2022 programme.


Meetings are held on the first Friday* of every month
Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.
Non-members are always welcome – please contact us.

* Please note that the January meeting mat be held later in the month.

Friday, 7 January 2022
Echo-mapping of Supermassive Black Holes
Dr Juan Santisteban, University of St Andrews
Super-massive black holes inhabit the cores of every galaxy in our Universe. In many cases, material can reach very close to them forming a flat, thin disc of hot material producing one of the most energetic and bright sources in the sky, observable all the way back to the formation of the first galaxies. As material spirals into the black hole it causes changes in the brightness that propagates outwards to the disc. As light travels further away from the black hole, it echoes at larger distances in the surrounding disc. From the Earth, we observe these “echoes” of the inner parts of the disc at different colours of the electromagnetic spectrum shifted in time. This “echo mapping” of black holes is a fantastic technique that allows us to probe this otherwise inaccessible environment, enabling us to measure the size of the disc and the mass of the black hole. In this talk Dr Santisteban will present what we can learn about the extreme conditions around supermassive black holes and how he uses a worldwide robotic network of telescopes to unravel the many puzzles that are left to solve.

Friday, 4 February 2022
From Clouds to Crust – How can we investigate the surface of rocky exoplanets without seeing them directly?
Oliver Herbort, University of St Andrews
“Within the last two decades a large variety of planets around stars other than our own Sun have been detected. Measurements of diameter and mass of these planets suggests that an increasing number of these planets are indeed somehow of a rocky nature, similar to Earth, Mars, Venus, but also larger in size.
One of the main questions is what the surface of these planets looks like, what kind of rock is there, are there continents and ultimately the question of potential life on those worlds.
Observations in the foreseeable future will provide insights to the atmospheric composition of these planets, but the view onto their surface will remain obscured. Therefore a good understanding of the link between the higher parts of the planetary atmosphere and the surface of the planets becomes necessary.
In this talk, Oliver will present his current work as part of his PhD studies at the University of St Andrews and the Institute for Space Science in Graz, Austria.”

Friday, 4 March 2022
Magnetic fields in stars
Rose Waugh, PhD Student of the Year – University of St Andrews

Friday, 1 April 2022
Earth Observation – Foundations and the Future
Christopher Jennings
With the launch of Landsat 9, NASA marked the continuation of the Landsat programme – the longest running satellite imagery mission with nearly 40 years of eyes on the Earth. Landsat was one of the first, but decades later the Earth Observation industry is still growing and innovating. How do these satellites work? What can we do with all this imagery? And what will the future look like?

Friday, 6 May 2022
(Public Event)
The Mysteries of the Multiverse followed by Question Time

Prof. Catherine Heymans, University of Edinburgh/Astronomer Royal for Scotland
We imagine ours is the only reality.  But some scientists and philosophers argue that there are many, perhaps an infinite number, of possible worlds that run parallel to our own. The Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Catherine Heymans, will present the astronomical observations that lend support to this multiverse theory.  We’ll then leave it to you to discuss whether this idea is a credible version of the Universe, or a wild fantasy and evidence that mathematics is no guide to reality.

Friday, 3 June 2022
Exploring Cosmic Dawn with the James Webb Space Telescope
Prof. Jim Dunlop, Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Prof. Dunlop will review the huge progress (made with both ground-based and space-based observatories) over the last ~2 decades to advance our understanding of early galaxy formation. He will then discuss the revolutionary power of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to transform our understanding of cosmic dawn – the creation of the first stars and galaxies in the wake of the Big Bang. The launch date for JWST is now set for 18th December 2021, and so by the time of this talk it should be in position at Lagrangian Point 2 and about to start science operations. Prof. Dunlop is Principal Investigator of the largest “Galaxies” JWST program scheduled for observing in JWST Cycle 1, and so will focus in particular about what this transformative major new infrared imaging survey should/could reveal about the early evolution of our Universe.

Friday, 1 July 2022
Solar Outdoor Astronomical Kitchen Event (SOAKE)
SIGMA Members and your Families

Friday, 5 August 2022
Synchronized Swinging: The (simplified) story of polaritons
Dr Kristin Arnardottir, University of St Andrews
Theoretical physics is about solving equations to explain how physical phenomena behave. The world can be a complicated place, and most of the time solving these equations becomes an insurmountable task. Therefore, we spend most of our time trying to come up with good approximations for the physical phenomena we are interested in. One thing we know is that many phenomena can be approximated to behave like the simple swinging of pendulums (if you don‘t push it too hard!). Electromagnetic wave? Pendulum. The behaviour of an electron in crystal structures? Pendulum. Now, what will happen if we make the electromagnetic wave interact with the electrons? When two pendulums interact, they can swing synchronously. But what does that mean for the analogous system?

Friday, 2 September 2022
Dr Michael Petersen, Royal Observatory Edinburgh

Friday, 7 October 2022
The Life of a Planetary System
Dr Tom Wilson, University of St Andrews
Planets, moons, asteroids, and comets have fascinated professional and amateur astronomers alike for millennia. Observations by astronomers such as Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Edmund Halley revealed substantial knowledge about the current state of the Solar System, but it has only been over the past half a century that astrophysicists have been able to probe the complete life of a planetary system thanks to the development of space- and ground-based telescopes. In this talk Dr. Wilson will discuss the current state of knowledge in answering questions such as; How do planetary systems form? Are there Earth-like exoplanets? What happens to planetary systems when their stars die? By highlighting key missions and telescopes this talk will go through the life of a planetary system. From how ALMA observations of dust and gas teach us about planet formation, to how Kepler has expanded the zoo of known exoplanets by over 100 times, to how the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have revealed the end state of planetary systems including our own Solar System. Finally, it will highlight some upcoming missions and telescopes that will provide further valuable insight into the life of planetary systems.

Friday, 4 November 2022
Robert Hughes

Friday, 2 December 2022
Christmas Quiz
SIGMA Members and your Families
Bring along the family for a night of fun, questions and mince pies to end the year. There will also be the usual Christmas raffle.