Free talk about the mysteries of the galaxies

UCONN astrophysicist Dr. Katherine E. Whitaker is giving a talk about the mysteries of galaxy formation and evolution on Tuesday, July 18 at 8 p.m., at the Westport Astronomical Society.

The event is free and open to the public and is being held rain or shine. Registration is not required.

Using Hubble Space Telescope observations, Dr. Whitaker’s team explores the rich, uncharted territory of the distant universe.

An understanding of the cosmos is fundamentally tied to the study of galaxies (the birthplace of all stars and life itself), yet less than 100 years ago galaxies were thought to be a nebula within our own Milky Way.

Since then, astronomers have progressed from the mere recognition of nearby galaxies to direct observations of the early universe. They have uncovered billions of years of cosmic growth that present new challenges to galaxy formation theories.

In this talk, Dr. Whitaker will review recent innovative techniques developed to probe the distant universe, and the key observations constraining the formation histories of galaxies over the past 11 billion years.

Scientists have discovered a population of surprisingly compact and massive “red and dead” (quiescent) galaxies that are no longer actively forming stars. Explaining the physical mechanisms responsible for shutting down star formation and the subsequent buildup of this quiescent population at such early times is one of the biggest challenges in astrophysics today.

Why are these enigmatic galaxies so compact, with sizes a factor of five smaller than nearby galaxies with a similar total number of stars? Dr. Whitaker will present promising paths forward towards solving this puzzle that leverages the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as a look toward the future with exciting upcoming public facilities.

The Westport Astronomical Society is located at 182 Bayberry Lane, Westport.