Candidate Profile

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Astronomy & Space Science
Jonathan completed a certificate and a diploma course in astronomy at the University of Cambridge, Institute of Continuing Education, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomy Society. He is one of the presenters at the University of Cambridge Institute of Astronomy public open evenings. Jonathan runs an Introduction to Astronomy course at the U3A in Cambridge and is also one of the presenters of a similar course for the Cambridge Astronomical Association. In addition he has given astronomy talks to various schools, local Astronomy societies and local groups. Jonathan is a W.I. approved speaker and a STEM ambassador. He has also run some practical telescope exercises for a local school and regularly runs sessions for Cambridge Young Astronomers. He is the events secretary for the Cambridge Astronomical Association and is happy to tackle most astronomy topics given a little notice. He is also one of the regular presenters on the monthly radio programme "The Sky Tonight" on Huntingdon Community Radio.

Introduction to Astronomy lectures - a series of six (listed below) which can be used all together or individually on a stand alone basis

1. Cosmology Overview
What do we really know about the big bang? What happened in the first few minutes? What happened before? How long was it before the first stars and galaxies formed? What is the Cosmic Microwave background and why do astronomers get so excited about it? Where do gravity waves fit in? In this talk, Jonathan describes the story from the moment of the big bang through to the present day covering all these questions and more. Although much of our current knowledge depends on complex maths, this talk sticks with laymans terms and just needs the audience to understand the difference between tiny periods of time during the first second after the big bang and the 13.8 billion years that have passed since then.

2. Stars - Birth, Life and Death
When you look at the sky on a clear night, you can see thousands of stars. They vary in brightness and colour and some even change in brightness in a matter of days or weeks. Our galaxy, the milky way, contains somewhere between 100 and 400 billion stars and our galaxy is only one of billions in the universe, so the comparison between the numbers of stars in the sky and the number of grains of sand on earth is real. In this talk, Jonathan describes the processes involved in star formation and shows where we can see this today. Using amazing images, he describes the range of star types - from Jupiter size Brown Dwarves right up to the immense Blue Super Giants that dwarf our own sun. He explains why different stars are different colours, burn at different temperatures and live for different lengths of time. Finally, in a spectacular finale, he talks about the death of stars whether that is a gentle puffing off of outer layers into a Planetary Nebula or a Galaxy illuminating Supernova.

3. The Inner solar system
The rocky planets of the inner solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) are our nearest neighbours so you'd think that we'd know all there was to know about them. However, new discoverines are happening all the time, and in this talk, Jonathan presents the latest thinking about the creation, evolution and current state of the planets in our neighbourhood. He explains unexpected findings such as ice at the poles of Mercury, and Mars quakes on the (supposedly) dead planet Mars. He also talks about our Moon and those of our neighbour Mars - Phobos and Deimos.

4. The Outer solar system
Following on from the talk on the inner solar system, this talk expands the view to look at the Gas and Ice giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Very unlike the inner planets, these giants exhibit very different behaviours which Jonathan explains using a set of amazing images. These planets have an extensive array of moons between them, with some of them now thought of as prime possible locations for extra-terrestrial life, so Jonathan will also zoom in on some of these during his talk. To conclude, we venture even further out to look at other bodies such as the dwarf planet Pluto and other objects in the Kuiper belt.

5. Galaxy types and evolution (plus a bit about exoplanets)
The Hubble "tuning fork" is the beginning of this journey explaining the range of galaxies that are now known to exist. Focusing initially on spiral galaxies (such as our own Milky way) Jonathan shows the evolution of thinking regarding the formation and evolution of galaxies. The talk includes some of the latest ideas concerning active galactic nucleii (super-massive black holes) and uses some amazing deep space images to show the range of galaxies. The talk then goes on to present the latest status on the search for exo-planets (planets circling other stars beyond our own solar system). This area of research is proceeding so quickly that this aspect will probably be developed into a talk in it's own right shortly.

6. Human exploration of the Universe
Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957 we have been endeavouring to understand our place in the universe through physical exploration. This talk provides a chronology of our space exploration, both manned and unmanned, to the present day. A key milestone along the way is the Apollo programme and the moon landings. More recently, most exploration has been through the use of advance robotic craft and landers, so this talk also reviews recent, current and future planned missions, and will be updated with latest news as SpaceX, Boeing and NASA all work to develop the next generation of manned space flight.

Other stand alone lectures (including some short 20 minute talks that can be lengthened or combined with others)

7. Latest news from our Solar System
This talk flies through our solar system pulling out unusual and recently discovered information. As a bit of fun, the audience can be given question sheets at the start of the talk so that they can test their initial understanding and then tick off the most unusual facts as they are uncovered. The talk is continually updated with latest discoveries keeping it fresh and interesting. As usual, the talk is illustrated with a wide range of diagrams, animations and space images

8. Introduction to Astronomy - The Night Sky
This talk begins by showing the picture of the Cosmic Microwave Background and talking a little about the evolution of the universe since the big bang. A brief foray into the history of astronomy including the Greeks and Romans then develops into the link between Astronomy and Astrology. The bulk of the talk is then a sky tour using Stellarium software. This tour is put together on an individual basis to show the night sky at the time and location that the talk is given (the machine used for the presentation needs to have Stellarium software installed). During the sky tour Jonathan talks about the most interesting objects visible, including planets, constellations, nebula, etc. and zooms in to specific images. To close the talk, Jonathan talks briefly about the current key topics in astronomy, notably dark matter and dark energy and the continuing seach for knowledge.

9. Catch a Falling Star (short talk)
The space mission OSIRIS-REx has the objective of rendezvouing with an asteroid, collecting a sample and bringing it back to earth. This talk describes why this is important, how the mission is planned to work and why Asteroid Bennu has been selected. Sample collection is planned for 2020, so this talk will be updated depending on progress at the time of the talk. The mission is scheduled to return to Earth in 2023.

10. How man got to the moon
This talk briefly covers the early history of space flight including the space race between the USA and USSR. It illustrates the initial tentative steps into space including the flight of russian dog Laika - the first living creature to be sent into space. It then goes on to talk about the US and USSR unmanned missions to the moon during the 60's paving the way for Apollo and the moon landing. Jonathan then talks in some detail about the Apollo programme, and uses scale models to help to demonstrate the sheer size of the Saturn V rocket and the immensity of the achievement. Finally, there is some discussion about current plans to return to the moon.

11. Uranus and Neptune (short talk)
Uranus and Neptune are the least talked about planets, so this talk is intended to provide a solid introduction to them both. It starts with a very brief introduction to the overall solar system, but then spends most of the time looking at the physical characteristics of the two planets and their moons. As we are in the outer solar system it finishes with a quick snapshot of the Kuiper Belt (including dwarf planet Pluto) and provides an update on the New Horizons space mission which visited these planets recently and is currently on it's way to visit even more distant objects such as Ultima Thule.

12. Why is the moon?
There is little more beautiful than a full moon in a clear sky over the ocean, but have you ever wondered why we have such a beautiful moon? This talk provides some of the possible ways in which Earth could have "acquired" the moon and then explores the scientific evidence that has been found to support each hypothesis. It then goes on to illustrate how we think the moon could have been created and put into orbit around the earth. Finally, if an internet connection is available, it concludes with a short video put together by NASA using amazing images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter accompanied by Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops.

13. Messier bingo (short talk)
Charles Messier, a famous French comet hunter, compiled a list of 110 "Fuzzy" objects often confused with comets. These include, galaxies, nebula, asterisms, supernova fragments and other deep space objects. For Messier bingo, all audience members are issued with a Messier bingo card and the bingo random number generator selects objects from Messier's list. As each object is selected, it is projected onto the screen and Jonathan provides a commentary about the type of object including how it was created and other facts. The software has been developed by Los Combres observatory and is free to use, but does require internet access. This is a fun way to learn about a range of cellestial objects. Consideration should be made as to whether a prize will be given to the winner.