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Space telescope astrophysicist to present public talk


James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Mario Livio, a senior astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, will discuss the wonders of the universe observed by the Hubble Space Telescope during a talk Sept. 17 at the University of Illinois.

Livio, who also is the head of the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute, will present the 2008 talk in the U. of I. department of astronomy’s Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lectureship. The lecture, “The World According to the Hubble Space Telescope,” begins at 7 p.m. in Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.  The talk is free and open to the public.

Launched on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope is one of the largest and most complex astronomical observatories placed in orbit. The Space Telescope Science Institute is responsible for the scientific operations of the Hubble Space Telescope.

“Few scientific experiments in history have had such a profound impact on research and on the public as the Hubble Space Telescope,” Livio said. “In addition to providing astronomers with unprecedented detail, Hubble has brought a glimpse of the wonders of the universe to homes worldwide.”

In his talk, Livio will present some of Hubble’s most riveting contributions to astronomy, from planets circling other stars, to galaxies and supermassive black holes, and on to the mysterious “dark energy” that permeates all of space and increases the rate of cosmic expansion. During his talk, Livio will show some of the most dramatic images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Livio’s research interests span a broad range of topics in astrophysics, from cosmology to the emergence of intelligent life. He has performed fundamental work on such topics as the accretion of mass onto black holes and the possibility of extracting energy from them. His latest work has focused on the use of supernovae to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, and the nature of dark energy.

Livio, a self-proclaimed “art fanatic,” has combined his passions for art and science in three popular books: “The Accelerating Universe” (2000), “The Golden Ratio” (2002), and “The Equation that Couldn’t Be Solved” (2005). “The Golden Ratio” won the Peano Prize in 2003, and the International Pythagoras Prize in 2004, as the best popular book on mathematics.

Founded in 1997 and named in honor of Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Astronomy Icko Iben Jr., the Iben lectureship brings a noted astronomer to campus each year to highlight some of the latest developments in astronomy. In addition to giving a public lecture, the invited speaker also will give a technical colloquium and meet informally with faculty members and students.