Speakers CV

3rd May 2012 Dr Stuart Clark.  In “The Biggest Questions in the Universe”, Dr Stuart Clark tackles many key questions of astronomy and cosmology: What is the universe? How big is the universe? How old is the universe? What are stars made from? How did the Universe form? Why do the planets stay in orbit? Was Einstein right? What are black holes? How did the Earth form? What were the first celestial objects? What is dark matter? What is dark energy? Are we really made from stardust? Is there life on Mars? Are there other intelligent beings? Can we travel through time and space? Can the laws of physics change? Are there alternative universes? What will be the fate of the universe? Is there cosmological evidence for God? And much more.

Stuart Clark is a widely read astronomy journalist. His career is devoted to presenting the complex world of astronomy to the general public. Stuart holds a first class honours degree and a PhD in astrophysics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a former Vice Chair of the Association of British Science Writers. On 9 August 2000, UK daily newspaper The Independent placed him alongside Stephen Hawking and the Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Martin Rees, as one of the ‘stars’ of British astrophysics teaching.

Currently he divides most of his time between writing books and writing for the European Space Agency in his capacity as senior editor for space science. In addition, he writes articles and news for New Scientist, The Times, BBC Focus and BBC Sky at Night and is a former editor of Astronomy Now magazine.


5th April 2012 Francisco Diego.  For our April meeting we welcome Dr Francisco Diego from UniversityCollege London (UCL) who will talk on “Aliens!... Where are you?

From ancient beliefs that the Earth was a uniqueworld made by God for humankind to be at the centre of the Universe, to theamazing insights and discoveries that bravely challenged those misconceptions,in this lecture Dr Diego will explore the fascinating theme of life in aUniverse in constant change and development, from its very simple and remoteorigin. What is life and how could it develop on paradise Earth to the highlevel of diversity and complexity that we see today? Did it all happen just bychance? Recent astronomical observations indicate that there may be millions ofsolar systems in our galaxy, where life could develop in similar ways. Shouldwe find alien intelligence virtually everywhere?

Consideration will begiven to the Earth being one to millions of worlds and how stars and solarsystems form in the Universe, particularly the origin of our solar system.There have been many influences on the development of life on Earth includingthe formation of the moon and the oceans, the influence of the moon, the dynamicinterior of the earth, our magnetic fields and plate tectonics. These physicalproperties have then been moderated by the interaction of life and the earth,cataclysmic extinctions of life and the possibility of alien life fromelsewhere in our solar system and the millions of other systems.

Dr Diego is a Senior Research Fellow at theDepartment of Physics and Astronomy University College London, vice presidentof the UK Association for Astronomy Education and a fellow of the RoyalAstronomical Society. He is a keen populariser of astronomy and has extensiveexperience as a planetarium producer/presenter, lecturer, author andbroadcaster. He has appeared on TV series like Stephen Hawking's Universe,BBC's The Planets and more recently, the world-wide version of BBC's Wonders ofthe Universe. A veteran of 19 solar eclipse expeditions Dr Diego is founder anddirector of “Your Universe”, the UCL festival of Astronomy and produces anddelivers “The Mind of the Universe”, a collection of public and school lectures and teacher workshops onastrophysics, cosmology and life in the Universe.

1st March 2012 Robert Fosbury.  At our March meeting we welcome Dr Robert "Bob" Fosbury who will talk on the Hubble Space Telescope legacy.

Hubble imagery has both delighted and amazed people around the world and has rewritten astronomy textbooks with its discoveries. Dr Fosbury, a leading member of the Hubble team since 1985, will describe how HST has change our view of the Universe and provide an insight in to its contribution to science as Hubble comes to the end of its operational life.

During May 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope was subject to the most intense overhaul of its life with astronauts from the Space Shuttle Atlantis performing engineering feats far beyond what was originally envisaged for orbital servicing. Instruments were repaired and replaced during the most complex human process that had yet been performed in space. The telescope is now some hundred times more powerful than when it was launched in 1990. This is the story of Hubble, looking back on the revolution in astrophysics that it has achieved and forward to what it is achieving now in its probings of the early history of the universe to the study of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

Astronomer Dr. Robert Fosbury has led the Space Telescope - European Coordinating Facility in Garching, the European Part of ESA/NASA Cooperation of Hubble Space Telescope

Robert has published over two hundred scientific papers on topics ranging from the outer atmospheres of stars, the nature of quasars and active galaxies to the physics of forming galaxies in the most distant reaches of the Universe. He started his career at the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) in Herstmonceux, England in 1969 and was awarded his PhD by the nearby University of Sussex in 1973. He then became one of the very first Research Fellows at the newly constructed Anglo Australian Observatory 4 metre telescope in New South Wales, Australia before going to ESO while it was based at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. He then had a spell of 7 years as a staff member at the RGO, working on instruments for the new observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands and on the pioneering Starlink astronomical computer network.

5th January 2012 Roger Wood.  Assessing distances to the myriad of objects that we see in the night sky has a long and sometimes controversial history. This talk follows the chain of reasoning which is required to probe the far reaches of our universe - anchored in direct measurements in the solar system and its immediate vicinity through observations of star clusters, variable stars, galaxies and supernovae to our observable horizon.

Roger Wood worked at Herstmonceux for nearly 40 years: first as an astronomer with the Royal Greenwich Observatory in a variety of roles including research on galactic rotation and supernovae, public relations and control computing for the new telescopes on La Palma; and latterly (after the RGO moved to Cambridge) in charge of the satellite laser ranging station.