Recent Advances in Astronomy: A Visual Tour

John Bally, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado, Boulder

The recent completion of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the upgrade to the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, development of adaptive optics on 8 to 10 meter telescopes, and astronomy satellites such as Chandra, HST, Spitzer, Herschel, WISE, and Planck are revolutionizing our understanding of the Universe and documenting its stunning beauty.  

I will take the audience on a visual, multi-wavelength tour of the Orion region. I will start with the large-scale view of the entire Winter sky from visual to radio wavelengths where we see the expanding Orion-Eridanus superbubble created by Orion’s massive stars over the last 5 to 10 million years.   I will then zoom into the cauldron of star formation activity inside and immediately behind the Orion Nebula and show the remarkable images produced by HST, ground-based adaptive optics, and the ALMA array.  The new sub-arcsecond resolution data reveals the complex interplay between the violent birth of massive stars and the hundreds of lower-mass ones that may once host future planetary systems.


John Bally, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado, Boulder. John Bally did his undergraduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and obtained his PhD at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, earning his PhD in millimeter-wave radio astronomy in 1980. He joined AT&T Bell Laboratories for 11 years as a Member of Technical Staff, working in the Radio Physics Research Department at Crawford Hill in Holmdel NJ with the group that discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background. While at AT&T, he studied interstellar molecular clouds, the outflows and jets produced by forming stars, and built sensitive mm-wave receivers. He participated in several expeditions to the South Pole in Antarctica to set-up the first permanent astronomical observatory there. Since 1991, he has been a professor of astrophysics in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has made extensive use of the world’s major observatories such as the Hubble, the facilities of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and the facilities on Mauna Kea in Hawaii such as Gemini and Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatory. He is now a user of the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array, ALMA, which is the most ambitious ground-based telescope ever built. His current research includes the formation of stars and planetary systems, the first blind search for dense, dusty clumps that may soon or are currently forming clusters of stars. During the last decade he has concentrated on massive star and cluster formation. He has recently re-kindled his interests in cosmology and is exploring the Lee Smolin hypothesis of “cosmic natural selection” in which black holes produce Universes. This theory may provide an `explanation’ for the so-called anthropic principle and for the small but non-zero value of the cosmological constant. This highly speculative and “risky” research direction is a natural outgrowth of his interest in massive stars, the most massive of which form stellar-mass black holes at the ends of their lives. John Bally is an avid skier, and owns a home in Breckenridge, CO where he operates a small observatory.


Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 11:15