To mark the International Year of Astronomy, Dr Andrew Newsam will give a lecture at the University of Birmingham on Wednesday 16th September 2009 about how telescopes have revealed the true nature of the universe. 

Dr Newsam, a researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, will talk to school students aged 13 -16 about how old the universe is, how scientists have predicted the sun’s life expectancy and why they know there are 200,000 million stars in the galaxy. 

The lecture will help students to think more about the universe, and will engage them through interesting facts and methods of observation, along with some hands on activities.  They will have the opportunity to hunt for asteroids, identify planets orbiting distant stars and spot massive exploding stars called supernovae in other galaxies. 

In the 400 years since Galileo made his first observations of the night sky, telescope lenses have grown from 2 inches to 8 metres long and astronomers have looked further into space to answer questions about the size, age and true nature of the universe.  Today’s telescopes allow scientists to gather sharper images of more distant and smaller objects in space.  They have developed to allow astronomers to explore the universe through a range of different mediums – telescopes which search out radio waves, micro waves, infra red, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays as well as visible light. 

Dr Newsam says, ‘Astronomy is different from the other sciences in that we can’t gather materials to assess them in the lab, we can only observe and it is our observations that allow us too surmise things about the nature of the universe.’

He continues, ‘Telescopes are allowing us to find amazingly small objects existing at great distances from Earth.  Take neutron stars which are tiny, but also fascinatingly dense – a neutron star the size of a matchbox has the same mass as the whole of the Earth.  How do we know that?’


Notes to Editors

The lecture will take place twice on Wednesday 16th September at 11am and 2pm in the Poynting Large Lecture Theatre, University of Birmingham School of Physics and Astronomy.  It is part of the Schools and Colleges lecture series delivered by the Institute of Physics.

For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164.