Bank Interferometry Centre of Excellence at the University of Manchester. She holds a European Research Council Fellowship, which funds her group's work investigating the origin and evolution of large-scale cosmic magnetic fields. In addition, she runs a number of projects in technical radio astronomy research and development as part of the Square Kilometre Array. In
2014, Anna was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of thirty scientists under the age of 40 selected for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering or technology in areas of high societal impact.

Anna Scaife, Blaauw Professor 2017
Anna Scaife, Blaauw Professor 2017

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, Baltimore, USA, 2014)

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

Rosemary Wyse (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA, 2016)

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:07 August 2017 11.30 a.m.
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