New Discoveries Lecture Series

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About the Series

The SESE New Discoveries Lecture Series is designed to bring the exciting scientific work of SESE to the general public in a series of informative and up-to-date evening lectures. Each will be given by a member of the SESE faculty.

Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. MST and last about an hour. They are free and open to the public.

Studying Stellar Nurseries From the Stratosphere in Antarctica

Dr. Christopher Groppi

February 16, 2018 | Register

About the Speaker:

Dr. Groppi is an experimental astrophysicist interested in the process of star and planet formation and the evolution and structure of the interstellar medium. His current research focuses on the design and construction of state of the art terahertz receiver systems optimized to detect the light emitted by molecules and atoms in molecular clouds, the birthplace of stars.

About the Lecture:

Today, we know a bit about how stars are born and evolve, but amazingly little about how giant molecular clouds, the stellar nurseries that are the birthplaces of all stars and planets, come to be. In this talk, I'll describe how and why we fly a 5000 pound observatory hanging from a balloon the size of a football stadium at an altitude double that of a jetliner to learn about how these stellar nurseries form. We launch these balloons from one of the most remote places on Earth, the McMurdo research station in Antarctica.

(Note: This talk is part of a SESE Earth and Space Open House. Events and activities begin at 6:15 p.m., and Dr. Groppi's keynote talk starts at 7:40 p.m.) 

The Dawn of a New Era in Cosmology

Dr. Judd Bowman

March 22, 2018 | Register

About the Speaker:

Dr. Bowman is an experimental cosmologist interested in the formation of structure in the early universe, including the first stars, galaxies, and black holes. His current research focuses on the development and deployment of technologies and techniques to enable observational probes of the redshifted 21 cm line of neutral hydrogen gas during the epoch of reionization. Much of Professor Bowman's data collection takes place in the outback of Western Australia and in other remote sites around the world where interference from human-generated radio sources like FM radio and TV stations is greatly reduced.

About the Lecture:

When was the first star born?  And what happened when it died?  These are two questions on the cutting edge of astrophysics, where astronomers try to understand how the universe developed from the Big Bang, about 13.8 billion years ago, to today.
But studying the earliest stars is extraordinary difficult. We normally see our universe through starlight: even the most distant galaxies observed by the Hubble Space Telescope are collections of stars.  Yet to study the earliest stars in the universe, which probably began shining before the universe was 100 million years old, astronomers must look very far away – so far away that the light from the stars themselves is likely too faint for optical telescopes ever to capture.
I will talk about efforts led by ASU astronomers to get around this limitation and open an entirely new window on the early universe. With collaborators around the world, we have designed and are now operating new radio telescopes that look for the collective fingerprints of the first stars in the primordial gas left over after the Big Bang.
Like a cosmic crime scene, the first clues are just emerging and the mystery may be stranger than we expected!

Chasing Gravitational Waves

Dr. Nathaniel Butler

April 13, 2018 | Register

About the Speaker:

Dr. Butler is an astrophysicist interested in the properties and evolution of the early universe. His current research focuses on experiments to observe and study astrophysical explosions and to use these to probe the first stars and galaxies and their environments.

About the Lecture:

The recent discovery of gravitational waves by Advanced LIGO and Virgo has vindicated a century-old prediction of general relativity, resulting in this year's Nobel prize for physics.  Most importantly, the detection of simultaneous electromagnetic radiation, first in gamma-rays and then as a fading x-ray/optical/infrared/radio afterglow, establishes that these events are real and associated with astrophysical phenomenon already somewhat well-studied.  The combined detection and followup effort establishes a new window into the Universe and a new way of studying astrophysical objects.  I will discuss our efforts to chase gravitational wave triggers using ground-based, mostly robotic telescopes.  I will also discuss the event from August 2017, which reached us from a nearby galaxy 140 million light years away.  Studies of the August 2017 event constrain fundamental physics and teach us about the Universe's brightest explosions (gamma-ray bursts), about the merging and exploding of neutron stars, and about the origin of precious metals in the Universe.  Our community is well-equipped to chase and study future gravitational wave events, presuming more occur on a regular basis.

(Note: This talk is part of a SESE Earth and Space Open House. Events and activities begin at 6:15 p.m., and Dr. Butler's keynote talk starts at 7:40 p.m.)

Where to go

The Marston Exploration Theater is located on the first floor of ASU's Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV (ISTB 4), the home of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. ISTB 4 (map) is located near the intersection of Rural and Terrace Road in Tempe on the east side of campus. This seven-story structure is ASU’s largest research facility and is accessible on foot via Orange Street and McAllister Ave. If arriving by Light Rail, exit at the University and Rural Road stop.


Parking is available inside the Rural Road parking structure just east of ISTB 4. From the parking structure, walk west and enter ISTB 4 through the glass doors on the north side of the building. Please note that a parking fee is charged upon exit. There is additional pay parking directly south of ISTB 4 available for $2 / hour. There is an automated payment registration kiosk on the parking lot's west side (the corner near the building).

When to arrive

RSVP links will be provided to register and reserve your seat for each event.  Attendees should arrive no later than 7:15 p.m. to gain entry into the theater. No-show seats will be released on a first come/first serve basis.  


Please contact Stephanee Germaine, SESE Alumni and Events Coordinator at