Science & Technology

21st Century Telescopes

Professor Michael Merrifield
Thursday, 19 November 2020 - 6:30pm


*Live Q&A Thursday 19th November - registration required*


Astronomical discoveries and the development of technology have always gone hand in hand. Only a few years after its invention, Galileo was already using the telescope to revolutionise our view of the universe.

The story is the same in the twenty-first century, with some truly amazing developments in technology promising some massive leaps forward in our understanding of the Universe around us.

This talk will discuss how telescopes and other instrumentation have developed to-date, and what is on the drawing boards for the coming decade.  In particular, it will look at the development and building of the next-generation Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), for which Professor Merrifield has taken a significant role in coordinating the UK’s involvement.  This 39-metre diameter optical telescope is an amazing feat of engineering that will enable new discoveries ranging from potentially discovering life on planets outside the solar system to understanding the ultimate fate of the Universe, and, as with all telescopes, many serendipitous discoveries that we cannot even imagine yet.



About the speaker

Professor Michael Merrifield has just completed a spell as head of school for the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham.  He is professor of Astronomy there, having set up a new astronomy group in 1999, which has grown to a thriving research programme with around 40 researchers and PhD students studying the formation and evolution of galaxies.  He studied as an undergraduate at Oxford and for his PhD at Harvard, and has worked in the US, Canada and the UK.  With James Binney, Michael co-authored the graduate-level text book “Galactic Astronomy.”  He also has a major commitment to outreach in all its forms; his work with Brady Haran on the popular YouTube channels Sixty Symbols and Deep Sky Videos resulted in the award of the 2016 Kelvin Medal by the Institute of Physics, and he also set up a company, Crystal Nebulae, which produces glass sculptures of astronomical objects.





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Image: photograph of ELT by ESO/L. Calçada