We are living in a golden age for astronomy, with cutting edge new telescopes that are enabling new, fantastic discoveries. However, we should never forget that we could achieve our knowledge of the Universe by standing on the shoulder of giants, such as Galileo Galilei, who defined the scientific method and set the pillars on which astronomy and astrophysics are founded. I will provide a quick overview of our progress in understanding the Universe from the fathers of astronomy to modern observatories, including the major contribution from Italian scientists. I will illustrate how this progress has culminated in some major findings that have been achieved thanks to the latest generation telescopes, which are providing unprecedented information on the most distant galaxies, in the infant Universe, and by exploring the atmospheres of planets in other solar systems, aimed at finding signatures of life. I will conclude with the challenges that we are facing and the ambitious goals ahead of us.
Roberto Maiolino is Professor of Experimental Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Professor at University College London. He graduated at the University of Florence, on secondment at the University of Arizona. Before taking his chair at Cambridge he worked at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, at the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory in Florence, and at the Astronomical Observatory of Rome. From 2016 to 2021 he was Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge. In 2019 he was knighted in the Order of the Star of Italy. In 2022 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. By using some of the largest telescopes, Roberto Maiolino explores the early formation of galaxies and black holes and their evolution across the cosmic epochs. He has a leading role in various major projects, such as the Extremely Large Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, for which he received the NASA Group Achievement Award. Roberto Maiolino is also a novelist who has published a thriller, ’Stars and Waves’, in the world of astronomy.

A drinks reception will follow the talk


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Photo Credit: NASA

Wednesday 17 April 2024