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The Surprising Universe

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Talk Abstract

Discovery isn’t always a case of shouting ‘Eureka!’ – sometimes our path to understanding the cosmos starts with finding the curious, odd or unusual. In this talk, Chris Lintott (BBC Sky at Night, University of Oxford) will review some of the surprises of the past, from pulsars to planets, consider how we might be surprised by aliens, and in a world where ever-larger surveys of the night sky are coming on stream, consider how to make sure the astronomers of the future continue to be pleasantly surprised.

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Speaker Information

Professor Chris Lintott is an astronomer who specialises in galaxy formation, machine learning including anomaly detection, and occasional planet hunting. These projects usually make use of the Zooniverse citizen science platform, working in collaboration with more than two million volunteers around the world. He is a member of the collaboration building the Vera Rubin Observatory, which will power the next astronomical revolution. He is also an author, a broadcaster for the BBC ’s long-running Sky at Night program, and involved in all sorts of public engagement and outreach projects.

His recent work attempts to understand the properties of interstellar objects passing through the Solar System, using cosmological models of galactic evolution and chemical models of planetesimal formation to understand how the properties of objects like ‘Oumuamua depend on their origins, and what such objects can tell us about processes on many scales.

He is the Lead Editor responsible for Laboratory Astrophysics, Instrumentation, Software and Data for the journals of the American Astronomical Society, including the Astrophysical Journal and Astronomical Journal. He also run the Research Notes of the AAS , which encourages short, moderated reports of works in progress, observational notes and – importantly – negative results.

He is a Research fellow at New College, University of Oxford, where he help lead the Balzan Centre for Cosmological Studies. In the Department, He chair the Access and Public Engagement Committee, and is one of the team of Harassment Advisors. He is also an elected member of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Astronomical Society (CUAS) series.

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