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The Bolton Lecture in Astronomy

The Bolton Lecture is held every autumn and is widely advertised in local schools. We aim to bring current developments in Astronomy and Particle Physics to a wide audience and to high schools in particular. The lecture series is named after Scriven Bolton (c1888-1929) a local benefactor whose bequest enables the University to provide a state-of-the-art observatory for the teaching of practical astronomy to undergraduates.


2020 Bolton Lecture

Wed, 25 November 2020 17:00 – 18:00 GMT

The School of Physics and Astronomy welcomed Dr Gaitee Hussain, the European Space Agency's Head of Science Division, for our annual Bolton Lecture in Astrophysics.

Other Suns and other worlds: our solar system is a nice place to live thanks to our Sun, which provides a friendly environment. But what about other stars, would we want to live around them?

See the video of the talk below.



Previous Lectures

  • The inaugural lecture was given by Prof David Williams in 1999, and speakers in those early years have included Prof Leo Blitz (2000) and Prof Trevor Weekes (2001). A lecture on "Solar System Formation" was given in October 2002 by Prof Greg Morfill from the Max-Planck-Institut fuer extraterrestrische Physik in Garching and Prof. Jasper Kirkby from CERN, Geneva, gave the 2003 lecture titled "A Brief History of Cosmic Rays and Climate Change".
  • NASA astronaut and Leeds alumnus Dr Piers Sellers lectured on "Leaving the Planet" in 2004. Dr Sellers gave an account of his visit to the International Space Station, and showed his personal "home video" which included a tour of the inside of the Station and views of spacewalkers as they worked outside. NASA's plans for future solar exploration were also covered.
  • The 2008 lecture was given by our very own Prof Alan Watson FRS, Spokesperson Emeritus for the Pierre Auger Collaboration, a group of more than 250 scientists from 17 countries. The multi-million dollar Pierre Auger Observatory received global news coverage in November 2007 following publication of its initial results in Science magazine "Correlation of the Highest-Energy Cosmic Rays with Nearby Extragalactic Objects" (or as Metro newspaper reported "black holes burp").
  • In 2009 Dr Terence Kee (Chemistry, University of Leeds) lectured on "Interstellar Trash and Treasure: Meteorites and the Origin of Life". The question of how life on Earth begun was explored, with a focus on the role that complex organic molecules in space may have had.
  • The 2010 lecture was provided by Prof Michelle Dougherty from Imperial College London, and was titled "The Cassini-Huygens mission at Saturn and Titan and future outer planetary missions".
  • The 2011 lecture was given by Prof Tom Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) and was titled "The First 3 Million Years" - Prof Ray discussed how stars and planets come into being.
  • The 2012 lecture was provided by Prof Michael Thompson, the Director of High Altitude Observatory in Colorado. The talk was titled "Of Suns and Other Worlds", discussing how fragile our own existence around the Sun might be in the light of "space weather", and what we are learning about planets elsewhere in the Galaxy and the stars they orbit.
  • The 2013 lecture was from Prof Susanne Alto, the head of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Prof Alto's talk was entitled "Into the Cold" and a full video recording was made of the lecture which can be found here.
  • The 2014 lecture was given by Prof John Plane (Chemistry, Leeds) with the title "Cosmic Dust and Comets", focusing on the role of comets as the source of most of the cosmic dust in the solar system, and the impacts of the roughly 100 tons of this dust which enters our atmosphere each day. There was also a discussion on the breaking news of the day; as the talk was given at the same time as the Rosetta mission succesfully landed a small probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
  • The 2015 lecture was given by Prof Stefanie Walch (University of Cologne) and was titled "A Turbulent Tale of Stellar Birth". Prof Walch showed how powerful supercomputers are used to perform three-dimensional simulations to advance our understanding of the complex stellar birth process and of the most important parameters governing it.
  • In 2016, Prof Katherine Blundell (Oxford University) entertained us with a lecture on "Black holes & Spin offs". She discussed how black holes do not only "suck in everything" but also give rise to phenomena such as quasars in which black holes flung material into its surroundings.
  • The 2017 lecture was from our own Dr Catherine Walsh and was titled "Interstellar snowflakes: the beginnings of complex life?". She explored the chemistry in the extreme environment of space, and discussed the importance and influence of interstellar molecules in shaping and seeding forming planetary systems.
  • The 2018 lecture was given by Dr Paul Clark (Cardiff University) with the title "The formation of stars: a journey through cosmic time". Dr Clark took us on a tour of the stellar nurseries that shaped our Universe by means of his advanced numerical simulations.
  • In 2019, Prof Giovanna Tinetti (University College London), the Director of the UCL Centre for Space Exoplanet Data and the Principal Investigator of ARIEL, ESA's next medium-class science mission, gave a lecture on "New worlds in our Galaxy". She discussed the wildly different properties of detected exo-planets and the space missions to be launched within the next decade to discover more and more exciting planets.