Archive for Astronomy Centre

50 Years of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex

Posted in Biographical, Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2016 by telescoper

On Saturday (15th October) I was back in Brighton for the first time since I left my job there at the end of July. The occasion was a very nice lunch party to celebrate 50 years of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex, which started properly in 1966. It was a pleasant occasion, and great to have the chance to catch up with some people I haven’t seen for far too long. I had two stints in the Astronomy Centre: once as a student then postdoc from 1985 to 1990, and the other from 2013 to 2016 when I was Head of the School of which the Astronomy Centre is part. I had a lot more time to do research in the first incarnation than in the second!

Quite a few people present hadn’t realised I was no longer working at Sussex, which led to one or two slightly awkward conversations, but I was thankfully very far from being the centre of attention.

After the lunch itself we had short speeches from various alumni of the Astronomy Centre: esteemed science writer John Gribbbin (who was one of its first MSc students in 1966); Lord Martin Rees (who was briefly a Professor at Sussex, before he returned to Cambridge to take up the Plumian Professorship); John Barrow (who was my supervisor while I was there); Carlos Frenk (who was a postdoctoral researcher when I arrived in September 1985, but who left to take up a lectureship in Durham at the end of that year so we overlapped only for a short time); Andrew Liddle (who arrived near the end of my stay and was there for 22 years altogether, leaving at the end of 2012 to take up a post in Edinburgh); and Peter Thomas (current Director of the Astronomy Centre).

When I arrived in 1985 there were only four permanent faculty in the Astronomy Centre itself – Roger Tayler, Leon Mestel, John Barrow and Robert Smith – but research there was thriving and it was a great environment to work in. I count myself very lucky at having made such a good choice of a place to do my PhD DPhil. Leon and Robert both worked on stellar astrophysics, but after Leon’s retirement the centre increasingly focussed on cosmology and extragalactic astrophysics, which remains the case today. Roger Tayler sadly passed away in 1997, but Leon is still around: he is 89 years old and now lives in Cambridge.

Those present at the lunch were given a booklet featuring around 50 academic papers or other research “highlights”(e.g. the launch of Planck), approximately one for each year of the Astronomy Centre, chosen to be the “best” of that year. Each page was also shown as a slide during the lunch. I was thrilled to see that two of my papers (from 1987 and 1991 respectively) made it into the collection. The second one was published after I’d left Sussex, but I definitely did the work on it and submitted it while an employee of the Astronomy Centre. Andrew Liddle and John Barrow have the largest number of “greatest hits”, but the most famous paper is probably the classic “DEFW” which won Carlos Frenk and his collaborators the Gruber Prize about five years ago.

The book also contains various bits of interesting bibliometric information, such as this, which shows that the variation in the productivity of the Astronomy Centre over time.

us-astronomy-50-powerpoint

Anyway, for those who are interested, the whole collection of slides can be viewed here:

Thanks to Seb Oliver and the rest of the Astronomy Centre for organizing this very enjoyable event – and for sending me the slides! Here’s to the next 50 years of Astronomy at the University of Sussex!

 

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50 Years of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 3, 2016 by telescoper

It is my pleasure to share here the announcement that there will be a  special celebration for the 50th Anniversary of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex whose first students began their studies here in 1966.

Lord Martin Rees – Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, Past President of the Royal Society and Sussex Honorary – will be joining alumni and other former faculty for the celebratory lunch and has kindly agreed to deliver a short speech as part of the event.

Organised by the Astronomy Centre and the Development and Alumni Office, and supported by the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences , this celebration is open to all former students and their partners. Please make a note of the date and time:

Date: Saturday 15th October 2016
Venue: 3rd Floor, Bramber House, University of Sussex
Time: 12 – 3pm
Cost:  £20 per person, to include lunch and refreshments

You can book online here to secure your place(s).

We are very much looking forward to welcoming you back to campus to share in the celebrations. If you are in touch with other alumni or faculty from Sussex who have connections with the Astronomy Centre, please let them know!

The astronomer who came in from the cold

Posted in History, Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on November 1, 2013 by telescoper

Here’s a fascinating little bit of history for you. The other day I discovered the old Visitor’s Book in which staff of the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex used to record the names of distinguished guests who appeared here to give seminars. There are many illustrious names in the book, including for example at the bottom of this page (from 1968), Ed Salpeter.
Cold War

However, the name to which I’d like to draw your attention is in the middle of this page. On 17th August 1968 the Astronomy Centre played host to two Russian visitors, an astrophysicist called Dr G.S. Khromov from the Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow and a chap from the state-run Novosti Press Agency by the name of Gennadi I. Gerasimov.

I know little of Khromov’s work in astrophysics, but it is significant that he was permitted to visit the United Kingdom during the Cold War period, long before Glasnost and the eventual break-up of the Soviet Union. The second name is much more famous. Gennadi Ivanovich Gerasimov rose through the ranks of the Soviet System and eventually during the 1980s became Foreign Affairs spokesman for Mikhail Gorbachev and press spokesman for Eduard Shevardnadze.

So what was he doing in Sussex in 1968 attending an astronomy seminar? Well, the answer to that is that during the 1960s Russian scientists were generally only allowed to visit the West if they were accompanied by a “minder”, usually some form of KGB operative whose job was to ensure the scientist did not defect; the use of a press agency as cover story was pretty standard in such cases.  I’ve heard similar stories from Russian colleagues who travelled to the west under similar constraints during this period, and even some in which the scientist was the cover story for the agent!

So Gennadi Gerasimov was almost certainly at one time a KGB agent. Given the career of the current President of Russia, this should come as no surprise…

Three Astronomy Jobs at Sussex – The Deadline Approaches!

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on November 29, 2012 by telescoper

I’m taking the liberty of repeating this advertisement in case anybody out there missed it. Here is an announcement of three (new, permanent) jobs in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. You can also find an advertisment in the November AAS Jobs Register. In fact this is it. The deadline is 30th November, i.e. tomorrow, so if you want to apply then you had better get your skates on!

Full details of the positions are in the above links, but the gist is that applications are invited for 3 permanent, full-time faculty positions within the Astronomy Centre.

The 8 existing faculty have research interests that span the observation, modelling/simulation and theory of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.  We are seeking talented and ambitious colleagues whose research interests complement and extend our current activity.

I’ll be interested to see how many people apply as a result of seeing this here announcement, so if you do fill in an application form  be sure to answer the question “Where did you see this post advertised” with “In the Dark”!

Three Astronomy Jobs at Sussex

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on October 18, 2012 by telescoper

Following hard on the heels of Tuesday’s news, here is an announcement of three (new, permanent) jobs in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Full details are in the above link, but the gist is that applications are invited for 3 permanent, full-time faculty positions within the Astronomy Centre.

The 8 existing faculty have research interests that span the observation, modelling/simulation and theory of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.  We are seeking talented and ambitious colleagues whose research interests complement and extend our current activity.

This advertisement will in due course appear elsewhere, e.g. in the November AAS Jobs Register.

I’ll be interested to see how many people apply as a result of seeing this here announcement, so if you do fill in an application form  be sure to answer the question “Where did you see this post advertised” with “In the Dark”!