Let There Be Light: Finding the Earliest Galaxies
A few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the hydrogen in deep space was
ionized into its component protons and electrons. Theorists speculate this landmark
event was caused by the birth of the first galaxies. Can powerful
telescopes, probing back in cosmic history, directly witness this event?
Large telescopes have already traced the evolutionary history of
galaxies back to when the Universe was 1 billion years
old. The first results from the Wide Field Infrared Camera onboard Hubble
Space Telescope give us our first glimpse at primitive stellar systems at even earlier
times. Professor Ellis will address the progress and challenges of this fundamental
quest for our origins, and discuss the future prospects with the next generation of
giant 30-40 meter aperture ground-based telescopes.
Richard Ellis is the Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. He
is an observational astronomer who studies the distant Universe with a variety of facilities including
the Hubble Space Telescope and the twin Keck 10 meter telescopes in Hawaii.
Professor Ellis obtained his Ph.D. at Oxford University in 1974. As a young
researcher he established a major astronomy group at Durham University and later became the Director
of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University. He emigrated to the United States in 1999 where he
has played a leading role in developing the science case and international partnership for the
Thirty Meter Telescope: an ambitious next generation ground-based telescope to be completed in 2020.
Ellis' research interests include cosmology - the form and content of the Universe as a whole - and the evolution
of galaxies over cosmic time. He has been influential in making many discoveries in these areas and is one
of the world's most highly-cited astrophysicists.
His awards include the Gruber Cosmology Prize and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He
is a Fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the title of Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth
in 2008 for his contributions to international science.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Chris Butler