Brinson Lecture 2023-2024: Gerry Gilmore (University of Cambridge)

6:00–7:30 pm Venue SIX10, 610 South Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60605

This event is free and open to the public.

Registration is recommended.

Gerry Gilmore, FRS, Emeritus Professor of Experimental Philosophy

Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

"The Dynamic Milky Way – Seeing our Galaxy Evolve"

Abstract: What we call the Milky Way, our Galaxy, has been the focus of myth, story and study in every society with a recorded history for millennia. Understanding its structure defeated Isaac Newton. One hundred years ago it was realized that the Milky Way is just one amongst a Universe of galaxies. With the Gaia spacecraft and other surveys we see two billion stars moving, measuring their distances, speeds, ages and chemical composition. We can observe the structure and assembly history of the Milky Way Galaxy over its 13 billion year history, even identifying surviving stars from the earliest proto-structures to form soon after the Big Bang. We quantify the formation of the chemical elements over time and their distribution in space. We use stellar dynamics to weigh the unseen Dark Matter. We can calculate the future of the Milky Way until it ends its existence as an isolated Galaxy, merging with Andromeda some 5 billion years from now, with the death of the Sun a few billion years after that. This lecture will tell that story.

About the speaker: Originally from New Zealand, Gerry Gilmore has spent many years using ground-based telescopes and orbiting observatories to discover new features of the Milky Way Galaxy. He is interested in applying our knowledge of the structure and history of the Milky Way to understand how galaxies in general form and evolve. His main focus is near-field cosmology - the use of precision studies of kinematics, dynamics, stellar populations, and chemical abundances for the oldest systems in the local universe - to deduce the fundamental properties of structure formation and the nature of dark matter in the early Universe. Professor Gilmore is actively involved in the European Research Agency's Gaia astrometry mission and in planning for the European Extremely Large Telescope.

Event Type


May 28