Astronomical discoveries and the development of technology have always gone hand in hand. Only a few years after its invention, Galileo was using the telescope to revolutionise our view of the universe.
The story is the same in the 21st century, with some truly amazing developments in technology promising some massive leaps forward in our understanding of the universe. This talk will discuss how telescopes and other instrumentation have developed to-date, and what is on the drawing boards for the coming decades. It will also describe some of the scientific advances that we hope to make with these instruments, ranging from understanding the ultimate fate of the Universe to making the first detections of life outside the Solar System.
Even in this time of budget cuts and austerity, Prof Merrifield will argue that it is still well worth investing to explore the universe in which we live.
Michael Merrifield is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Nottingham, where he helped establish an astronomy research group 20 years ago specialising in the study of galaxies. He is also currently head of the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University. His research focuses on studying the properties of nearby galaxies to try to disentangle how these beautiful objects formed. With James Binney, he co-authored one of the major text books on galaxies, Galactic Astronomy, and is author of more than 100 scientific papers on the subject. He is chairing the committee overseeing the UK’s £85m contribution to the development of the 39-metre diameter Extremely Large Telescope, due to come into operation in 2024.
He also has a strong interest in popularising physics and astronomy, and was one of the founding members of the Sixty Symbols (https://www.youtube.com/sixtysymbols/) and Deep Sky Videos (https://www.youtube.com/deepskyvideos) YouTube channels, for which he was recognised by the award of the Institute of Physics’ Kelvin Medal in 2016. A connected interest is in the relationship between astronomy and art – he set up a company called Crystal Nebulae (www.crystalnebulae.co.uk), which produces three-dimensional reproductions of astronomical objects in crystal glass.