“Star Smog: The Role of Dust in How We Perceive Galaxies”

Galaxies are made up of stars, gas, dark matter and dust—that last ingredient being only a small amount of the total but radically changes our view of galaxies. Up to half the starlight in a given galaxy could be invisible thanks to the small amount of dust. Over decades, astronomy has sought to get away from dust to study the galaxies’ stars and to study the dust itself.

The next talk in the Frontiers of Astronomy Lecture Series, “Star Smog: The Role of Dust in How We Perceive Galaxies,” will be held Thursday, March 5, at 8 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 

Presented by Benne Holwerde from the University of Louisville, this talk will focus on how dust dims and reddens the starlight in galaxies other than our Milky Way. It is tricky to identify if a part of a galaxy is dark because the stars are hidden by dust or simply because there is nothing there. 

The talk will touch upon techniques to find where and how much dust there is in the swirls of spiral galaxies. Lately, accidentally overlapping galaxies show in vivid detail where the dust spreads throughout the foreground galaxy, making for some spectacular Hubble images.

Holwerde also will give an astronomy colloquium March 5 in the Sears Library, room 552, at 3 p.m. View the colloquium information.

About the Speaker

Holwerde received his PhD in astronomy from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, in 2005. He is now an associate professor of astronomy at the University of Louisville, after working at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the University of Cape Town, the European Space Agency and Leiden Observatory. His scientific interests lie in the evolution of galaxies, the role of dust and gas in galaxy evolution and appearance.

About the Series

In cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Astronomical Society, the Department of Astronomy through the support of the Arthur S. Holden, Sr. Endowment is sponsoring the 2019-2020 Frontiers of Astronomy Lecture Series. Renowned astronomers from across the country will give five free lectures throughout the year at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Museum at 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Frontiers of Astronomy series website