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New Adventures in Infrared Astronomy

A lecture by Martin Harwit, Professor of Emeritus of Astronomy, Cornell University
5th May 1999

Infrared astronomy has revolutionised and transformed the way we view the makings of the Universe and our place in it. The advantage of infrared radiation is that it can be detected from deep within distant, dust-shrouded regions that are impenetrable to visible light. These new infrared observations now reveal the physical processes which took place in the formation of galaxies and stars billions of years ago.

These sightings are enabling astronomers to reconstruct the early history of the Cosmos, as it cooled to transform itself from a hot, blandly uniform fluid into the mass of colliding galaxies, exploding stars and newly born planets we see swirling all around us.

Listen to the talk

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Prof. Harwit & Tanya HillIntroduction
Tanya Hill, Astronomer, Melbourne Planetarium  (1.25mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)

Keynote speaker
Prof. Martin Harwit talks about:

  • Infrared astronomy has made great advances in the last few years. (3.25mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Infrared astronomers use heat sensors to observe the Universe. (.58secs) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Atmospheric obscurations means infrared telescopes must be sent into space. (2.05mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Different types of light: far-infrared, near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet. (2.05mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • The lastest infrared telescope in space - the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). (6.06mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • The first infrared telescope in space - IRAS (Infrared Astronomical Satellite): captured crude images of the the Milky Way. (3.27mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • A storm forming dark cloud: Rho Ophiuchus. (1.06mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Chameleon clouds and brown dwarfs. (1.58mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • What keeps the earth from collapsing under its own gravity? (3.13mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Spectrometers divide light into different colours and wavelengths. (4.09mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Recent addition to the Hubble Space Telescope - near-infrared camera.  (5.49mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Herbig-Haro objects: Jets from a star being born.  (3.04mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • A complex spectrum and the Cosmic Background Explorer. (4.39mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Where does infrared radiation come from? (4.19mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)
  • Follow the evolution of stars and galaxies. (1.40mins) listen.gif (282 bytes)

Questions asked

  • What is the interstellar gas density and how much does it vary from one galaxy to another? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • Whether infrared detectors could be developed to see the heat from the planets that are formed in a protoplanetary disk? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • What kind of roles would infrared observations play in the detection of black holes? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • Whether the infrared emission from the parent star far out shines the radiation from a planet? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • How far can the infrared telescope see? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • Whether the theorists will be able to calculate back to what the universe was like before the Planck time? answer.gif (325 bytes)
  • How efficient is the infrared devices? answer.gif (325 bytes)