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Ordinary Meeting - Collisions in Crowded Corners of the Cosmos

Date: Friday 17 May 2013 - 8:00pm
Topic: Collisions in Crowded Corners of the Cosmos:
How Stephan's Quintet and other Compact Groups of Galaxies are helping us uncover unexpected secrets of the universe
Speaker: Dr Michelle Cluver, AAO
Venue: Epping Creative Centre - 26 Stanley Road, Epping
Abstract: Strongly interacting compact groups of galaxies, like Stephen's Quintet, are fairly rare in the local universe. But, when one of the members of the Quintet crashed into the group at ~1000 km/s, the resulting shock wave produced a very interesting (and unexpected!) physical phenomenon-- widespread and abundant emission from molecular hydrogen, a relatively fragile molecule. In this talk I will detail the Spitzer Space Telescope observations that led to this "shocking" surprise and discuss the impact of this result on a broad range of astrophysical phenomenon. In fact, a larger study of compact groups suggests it may be key to uncovering how galaxies are evolving.
Biography: I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where I developed a keen interest in Astronomy through my Dad and subsequently the Planetarium in Cape Town. Whilst working there part-time, I completed a BSc degree in Physics and Chemistry and further an Honours Degree in Theoretical Physics, both from the University of Cape Town. After teaching mathematics for several years I decided to return to my studies, this time a Masters in Astrophysics and Space Science, part of a brand new initiative in South Africa to promote studies in astrophysics. Subsequently, I obtained a PhD in Astronomy in January 2009 from the University of Cape Town, having spent 9 months at Caltech, located in Los Angeles, on a Visiting Graduate Fellowship working on the analysis of Spitzer Space Telescope data of a rare star-forming, HI-massive galaxy. My first Postdoctoral Research position was at the Infrared Processing And Analysis Center (IPAC) at Caltech until November 2011, working on Stephan's Quintet and compact groups (among other things). Since then I have been based at the Australian Astronomical Observatory as a Super Science Fellow.   
I consider myself very fortunate to be able to observe on world class telescopes and work with data from space telescopes.

Event Date: 
Friday, 17 May, 2013 - 20:00
Epping Creative Centre, 26 Stanley Road, Epping NSW

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