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University of Iowa News Release

 

Sept. 25, 2006

The Center Of The Galaxy Is Subject Of Sept 30 Lecture

What lies at the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy?

That question and others will be addressed by Cornelia Lang, assistant professor of astronomy in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Department of Physics and Astronomy, when she speaks on a "Journey to the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy" at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 in Room 40 of Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. The talk is free and open to the public.

The talk, a part of the CLAS 2006 Saturday Scholars lecture series, will examine how astronomers make detailed observations of our own galactic nucleus, what the most recent observations have shown us about this unique region and how we can use this information to learn about the nuclei of galaxies throughout the universe.

Astronomers think that most galaxies contain a super massive black hole at their centers in addition to massive clusters of stars, strong magnetic fields and dense clouds of hydrogen gas. The interplay of these components causes the nuclei of galaxies to glow brightly, even at the largest distances across the universe. However, most galaxies are too far away for astronomers to study their centers in great detail.

By comparison, the center of the Milky Way Galaxy offers the sharpest view of the unique, inner workings of a galactic nucleus.

"From Earth, a distance of 24,000 light years from the galactic center, we can look into the heart of our galaxy with 100 times better detail than we can for the nearest galaxy, Andromeda, and thousands of times more clarity than more distant galaxies," Lang says. "This view allows us to put together a picture of the activities occurring 'downtown' in the 'big city' of our galaxy."

In connection with her Saturday Scholars talk, Lang will be a guest on "Talk of Iowa" on WSUI-AM 910 and WOI-AM 640 at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27.

Lang received her bachelor's degree in both physics and astronomy at Vassar College and earned a doctorate in astronomy from the University of California at Los Angeles. Her research interests include the interstellar medium of the Milky Way Galaxy using radio telescopes and x-ray satellites, such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Owens Valley Millimeter Array. Her graduate work included a two-year, pre-doctoral fellowship at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M., where the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope is located. She continues to use the telescope regularly, and a number of her undergraduate and graduate student researchers have accompanied her to the VLA over the past few summers. She also makes use of the small radio telescope located on the roof of Van Allen Hall for teaching courses on radio astronomy. The National Science Foundation and several UI Old Gold Fellowships currently fund her research.

Other events in the 2006 "Saturday Scholars" series will include:

--Oct. 14: "Waving Your Arms: A Conductor Struggles to be Understood," Timothy Stalter, associate professor of music.

--Oct. 28: "Development and Disease: Fishing for Answers," Diane Slusarski, associate professor of biological sciences.

--Nov. 11: "Politics: What's Emotion Got to Do With It?" David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science.

Saturday Scholars was developed by CLAS Dean Linda Maxson to give members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. Additional information is available at http://www.clas.uiowa.edu/.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 319-335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu