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Inaugural Lecture Mr. Prof. F.F.S. van der Tak: Grote telescopen voor kleine golven

When:Tu 11-02-2014 at 16:15
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Inaugural Lecture: Mr. Prof. F.F.S. van der Tak

Title: Grote telescopen voor kleine golven

Chair: Submillimeter-sterrenkunde

Faculty: Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Large telescopes for small waves

Where do stars and planets come from? Are we alone in the Universe? In his inaugural lecture, Floris van der Tak discusses how the relatively new field of submillimeter astronomy may help to find answers to these questions.

Between the stars of the Milky Way are clouds of gas and dust where new stars are formed, but which are opaque to the light that is visible to the human eye. Both on Earth and in space, ever larger telescopes are therefore being built to observe submillimeter radiation, with which astronomers can look ever deeper into such clouds. Van der Tak unravels this radiation into contributions from dust, which gives information about the temperatures and masses of the clouds, and from gas, which gives clues about their density and chemical composition. Furthermore, the velocity and direction of motions within the clouds can be determined from the signals.

‘It’s a bit like nurses who use ultrasound to watch babies while they are still in their mother’s womb’, says Van der Tak. ‘In that case, the goal is to see if the baby is healthy, but for stars, we want to know why some clouds make more stars than others, why mostly Sun-like stars form but sometimes much heavier ones, and how planets form around new stars.’

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