A major highlight of the year so far, we had an incredible and mind-expanding talk given by Prof. Catherine Heymans: “Seeing the invisible – The Dark Side of the Universe”.

President Andrew Farrow introduced the meeting, welcomed 3 new members and gave a further update on the history of our society’s recently rediscovered Charles Tulley telescope.

He then made a very important announcement, being the first to introduce Catherine Heymans as the 11th Astronomer Royal for Scotland.

Catherine’s lecture started with a very brief introduction to the history of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, before introducing us to the dark side of the Universe! And, wow, what an incredible dynamic and fabulous lecture this was! We were introduced to the two Dark Entities:

  • Dark Matter, which is believed to dictate where and when galaxies form.
  • Dark Energy, which is believed to cause the expansion of the Universe.

We then learn how difficult it is to see and understand these two dark entities, which are invisible, but incredibly, make up 95 percent of our Universe. Catherine introduced us to ‘lensing’ and takes us on an incredible interactive fly-through tour of the structure of our Universe made from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We hear how her research as part of the Kilo-Degree Survey (KiDS) team (using the European Southern Observatory telescopes at Paranal in Chile) is managing to map the ‘invisible’ and perhaps explain why our universe has developed in a web like network of galaxies.

Catherine’s associated complex simulations derived from her research are breath-taking to hear about and see in virtual animation. We were told about the ‘James bond style’ detectors which are hoping to detect these elusive dark matter particles and the future plans for better observation. We also are told the most recent ‘hot off the press’ news on the subject, and that there is a World-Wide scientific race for understanding, which will undoubtedly lead to incredible new discoveries. (Perhaps Einstein’s famous theories may be re-written, or completely new physics will be discovered, taking our understanding to a new level).

The lecture was brilliantly articulated, full of fantastic cutting-edge graphics and news, and delivered with gripping enthusiasm! Do not miss this one. Have a wine glass ready and enjoy… Prof. Catherine Heymans’ talk is awesome!

Prof. Catherine Heymans is one of the most important Astronomers in Scotland and her research is based here at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh and at the German Centre for Cosmological Lensing, Ruhr-University Bochum.

Will Joy