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Wednesday, 24 September 2014, 1:00PM
Museum of London

Are We Alone? The search for life beyond the Earth

Professor Ian Morison

A discussion of the prospects of finding life, simple or intelligent, beyond our own planet. There is the possibility of finding evidence of life, past or present, on Mars or even below the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa. By observing the infra-red spectra of the atmospheres of planets in nearby solar systems we might even find evidence of simple life forms. Beyond our local galactic environment our only chance is to intercept a signal from another intelligent race – SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence – a search in which the lecturer played a role in what has been the most sensitive search ever undertaken, Project Phoenix. Finally, Professor Morison will give his own thoughts about how likely our quest will be achieved.

[Please note that the lecture originally scheduled to be delivered, The Sun, our Nearest Star by Professor Carolin Crawford, will be delivered on the 3rd of December at 1pm at the Museum of London].

professor-ian-morison

Ian Morison began his love of astronomy when, at the age of 12, he made a telescope out of lenses given to him by his optician. He attended Chichester High School and then went on to study Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at Hertford College, Oxford. In September 1965, he became a research student at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory. In 1970 he was appointed to the staff of the Observatory and teaches astronomy at the University of Manchester.  

In 1990 he helped found the Macclesfield Astronomy Society which meets at the Observatory and later became president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, the UK's largest astronomical society. He remains on the Society's Council and holds the post of instrument advisor helping members with their choice and use of Telescopes. 

He lectures widely on astronomy, has co-authored books for amateur astronomers and writes regularly for the UK astronomy magazines Astronomy Now and Sky at Night. He also writes a monthly sky guide for the Observatory's web site and produces an audio version as part of the Jodrell Bank Podcast. He has contributed to many television programmes and is a regular astronomy commentator on local and national radio. Another activity he greatly enjoys is to take amateur astronomers on observing trips such as those to Lapland to see the Aurora Borealis and, last year, to Turkey to observe a total eclipse of the Sun.

In 2003 the Minor Planets Committee of the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 15,727 in his honour citing his work with MERLIN, the world's largest linked array of radio telescopes, and that in searching for intelligent life beyond our Solar System in Project Phoenix.

Ian is excited about the prospect of his time as Gresham Professor of Astronomy. He regards it as real challenge and expects it to play a major role in his life for the next three years. He will to give a wide variety of illustrated lectures ranging from how our understanding of the Universe has grown over the centuries to a gentle introduction to Einstein's theory of Gravity - now being tested to extreme accuracy by astronomers at Jodrell Bank.  

He realised that his love of observational astronomy could not easily be covered in the City of London, so has instituted a Gresham Astronomy Weekend at a 'dark sky' location in the Cotswolds which will take place in March each year.

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24 September 2014

Are We Alone? The search for life beyond the Earth
Professor Ian Morison

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