Monthly Meeting – 26th May 2023

Date/Time: Friday 26th May 2023 at 19:30

Venue: Newchurch Pavilion

The Ins and Outs of the Milky Way

Prof Sean Ryan (Professor of Astrophysics, Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire)

About the talk

The Sun is one of a hundred billion stars situated in a galaxy we call the Milky Way. It is just 100 years since the boundaries of the Milky Way were recognised, and the spiral nebulae were shown to lie well beyond our system of stars. But how and when did the Milky Way come to exist? This talk traces the continuing development of our understanding of the formation and evolution of the Milky Way, and how the Milky Way as we observe it variously reveals and in equal measure obscures evidence of its past.

About the speaker

Sean Ryan is a professional astronomer with almost fifty years’ experience as an amateur observer. As a teenager, he first learnt his craft using a 16 inch Newtonian telescope under the mentorship of David Buckley (later Project Scientist for the Southern African Large Telescope).

While studying at University, Sean operated the University’s 6 inch refractor on public nights for three years before embarking on a professional career. After completing a PhD in observational astronomy at the Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, where he observed extensively with the 1 metre, 74 inch, 2.3 m and 3.9 m telescopes, he was awarded a Hubble Fellowship one year after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Countless nights observing at a wide range of North and South American observatories ensued.

Staff posts at the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory followed, including a five month secondment to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan as the 8.2 m Subaru telescope approached completion. In 1999, Sean commenced an academic career at the Open University, with observations continuing on four- and eight- metre-class telescopes around the world.

Sean was appointed Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire in 2006, where he was Head and Dean of the School of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics for ten years. He later developed the University’s optics course for trainee optometrists, and expanded his optical expertise into microscopy.

He has published over 100 research papers on observational astronomy, and has co-authored several textbooks.

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