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Thursday, 26 February 2015, 6:00PM
Museum of London

Rosetta: Unlocking Secrets from Ancient Egypt to a Comet

Dr Matt Taylor, Professor Richard Parkinson, Professor Ian Wright

Just as the Rosetta Stone and the Philae Obelisk became the key to interpreting hieroglyphs and understanding ancient Egyptian civilisation, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe and its Philae lander are key to furthering our understanding of the formation of our solar system, and the origins of life. The Philae lander made the first ever soft landing on a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.

The Egyptian theme was also used by Professor Colin Pillinger who named the instrument he proposed for the mission Ptolemy. Ptolemy will perform an on-the-spot analysis of the composition of the ices and organic material within the comet. The instrument has already been working in space, making measurements during an asteroid fly-by en route to its cometary destination. The orbiter will continue to follow the comet around the Sun and as it moves back out towards the orbit of Jupiter.

The roles of Thomas Young and Jean-Francois Champollion in deciphering the Rosetta Stone and the contribution of William Bankes with regard to the Philae Obelisk continue to provoke much discussion and will be considered alongside latest results from the spacecraft and instruments which have carried the names far into space.

 

This is a special Memorial Lecture, held in memory of Professor Colin Pillinger CBE FRS (1943-2014) who was Gresham Professor of Astronomy from 1996 to 2000.

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Dr Matt Taylor is Project Scientist for the ESA (European Space Agency) Rosetta mission based at the ESA technical centre in the Netherlands. He was born in London, gained his undergraduate Physics degree at the University of Liverpool, and a PhD from Imperial College London. His career has focused on the space plasma measurements, working in Europe and the US on the four spacecraft ESA Cluster missions, leading to a post at ESA which started in 2005 working as the project scientist for Cluster and the ESA-China Double star mission.

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Professor Richard Parkinson is Professor of Egyptology in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of The Queen’s College. He was formerly curator at the British Museum responsible for the care, research, publication and display of the collection’s papyri, as well as hieratic and hieroglyphic texts, inscribed materials including the Rosetta Stone. In 1999-2000 he curated, Cracking Codes: The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment (Rosetta Stone bicentenary exhibition).

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Professor Ian Wright is Principal Investigator for the Ptolemy instrument of the Philae lander. Prior to this he was head of Planetary Sciences at the Open University.

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Transcript

26 February 2015

Rosetta: Unlocking Secrets from Ancient Egypt to a Comet
Dr Matt Taylor
Professor Richard Parkinson
Professor Ian Wright

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