prof Michael Merrifield

Date: Saturday 14th October | Time: 1.00pm – 2.00pm

Prof Michael Merrifield

Michael Merrifield is Professor of Astronomy and head of the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nottingham.  Having studied at Oxford and Harvard, he then worked in astrophysical research in Toronto and Southampton, before moving to Nottingham in 1999 to set up a new astronomy group there.  His research focuses on the formation and evolution of galaxies, with a particular emphasis on understanding their dynamics, the motions of stars and gas that make up these beautiful objects.  He chairs the national committee overseeing the UK’s involvement in the 39-metre diameter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) currently under construction in Chile.  He also set up the company Crystal Nebulae, which produces scientifically-accurate laser-etched sculptures of astronomical objects, and is one of the founding presenters of the Sixty Symbols YouTube channel, which was recognised for its outstanding contribution to science outreach by the award of the 2016 Kelvin Medal by the Institute of Physics.





Lecture synopsis


Ever since telescopes were first turned on galaxies, astronomers have been struck by their appearance, and have tried to understand how they evolved to their current beautiful structures.  For centuries, the only clues we had came from their two-dimensional visual appearance, but now we have many new avenues to pursue: telescopes operating at different wavelengths open up the whole dimension of the electromagnetic spectrum, while those with the power to resolve the distant Universe offer a dimension in time due to the finite speed of light.  A new generation of surveys is obtaining spectra across the face of many galaxies, allowing us to probe yet more dimensions of chemical composition and stellar dynamics.  And, looking to the future, the next generation of telescopes will allow us to study nearby galaxies in the detail currently reserved for the Milky Way, and objects in the distant Universe with a clarity only currently possible for nearby galaxies.  This lecture will try to bring together this wealth of data to summarize where we currently are in understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies, and what we hope to find in the coming decades.