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Blaauw lecture 2019

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 31 in the Aula of the Academy Building of the University of Groningen. It starts at 8 p.m.

Blaauw lecture 2019: "Massive black holes at the heart of galaxies"



At the very center of most galaxies, including the Milky Way, lurk massive black holes,
with masses from a few tens of thousands to several billions of solar masses. Some of these black holes are quiescent, like our own, some others are active and are known as quasars, which can have luminosities comparable to that of entire galaxies. How and when did these black holes form and grow to reach these gargantuan masses? Understanding the evolution of these black holes leads us to a journey spanning the whole age of the Universe, starting from the very first stars and galaxiesemerging after the Big Bang.

Blaauw Lecture 2019
Blaauw Lecture 2019

Dr. Volonteri joined the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique as Directeur de Recherche in 2012. Prior to that, she was part of the faculty at the University of Michigan (USA), as Assistant and then tenured Associate Professor. She received her Laurea degree in Physics in 1999 and her Ph.D. in Astronomy in 2003 from the University of Milan, Italy. Volonteri has held postdoctoral positions with the University of California at Santa Cruz (USA), and the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge (UK). Volonteri’s research interests focus on the formation and evolution of massive black holes, high-redshift galaxies, stellar dynamics and gravitational waves.

Marta Volonteri Blaauw Professor 2019
Marta Volonteri Blaauw Professor 2019

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)

Anna Scaife (Jodrell Bank Interferometry Centre of Excellence at the University of Manchester, Engeland, 2017)

Tim de Zeeuw (Director General of ESO from 2007-2017, visiting professorship at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, 2018)

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:01 July 2019 06.12 a.m.
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