11.40am Saturday 3rd February 2024

Professor Ward-Thompson has degrees from Oxford University and Durham University and has worked in four other UK Universities as well as the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. He has held visiting positions at the University of Illinois and the Observatoire de Bordeaux. He has been studying magnetic fields in space for over 40 years and has published many research papers on the topic. He has also published one text book and edited a number of others. He is a member of the EHT Collaboration and is a great supporter of Astrofest, having attended almost every year since its inception. He has been President of the Society for Popular Astronomy and has appeared on the BBC ‘Sky at Night’ programme several times. He is currently Director of the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). He can be found on the UCLAN stand throughout Astrofest.

Magnetic fields in space – from new-born stars to black holes

There is an invisible force that permeates all of space and time that astrophysicists call electro-magnetism. It manifests itself as a magnetic field throughout space, just like the magnetic field that surrounds a bar magnet, that can be seen in a pattern of iron filings sprinkled around the magnet. In this talk we will see how this invisible force affects so much of the Universe and the processes that take place within it. It affects the manner in which stars form and evolve. It makes the Earth habitable for humans, that it otherwise wouldn’t be. It affects how galaxies evolve and even how matter is swallowed by black holes. All of these points will be illustrated with the latest results from the James Webb Space Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimetre Telescope and the EHT – the Event Horizon Telescope, that takes pictures of black holes – amongst others.

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