27 episodes

Listen to exciting, non-technical talks on some of the most interesting developments in astronomy and space science. Founded in 1999, the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are presented on six Wednesday evenings during each school year at Foothill College, in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. Speakers include a wide range of noted scientists, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language. The series is organized and moderated by Foothill's astronomy instructor emeritus Andrew Fraknoi and jointly sponsored by the Foothill College Physical Science, Math, and Engineering Division, the SETI Institute, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the University of California Observatories (including the Lick Observatory.)

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

Listen to exciting, non-technical talks on some of the most interesting developments in astronomy and space science. Founded in 1999, the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are presented on six Wednesday evenings during each school year at Foothill College, in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. Speakers include a wide range of noted scientists, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language. The series is organized and moderated by Foothill's astronomy instructor emeritus Andrew Fraknoi and jointly sponsored by the Foothill College Physical Science, Math, and Engineering Division, the SETI Institute, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the University of California Observatories (including the Lick Observatory.)

    When Mars Was Like Earth: Five Years of Exploration with the Curiosity Rover

    When Mars Was Like Earth: Five Years of Exploration with the Curiosity Rover

    Speaker: Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

    For five years, Curiosity explored Gale Crater, one of the most intriguing locations on Mars -- once the site of an ancient lake.  In this talk, the mission's Project Scientist discussed what the rover was capable of and the many things it discovered on and about  the red planet.  In particular, he fills us in on the evidence that ancient Mars, billions of years ago, was much more like the Earth -- with a thicker atmosphere and flowing water on its surface. (Recorded Feb. 28, 2018)

    • 1 hr 30 min
    Rubble Piles in the Sky: The Science, Exploration, and Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids

    Rubble Piles in the Sky: The Science, Exploration, and Danger of Near-Earth Asteroids

    with Dr, Michael Busch (SETI Institute)
    Near-Earth asteroids are a population of small bodies whose orbits around the Sun cross or come near our planet’s orbit.  They turn out to be unusual physical environments: essentially rubble piles. They represent a natural hazard we ignore at our peril, because some of these bodies have the potential to impact Earth.  Dr. Busch reviews the near-Earth asteroid population, programs to track and characterize such asteroids, and current efforts to address the danger of asteroid impacts.

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto (with Alan Stern & David Grinspoon)

    Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto (with Alan Stern & David Grinspoon)

    In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto, revealing its surface to our view for the first time. In this program, Drs. Alan Stern and David Grinspoon give us an insider's view of how this complex mission came to be and what it discovered at the edge of our solar system.  Their recent book  (with the same title) tells the full story of the mission, its ground-breaking discoveries at Pluto, and where it's going next.  Here is the story of path-breaking exploration and new science, straight from the source, with insight into what it's like to be part of a  planetary mission that goes to a destination never before visited.  (Recorded May 15, 2018)

    • 1 hr 43 min
    Do Humans Have What it Takes to Thrive in this Universe?

    Do Humans Have What it Takes to Thrive in this Universe?

    Dr. Sandra Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz)
    Do Humans Have What it Takes to Thrive in this Universe?

    In this thought-provoking talk, cosmologist (and National Medal of Science winner) Dr. Sandra Faber takes a look at our cosmic origins, the future of the Earth as a habitable planet, and what humans need to do to thrive in the long-term future.  She draws some sobering conclusions from the laws of physics and the sustainability of our present-day use of energy and resources.  And she provides some clear guidelines on what we will need to do, as a species, to continue living on Earth for as long as our durable planet can provide an inviting home for us.  (Recorded May 25, 2022)

    • 1 hr 22 min
    A Sharper Image: Seeing Colliding Galaxies with Adaptive Optics (with Dr. Claire Max)

    A Sharper Image: Seeing Colliding Galaxies with Adaptive Optics (with Dr. Claire Max)

    When light from space enters Earth’s atmosphere, it is distorted and displaced, something our eyes perceive as “twinkling.”  Adaptive optics can remove a great deal of this distortion, essentially restoring much of the detail we’ve been robbed off in our view of the stars and galaxies.  Dr. Max, a world-renowned pioneer in this technique, shows us how modern lasers allow her to do this very precisely.  And she discusses how this technique is giving us sharper views of such cosmic events as the collision of nearby galaxies.

    Speaker: Dr. Claire Max (University of California Observatories)
    Oct. 3, 2018

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Cosmobiology: Recent Progress in Cosmology, Exoplanets, and the Prerequisites for Life in the Universe

    Cosmobiology: Recent Progress in Cosmology, Exoplanets, and the Prerequisites for Life in the Universe

    In this talk, astrobiologist Charles Lineweaver discusses the history of life on Earth and what we can deduce from our understanding of the universe about the existence and history of life elsewhere.  He recounts the ongoing discovery of large numbers of exoplanets -- planets orbiting other stars -- and what we can learn from the varieties of planets that are being found.  He challenges us to think about what parts in the development of intelligent life on Earth would necessarily happen elsewhere and what parts might be unique to our planet. 

    Charles Lineweaver is an honorary associate professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Research School of Earth Science. His research areas include exoplanetology (the statistical analysis of exoplanets and their habitability), cosmobiology (using our new knowledge of cosmology to constrain life in the Universe) and the study of cancer. He recently completed an online video course at: arewealone.us. Dr. Lineweaver earned a BA in history from the State University of New York at Binghamton, an MA in English from Brown University, a BS is physics from Ludwig Maximillian's University in Munich, and a PhD in physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1994. 

    • 1 hr 13 min

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