The Galactic Centre: A Window into the Future & AGM

Presented by Professor Joss Hawthorn, Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney

The centre of our Galaxy harbours a massive black hole, Sgr A*, that is likely to be the oldest component of the Galaxy along with the invisible dark matter around it. How this amazing object came into existence and evolved over 13 billion years is intimately linked to the nature of the first stars, the chemical elements today and the evolution of dark matter and gas. Sgr A* is one of the fastest developing fields in astrophysics where discoveries are made every year. For example, the most energetic particles ever detected by IceCube in Antarctica, and by telescopes in Namibia and Argentina, are thought to have been created at the Galactic Centre. Our x-ray and infrared satellites pick up flaring activity near the black hole each day. The speaker discovered that Sgr A* triggered a huge explosion about 2 million years ago, when cave people walked the Earth; this was recently confirmed by NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray satellite. The new ESO Gravity instrument tracks the motion of the closest stars to Sgr A* and detects movement every single day! One star even reaches 32,000 km/s at closest approach, 12% of the speed of light. Other stars have escaped the Sgr A* region being ejected at speeds of 2000 km/s into the Galaxy. So what does the future hold and what can we learn from these remarkable observations? We will explore these topics and some crazy ideas.

Bio: Joss Hawthorn is one of Australia's leading astronomers with the rare distinction of having made important contributions to both astrophysics and technology. He was born in Kent, educated at an Oxford boarding school before going to university in Birmingham (BSc) and Sussex (PhD). In the period 1985-1993, Joss was an astrophysicist at the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii and a Professor of Physics at Rice University Texas. In 1993, he moved to the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Sydney, eventually to become Head of the research and development team. Today, he is the Laureate Fellow Professor of The University of Sydney’s School of Physics, and Director of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, co-Director of the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science, and Principal Investigator for the Sydney Astrophotonic Instrumentation Labs. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Optical Society of America, serves on the prestigious Annual Reviews of Astronomy & Astrophysics Board, has published over 700 research papers in astronomy, physics, optics and photonics, and has been recognised with many international awards, most recently the Miller Professorship to Berkeley (2018). Joss’s team are building advanced machines, some funded by NASA, that are being installed on the world’s largest telescopes. In April 2017, one of his creations was launched on an Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral on its way to the International Space Station, the first Australian university to do so. Joss lives in Mosman by Sydney Harbour with his wife Susan and boys Christian and Luke. He is a jogger, a sculls rower at the North Shore Rowing Club and plays soccer for Mosman O35.

Note that the presentation will be followed by the Society's Annual General Meeting.

Free – visitors welcome – booking not required

Please note – university security locks entrance doors at 8pm sharp

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Event info

Wednesday 04 Dec 2019

8:00 PM - 9:30 PM

Kerr Grant Theatre 2nd Floor, Physics Building, University of Adelaide, North Terrace Adelaide



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