Star gazer to visit Balclutha to inspire future scientists

Stars and planets in the southern skies of New Zeland.

Stars and planets in the southern skies of New Zeland.

Is anybody out there?

That's an age-old question with a modern twist that a visiting scientist will discuss with South Otago people when he gives a talk at Balclutha next week.

Balclutha Rotary Club is hosting Dr Eyal Schwartz, a young researcher at the University of Otago physics department, the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, in Dunedin.

He will be speaking at the South Otago Town & Country Club at 7pm on Thursday.

Aurora Australis: In search of the Southern Lights 

Schwartz specialises in hunting the night skies for extra-solar planets.

This will be the second time in two years that the rotary club has hosted a science professional, with a view to promoting educational programmes in the community, to support youth initiatives that encourage interest in higher education and the sciences.

Guest speaker Schwartz has a diverse research background in physics. He completed a masters degree in fluid mechanics and a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics.

At the moment, his field of research interest is fundamental quantum mechanics and cold atoms, where he is manipulating single atoms to understand basic phenomena in the building blocks of the universe.

In his talk, he aims to unveil the vastness of the cosmos, describing what can be seen with the naked eye, to images from the most powerful telescopes.

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The southern skies were ideal to star-gaze the cross, matariki, different nebulae and the solar planets, he said.

However, amongst them are mysterious hidden faint ones; other worlds that lie far beyond our solar system:

"Worlds that encompass our wildest imagination; earth-like planets in other solar systems around the galaxy are our ultimate goal on the way to understanding our own earth and life on it."

Schwartz will talk about discovering other planets, and just how hard that can be, the techniques and tools scientists use to track down habitable planets, and hopefully one day, signs of life.


 - Stuff

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