University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Wednesday, April 3rd 2019
7:00 pm:
Speaker: Robert Kennicutt, University of Arizona and Texas A&M University
Subject: The Cosmic Ecosystem:  Connecting the Life Cycles of Stars, Galaxies, and the Universe

The past decade has seen a quiet revolution in our understanding of the "Origins" questions in astronomy, namely how galaxies, stars, planets, the chemical elements, and the universe itself were formed and evolve over the history of time.  Observations of galaxies with the Hubble Space Telescope and a variety of ground-based instruments have allowed us to reconstruct an empirical history of galaxies from the Big Bang to the present, and the introduction of sophisticated numerical models have transformed our theoretical understanding this evolution.
Remarkably, the same theory for the evolution and structure of our universe, in which dark matter and dark energy play the dominant roles, when extrapolated to smaller scales also reproduces most of the observed properties of galaxies over cosmic time.  In this picture the key physical processes take place over an enormous dynamic range of physical scales, from cosmological scales to those of individual massive stars and black holes, all closely linked and interacting in a what can be regarded as a self-regulating ecosystem.  This talk will describe how the observational, theoretical, and numerical pieces of this new picture came together, and will highlight some of the current questions, challenges, and exciting opportunities which lie ahead.

About the speaker: Robert Kennicutt is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and at Texas A&M University, and Executive Director of the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at TAMU. He is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Cambridge, where he held the Plumian Professorship in Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy, and also served as Director of the Institute of Astronomy and Head of the School of the Physical Sciences.

Kennicutt earned his PhD degree from the University of Washington, and his first faculty position was in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota (1980-1988), before moving on to faculty positions in Arizona and Cambridge. He served as Editor-in-Chief of The Astrophysical Journal, and this year will become Co-Editor of the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Together with Fiona Harrison he is co-chairing the National Academy of Sciences Astro2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Kennicutt’s research focuses on observational extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, including the structure and evolution of galaxies, star formation in galaxies, chemical abundances in the universe, and the extragalactic distance scale. His studies span a wide range of wavelengths from radio to ultraviolet, and from nearby galaxies to distant galaxies observed when the universe was a fraction of its current age. He co-led (with Jeremy Mould and Wendy Freedman) the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project on the extragalactic distance scale, and three were awarded the Gruber Cosmology Prize for this work. Other awards include the AAS/AIP Dannie Heineman Prize in Astrophysics, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the NAS Award for Scientific Reviewing. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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