The society held their monthly meeting for November at Ayton Village Hall on Friday the 15th and the visiting guest speaker in front of a well attended meeting was Prof. Shaun Cole, deputy director of the Institute of Computational Cosmology at Durham University with a talk entitled “The Mystery of Dark Energy”.
The talk included plenty of physics including how dark energy relates to quantum theory and special relativity, what dark energy may actually be, how type 1a supernovae are used as standard candles to approximate distance and some of the various theoretical models on the expansion of the Universe from the Big Bang. Until recently, it was unknown that the Universe was in fact accelerating; work that resulted in the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011 for Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess.
Results obtained from galaxy observations that showed clustering at various redshifts were included from surveys including 2dF (that Shaun himself was involved with at the Anglo-Australian Observatory) and the SDSS III Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS).
The talk concluded with a look at the future of dark energy investigations with ongoing and planned surveys including the dark energy survey element of Pan-STARRS in Hawaii that Shaun is helping to lead to observe galaxy clustering and weak gravitational lensing plus the Euclid space telescope due to be launched by the European Space Agency in 2020 that Durham University are involved with some of the on-board instrumentation.
Many thanks to Shaun for visiting the society to give such an informative talk on possibly the biggest unanswered question in Cosmology. It will be interesting to see in several years time how observations from the surveys are able to confirm or change the currently accepted theories.