Reach for the Stars
A series of multimedia lectures on astronomy and astrophysics,
supported by funding from the PPARC PUST programme.

Lecture Summaries

 1: Exploring the Night Sky

 2: Astronomical Telescopes

 3: Empire of the Sun

 4: The Life and Death of Stars

 5: Getting the Measure of the Universe

 6: Overwhelmingly Large Telescopes

 7: Five Millennia of Scottish Astronomy

 8: A History of Astronomy in Glasgow

 9: Crescent Moon Rising: Islamic Astronomy circa 1000AD

10: Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico

11: The Search Beyond the Sun (with Simon Goodwin)

12: Death of the Dinosaurs (with Simon Goodwin)

13: What if the Moon Didn't Exist?

The Moon is our nearest companion in space, and is familiar and comforting sight in the night sky. Many astronomer believe, however, that when the Earth formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, it was orginally a moonless world. Our Moon was only formed a little later, after the young Earth collided with a Mars-sized planetesimal: debris left over from the formation of the Solar System. What's more, we also now believe that the formation of the Moon may have played an important role in making life on Earth possible.

14: Putting the Iron in Irn Bru

Stars which are much hotter, and more massive, than the Sun also live much shorter lives. While the Sun is currently 'middle
aged' at about five thousand million years old, the most massive stars will live only a few tens of millions of years before their
reserves of fuel are exhausted. When they die, they go out in the proverbial 'blaze of glory', producing a supernova: a cataclysmic explosion which makes the dying star - for a few brief weeks - as bright as billions of normal stars.

This lecture describes what we know about the birth, life and death of massive stars: the nuclear reactions which take place in their cores, and which produce many of the chemical elements which make up our planet. While the lightest elements may be formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang, and heavier elements such as oxygen and carbon can be formed in the hearts of stars like the Sun, much heavier elements - such as iron - can only be formed in the cores of the most massive stars, and are ejected into interstellar space during their death throes - in supernova explosions. The process of stellar death and rebirth is the ultimate in recycling; we (and our Irn Bru!) are all made from the remnants of older generations of stars.

15: Extraterrestrial Life: Is There Anybody Out There?

16: Life in the Universe

17: The Anthropic Principle

18: Cosmology: the Final Frontier

19: The Realm of the Nebulae

20: Echoes of the Big Bang

21: A Recipe for Galaxy Formation

22: Hubble Vision

23: The Runaway Universe

24: From Quarks to Quasars

25: The Future of the Universe

26: Cosmology in the Third Milennium

27: The Physics of Star Wars