Top US cosmologist to shed light on "dark energy"

Professor Robert P. Kirshner from Harvard University.

Professor Robert P. Kirshner from Harvard University.
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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Prize-winning Harvard astronomy professor Robert P. Kirshner will visit the University of Adelaide next week to give a free public talk.

In Australia for the International Year of Astronomy, Professor Kirshner is speaking as part of the Keys to the Universe public lecture series, presented by the University's School of Chemistry & Physics.

Professor Kirshner is an expert on exploding stars - supernovae - and what they can tell us about the most mysterious component of the universe, 'dark energy'.

He was a member of one of the teams that observed exploding stars halfway across the universe and made a stunning discovery: that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

The finding was named the top science breakthrough of 1998 by Science magazine and was a huge turning-point in our understanding of the universe.

'Dark energy' is the name astronomers have given to whatever is making the acceleration speed up - but no-one knows what it actually is.

Astronomers are trying a couple of ways to find out, however.

In his public lecture, Professor Kirshner will explain an astronomers' view of the universe, drawing on his own first-hand account of the discovery of the accelerating universe as a member of the High-Z Supernova Search Team.

He will describe how astronomers are attempting to get a handle on the nature of dark energy, which researchers believe will lead to a new understanding of physics.

An author of more 250 scientific publications, Professor Kirshner has also written for National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, Natural History, and Scientific American magazines and is a frequent public speaker on science.

His award-winning popular-level book The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos is now in paperback and has been translated into four languages.

Professor Kirshner's tour of Australia is funded by a Selby Fellowship administered by the Australian Academy of Science.

WHAT: Keys to the Universe free public lecture series:
Exploding Stars and the Accelerating Cosmos: Einstein's Blunder Undone by Professor Robert P. Kirshner (Harvard University)
WHEN: 6.30pm Thursday 19 November
WHERE: Union Hall, North Terrace Campus
COST: Free - all welcome


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