Richard Ellis, 2017-2018

Richard Ellis

Richard Ellis, "Let There Be Light: The Observational Quest for the First Galaxies"

May 17, 2018 | MacLean Ballroom - School of the Art Institute of Chicago | 6:00 pm

Richard Ellis, University College London
Richard Ellis is Professor of Astrophysics at the University College London. Until recently he was the Steele Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He was awarded the 2011 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Ellis works primarily in observational cosmology, considering the origin and evolution of galaxies, the evolution of large scale structure in the universe, and the nature and distribution of dark matter. He worked on the Morphs collaboration studying the formation and morphologies of distant galaxies. Particular interests include applications using gravitational lensing and high-redshift supernovae. He was a member of the Supernova Cosmology Project whose leader, Saul Perlmutter, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics for the team's surprising discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. His most recent discoveries relate to searches for the earliest known galaxies, seen when the Universe was only a few percent of its present age.

2018 Brinson Lecture: "Let There Be Light: The Observational Quest for the First Galaxies"
The first billion years after the Big Bang is widely regarded as the final observational frontier in assembling a complete picture of cosmic history. During this period early stars and galaxies formed and the Universe became bathed in light for the first time. Hydrogen clouds in the space inbetween galaxies transformed from an atomic gas to a fully ionized medium consisting of detached protons and electrons. How and when did this 'cosmic reionization' occurred and were early star-forming galaxies the primary agents? Recent progress has raised the exciting prospect that we will soon be able to directly witness this dramatic period when the Universe emerged from darkness and the first galaxies began to shine. Professor Ellis will review the rapid progress being made with current facilities, and the prospects with upcoming ones, including the James Webb Space Telescope and extremely large ground-based telescopes now under construction. The motivation is fundamental: the origin of starlight begins the process of chemical evolution which ultimately leads to our own existence in this remarkable Universe.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.