Archive for July, 2019

Western Sydney University is advertising research projects for prospective masters students. You’ll find one from me about our impending collision with the Andromeda Galaxy. (Well, if you can call a few billion years “impending”.)

Will we survive the Andromeda collision?

Supervisors: Luke Barnes (Data Science, Astronomy)
School/Institute: School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

The Milky Way’s nearest galactic neighbour – of similar size – is Andromeda, located 2.5 million light years away. We know that Andromeda is moving towards us at about 300 km/s, which means that it will arrive at the Milky Way in about 2-3 billion years. What happens when it arrives?

More details about the project. More details about enrolment.


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Reposted from Sydney Observatory:

Verlie Lee passed away on 15th June 2019 in Nambucca Heads and Eungai Creek on the North Coast of NSW at the age of 88. Verlie worked at Sydney Observatory from 1948 to 1954 and she was one of the many ‘hidden figures’ who worked on the Astrographic Catalogue, tides and other charts in observatories during that period. Recently the work many women did behind the scenes in science is being brought to the fore and it is timely to remember Verlie June Maurice’s contribution. I interviewed Verlie Lee on 3 April 2013 and she had many stories of the work and social life at Sydney Observatory which she was keen to share.

Five women star measurers on Observatory Hill in Sydney in front of the rotunda.
Star measurers and computers at Sydney Observatory. Top row left to right: Verlie Maurice, Patricia Lawler. Bottom Row left to right: Margaret Colville, Renae Day, Margaret Browne. Photograph by Winsome Bellamy, 1948.

The Astrographic Catalogue was arguably the most significant astronomy project undertaken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Australia. Sydney, Melbourne and Perth Observatories were part of an international consortium of observatories working together to catalogue the stars using photography. Whilst predominantly men took the photographs of the stars using special ‘astrographic telescopes’, women measured the stars on glass plate negatives, calculated their positions, identified double stars and other irregularities. Verlie was one of 22* women who measured the positions of stars for the Astrographic Catalogue at Sydney Observatory between 1916 and 1963. (more…)

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New! With Geraint Lewis, from Cambridge University Press, in Feb 2020:


Free yourself from cosmological tyranny! Everything started in a big bang? Invisible dark matter? Black holes? Why accept such a weird cosmos? For all those who wonder about this bizarre universe, and those who want to overthrow the big bang, this handbook gives you ‘just the facts’: the observations that have shaped these ideas and theories. While the big bang holds the attention of scientists, it isn’t perfect. The authors pull back the curtains, and show how cosmology really works. With this, you will know your enemy, cosmic revolutionary – arm yourself for the scientific arena where ideas must fight for survival! This uniquely-framed tour of modern cosmology gives a deeper understanding of the inner workings of this fascinating field. The portrait painted is realistic and raw, not idealized and airbrushed – it is science in all its messy detail, which doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

More details here.


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