You will learn about some of the most recent discoveries in astronomy. We will explore the origins of the Universe; the formation of galaxies, black holes, stars and planets; the importance of the interstellar medium; and recent NASA explorations in our own Solar system. Some of this research is occurring at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where scientists are studying the important role that super-massive black holes play in the formation of galaxies.

Speaker Bios

Dr.Wil Van Breugel

Research Astronomer Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and
Adjunct Professor in the School of Natural Sciences UC Merced

Wil van Breugel has more 25 years of experience in conducting astronomical research using a wide variety of telescopes on earth and in space. He obtained his Ph.D. at Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, where he discovered that some galaxies exhibit strong radio emission, which is powered by jets emanating from massive black holes at their centers (`radio galaxies'). After his Ph.D. he held postdoctoral fellowships at the Kitt Peak National Observatory and the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. During that time he used the Kitt Peak 2.1-m and 4-m and Steward 2.5-m telescopes, as well as the world's most powerful radio imaging telescope, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico. By combining radio and optical observations he found that radio jets often interact violently with gas clouds in the interstellar medium of their parent galaxies. Shocks from jet/cloud collisions heat up and entrain this previously invisible, cold gas. The heated gas can be observed on large telescopes using special filters.

After his postdoctoral years Wil became a research astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley. In collaboration with astronomy graduate students he used the Lick Observatory 3-m telescope for a systematic study of the optical properties of radio galaxies. This resulted in the discovery that the optical and radio emission from radio galaxies are closely aligned due to outflow from the jets and radiation from hidden, active black holes (`quasars') interacting with surrounding material. This interaction might in some cases even trigger star formation along the path of the jets.

Approximately 15 years ago Wil joined LLNL as a research astronomer at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. He is now using the world's largest optical, twin 10-m telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii as well as the Hubbles Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study the formation and evolution of the most massive galaxies and clusters of galaxies in the early Universe.

Since 2004 Wil is also Adjunct Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced, where he participates in teaching astronomy and astrophysics in a general education course.

Tom Shefler

Granada High School

Mr. Shefler received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and applied mathematics from Western Michigan University in 1997 and a Master of Arts degree in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2000. While at Berkeley, he researched analyzed and cataloged Hubble Space Telescope images of galaxies, observational research involved in the detection and study of extrasolar planets, and discovered Supernova 1998DT while working with the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope team. During his graduate studies he fell in love with teaching and entered the teaching profession in 2002.