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Thursday, March 5, 2015

August Star Night at the LTO


Friday, August 17, 2012 7:30 – 11:00 PM 

Public Star Night at the Little Thompson Observatory, 850 Spartan Ave at Berthoud High School
(park east of the high school; directions are posted on the website,

The speaker for this evening will be Dr John Bally of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, University of Colorado in Boulder. His talk will be about recent surveys of the Galactic Plane with the Herschel Space Observatory, with an emphasis on new results on studies of our own Galactic nucleus.

The Herschel Space Observatory, launched in 2009, is currently the largest telescope in space. Its 3.5 meter primary mirror is surveying the Galactic plane at five wavelengths from 70 to 500 mm in the far infrared, providing the first high-resolution view of dust in the interstellar medium of our Galaxy.  When combined with other recent surveys at radio and mm-wavelengths from the ground and shorter infrared wavelengths from space with the Spitzer and WISE satellites, we now for the first time can assemble a truly panchromatic view of our home Galaxy.

Figure:  The central two degrees of the Milky Way as seen by the Herschel Space Observatory in the far-infrared.  In this portion of the spectrum, stars are invisible; the scene is dominated by glowing interstellar dust.

The resulting new perspective on the Milky Way is shedding light on the “ecology” of the interstellar medium – the cycling of matter from interstellar clouds, into stars, and back again into the interstellar medium. In this talk, Dr. Bally will present new images of our  Milky Way that show distant star forming complexes which are hidden from view at visual wavelengths, and discuss new results on studies of our own Galactic nucleus, which contains the nearest super-massive black hole.

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 and set-up the first permanent astronomical observatory in Antarctica.

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 National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and the Gemini and Caltech Sub-millimeter Observatories on Maun Kea, Hawaii..

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, where he operates a small observatory.

Weather permitting after the presentation; visitors will be invited to look at various celestial objects through the large telescope.

Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when the LTO is closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join in for the talk and some observing afterwards.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at:

Meinte Veldhuis
Little Thompson Science Foundation

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