Our 32nd Season on the Mountain

Apr 18: Illuminating Dark Matter

Dark matter is mysterious stuff that affects the motions of galaxies, inside and out. But we can't see dark matter at all. It does not absorb, reflect, or emit light; in short, it's dark. And it's a big deal, since it constitutes 85% of the mass in the universe.

Robert McGehee, a PhD scholar in Physics at UC Berkeley, and soon to be a Leinweber Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Michigan, will illuminate dark matter for us by describing the ingenious methods scientists are using to search for it.

Robert McGehee

Robert McGehee

May 16: Near-Earth Asteroids

Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) are small solar system bodies in orbits that come near — or cross — the orbit of Earth. This illustrated online presentation explores NEAs as unique physical worlds, as impact hazards to Earth, and as accessible destinations for spacecraft.

Our speaker, Dr. Michael Busch, is Research Scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View.

Dr. Michael Busch

Michael Busch

Jun 27: Astrobiology Under Our Feet and Out to the Stars

The age of astrobiology has begun. We have a whole solar system — and a galaxy of star-warmed worlds beyond — to explore for life. How do we look for life here and way out there? How will we know it when we find it? Our exploration begins at Earth. We must apply what we are learning about our own amazing home planet to our search for life beyond.

Our Speaker, Dr. Penny Boston, was Director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute at Ames Research Center.

Dr. Penny Boston

Penny Boston

Jul 25: The Very First Stars

The Big Bang theory, describing the origin of our universe, is very well established today. We have ample evidence that the universe originated from a hot “singularity,” then expanded and cooled over time. Nevertheless, there is still a big missing piece of the cosmic puzzle: How did the first stars form?!

Our speaker, Deepthi Gorthi, is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, working on radio astronomy instrumentation.

Deepthi Gorthi

Deepthi Gorthi

Aug 22: Galactic Weather

Just as Earth has an atmosphere, and stars (like the Sun) have coronae (coronas), galaxies are embedded in invisible halos of atomic gases. As galaxies evolve, these gaseous halos exhibit many interesting phenomena similar to rains and droughts on Earth. What do these enormous galactic climate systems look like, how are they studied, and how do they behave? It's called the Baryon Cycle, and it's essential to galaxy evolution and star formation. Without it galaxies would die, and we would not be here!

Our speaker, Dr. Yong Zheng, is a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Astronomy, with interests that include galaxy formation and evolution.

Dr. Yong Zheng

Yong Zheng

Oct 24: N ~ 1 : Alone in the Milky Way

The Drake equation, proposed by American astronomer Frank Drake and considered to be one of the famous equations in the world, offers a way to estimate the number N of advanced civilizations present in our Milky Way galaxy. Large numbers for N, however, are in apparent conflict with observation, a contradiction known as the Fermi paradox, named after Italian-American physicist and 1938 Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi.

Our speaker, Dr. Pascal Lee, is a planetary scientist at the Mars Institute and at the SETI Institute. He also directs the Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center. He argues that advanced civilizations may well be extremely rare. In fact, Dr. Lee estimates that N ~ 1. Even though planets are plentiful in the Milky Way, and even though life as a natural product of chemical and biological evolution is likely common, the number of advanced civilizations in the Galaxy might be of order 1. Says Dr. Lee: "We might be it in the vastness of our galaxy, or there might be just one other..."

Part of the Bay Area Science Festival!

Dr. Pascal Lee

Pascal Lee

Trailer 1

Trailer 2