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History of Astronomy – A History of Sunspotting, by Brendan Owens – ONLINE

April 20, 2021 @ 7:00 pm 8:30 pm

Brendan Owens' new book "The Sun"
Brendan Owens’ new book “The Sun”

Once thought of as a pure and unblemished disc of light, the Sun does in fact break out in spots. Observations of these cosmic blemishes opened the gateway to exploring the physics of the Sun and the Sun-Earth system. This talk takes us back in time to explore pre-telescopic sunspot observations and charts the history of their study up to and including the early 1900s. It’s a history replete with mystery, strange notions, risk to life and limb (well, eyesight at the very least) and revelations that shaped our contemporary understanding of the Sun. This is a slow-burn tale of scientific discovery that includes cunning inventions as well as changes in the communication and organisation of scientific endeavours.

Throughout the talk, figures well-known and perhaps lesser-known will be highlighted for their contributions to a greater understanding of the nature of sunspots. The talk will be ordered chronologically, but will feature modern imagery in places to give context where archival imagery does not suffice. Topics that will be explored include the solar cycle, spectroscopy, solar storms and early solar photography.

The information featured in this talk will draw from a new publication, ‘The Sun’, written by the speaker that forms part of the Royal Observatory Greenwich Illuminates series of popular science books written by Royal Observatory astronomers on topics including ‘Planets’, ‘Stars’, ‘Space Exploration’, ‘Black Holes’ and ‘The Sun’.

Brendan Owens has a background in astronomy communication having worked at the Royal Observatory Greenwich for almost a decade. His previous projects have ranged from designing schools workshops, to community collaborations, curating exhibitions and overseeing the installation of a new telescope facility, the Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope.

He holds a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy and M.Sc. in Science Communication, both from Dublin City University, Ireland. Brendan developed an interest in solar physics after a summer internship with Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland contributing to solar magnetic topology research, which he carried through to the dissertation for his undergraduate. He has since then been fascinated by the historic foundations of these contemporary studies and cherishes the opportunity to explore the history of solar observations with others.

Brendan remains closely tied to astronomy and astrophysics as Astronomer Emeritus for the Royal Observatory. He is passionate about technology, stargazing and exploring where other people’s passions and needs intersect with science and art. Brendan is currently based in Dublin, Ireland and works for Science Gallery Dublin as their Open Science Coordinator.