Hunstead Distinguished Visitor

The most recent initiative to be supported by the Hunstead Gift is a program  supporting distinguished visitors for terms up to one month through the provision of funding of up to $5,000 AUD. This program, inspired by the visitor program run at Mount Stromlo, gives scientists the chance to work collaboratively on activities associated with SIfA’s astrophysics and technology research programs.
Hunstead Distinguished Visitors are invited to spend up to 4 weeks in residence at SIfA. Up to two appointments can be funded each year.


Professor Richard Ellis, University College London

Richard Ellis gained his BSc in Astronomy from UCL and studied a DPhil in Astrophysics at Oxford Moving to a teaching position at the University of Durham he formed a new research effort in extragalactic astronomy and astronomical instrumentation taking advantage of the new opportunities available with the Anglo-Australian Telescope. He took a position at Cambridge as Plumian Professor in 1993 and served as Director of the Institute of Astronomy for 5 years. Following 16 years in the USA as a Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and served as Director of the Palomar Observatory from 2000-2005 he returned to Europe in 2015 following the award of a ERC Advanced Research Grant held at UCL. He initially spent 2 years as Senior Scientist at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) headquarters in Garching, Germany, returning to UCL full time as Professor of Astrophysics in 2017. He is a co-scientific lead for the Prime Focus Spectrograph, a highly- multiplexed instrument for the Subaru 8 metre telescope in Hawaii.

During his career Richard’s research has moved from detailed studies of nearby stars, topics in Galactic structure and nearby galaxies to broader questions relating to the large scale structure of the Universe and its contents, and the formation and evolution of galaxies. His recent work addresses the origin of the earliest galaxies and understanding their role in cosmic reionisation. His programmes are primarily observational exploiting ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the twin Keck telescopes and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA). Richard remain enthusiastic about the use of new instruments and observational opportunities.

During his visit Richard took part in many informal discussions with SIfA staff and students which may lead to future collaborations as well as meeting with the SAMI and Hector Galaxy survey teams.

As part of his visit Professor Ellis presented a Seminar: “The Quest for Cosmic Dawn: When Did Galaxies First Emerge from Darkness?
”, to the School of Physics.

The Quest for Cosmic Dawn: When Did Galaxies First Emerge from Darkness?

The first billion years after the Big Bang represent the final frontier in assembling a complete picture of cosmic history. During this early period the first galaxies formed and the universe became bathed in light. Hydrogen clouds in the space in between galaxies were then transformed from an atomic gas to an ionised medium of detached protons and electrons. How and when did all this occur? Recent progress suggests that, using the recently-launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we may soon witness this dramatic period when galaxies first emerged from darkness. The scientific motivation is fundamental: the origin of starlight began the chemical evolution which ultimately led to our own existence in this remarkable Universe.

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Professor Don Kurtz, University of Central Lancashire

Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, to an American father and Canadian mother. He obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976, then spent 25 years in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. He is now a British citizen and has been Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire since 2001.

He is a past councillor and vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society and serves on many international committees. Don observes with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and nearly 500 professional publications. He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He is co-author of the fundamental textbook, Asteroseismology.

During his visit Don saw the publication of a Nature paper and collaborated on two papers all co-authored with SIfA researchers. He took part in many informal discussions with SIfA staff and students which may lead to future publications.

As part of his visit Professor Kurtz presented a colloquium: “Asteroseismology, the new Keplerian Revolution”, to the physics department. He presented a talk, “Advice on Giving a Scientific Talk” to the physics department in collaboration of PhySoc, and gave the following public lecture in conjunction with Sydney Ideas:

Tides: from curious Kimberley to cannibalistic black holes

Explore the wonder and science of tides

Why does the Earth have two tides a day? What causes spring and neap tides? Astronomer Don Kurtz uncovers the fascinating and mysterious topic of tides.

At Talbot Bay in Western Australia, the tides are big enough to create waterfalls. Tides on other bodies in the solar system can lead to moons disintegrating, which is how the rings of Saturn were formed. Some stars also have tides, including the amazing “Heartbeat Stars” that were discovered using NASA’s Kepler Mission. Tides from some black holes would tear a person apart.

Professor Don Kurtz presents a richly illustrated talk that will cover tides on the Earth, in stars, and even in colliding galaxies.

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