As usual, our President Mark Phillips updated us on the upcoming Society programme. Mark also reminded us of the numerous ways of getting in touch with, and becoming part of the Society. This now includes the latest of our Telescope Help Shops, which we will run on 25 February next year.
Our final guest speaker was Dr Jenifer Millard, who spoke to us about “Exploring the invisible Cosmos through island universes”. Dr Millard is a science communicator, presenter and lecturer based in South Wales, who amply justified her reputation for clear explanations and exciting delivery.
Jeni began with the basics of what we know about galaxies – the “island universes” of the title.
It is only in the last 100 years that the true nature of galaxies has been revealed and we realized that our own galaxy was not the entire universe. Jeni covered the broad history of this story and the contributions of people like Leonard and Thomas Digges, Galileo Galilei, Caroline and William Herschel and many others. She then reminded us of the types of galaxy and their role in star creation.
However, it has only been since we developed the ability to “see” in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we have been able to truly investigate galaxies, including our own ! The long wavelength of Infrared light allows us to peer through the obscuring Cosmic Dust and see the hidden structures in galaxies Cosmic dust, which is less than 1% of material in the Universe, still absorbs more than half the starlight !
Jeni’s enthusiasm for her topic was very obvious when she explored some of the early images from the JWST space telescope. Refreshingly, her summary of our current knowledge in this relatively new field of science , demonstrated a central truth about science – it is what we don’t know, rather than the sum of what we do know, that drives us forward to discover more.
An excellent finale to our programme of talks for 2022!
A special thank you to Nigel and his team for organising such an amazing array of speakers throughout the year. It’s no easy task!