March 28, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 14

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    Series will explore ways astronomers 'see' universe

    The exotic ways astronomers "see" the universe will be explored in this spring's Compton Lectures, titled "Imag(in)ing the Universe: Novel Techniques for Developing World Views." The series of 10 free, public lectures will be presented at 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings, from March 30 through June 1, in Kersten 115.

    Physicist Suzanne Staggs will present the series, which will explain the different ways astronomers study the universe.

    "The Hubble telescope has given us a huge number of optical images of things you could see yourself if only your eyes were more sensitive," she said. "But astrophysicists also get information about the universe by collecting microwaves, radio waves and radiation from other regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of which are invisible to our eyes."

    Staggs added, "Sometimes it's what astronomers don't see -- missing power in the spectrum, for example -- that provides information about what might be in front of the object they're looking at."

    Subjects will range from pulsars (rhythmically flashing stars) and quasi-stellar objects (fantastically bright, distant sources silhouetting objects in front of them) to the cosmic microwave background radiation, the last detectable remnants of the primeval fireball of the Big Bang.

    Staggs, who studies the cosmic microwave background, received her B.A. from Rice in 1987 and her Ph.D. from Princeton in 1993. She is currently a Hubble Fellow in the Enrico Fermi Institute.

    The talks are the 43rd series of Arthur Holly Compton Lectures, a popular program sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. Arthur Holly Compton was a University physicist and a Nobel laureate best known for demonstrating that light has the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. He was also a member of the research team that in 1942 produced the world's first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

    The lectures are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. Previous topics have ranged from the smallest fundamental particles of matter to the history of the universe. For more information, call 7027823.