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Updated 10:00 AM February 2, 2009




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New U-M physics series celebrates Galileo's discoveries

In the spirit of LSA's semester theme "The Universe: Yours to Discover," the winter 2009 Saturday Morning Physics (SMP) lectures will cover stars, galaxies and black holes in an investigation of astronomy.

Physics professor Timothy McKay will launch the series Feb. 7 with his talk, "Four-Hundred Years of Cosmic Discovery: Celebrating the International Year of Astronomy." He will discuss the progression of astrophysics since Galileo's first observations of the moon 400 years ago.

"We will see how generations of rashly curious scientists, armed with increasingly ingenious instruments, have erased the division between Earth and sky," McKay says.

In addition to McKay's lecture, the series will cover topics such as the formation of water and the Milky Way. On March 28 students and community members will get a chance to explore the enigmatic origins of black holes with astronomy professor Marta Volonteri. "I will discuss the clues we have about their formation, back when the Universe was in its youth, roughly 10 billion years ago," she says of her lecture, "Black holes along the cosmic time."

Volonteri, a first-time SMP lecturer, says she is excited to share her passion for astronomy with the community.

"In my research field I found the perfect match between two of the most fascinating topics: black holes and cosmology. I hope Ann Arborites will join me in my quest for understanding the formation of these cosmic monsters," she says.

Since its beginnings in 1995, the series' informal, easy-to-understand lectures aimed toward general audiences have drawn enthusiastic crowds of astronomical size.

"It is always a pleasure to give an SMP presentation, primarily because the audience is very interested, sophisticated, and large," says McKay, a former organizer and veteran speaker for the series.

The lectures are sponsored by the LSA Winter 2009 Theme Semester, the Hideko Tomozawa Endowment, the Department of Physics and gifts from friends of the program. The talks are 10:30-11:30 a.m. every Saturday from Feb. 7-April 4, except Feb. 21 and 28, in Rooms 170 and 182 of the Dennison Building. SMP is free and open to the public and refreshments will be provided before each lecture.

For more information call event administrator Carol Rabuck at 763-2588 or go to

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