Students will learn about how galaxies and stars form. Some basic concepts will be explained which are used by astronomers to understand the physical processes in objects billions of lightyears away, using earth and space-based observatories. They will see how stars are born in large groups (`starbursts') inside the cold, interstellar clouds of galaxies and how they die, how galaxy collisions trigger the most dramatic starbursts of all, and how these build larger galaxies and may trigger active, super-massive black holes. The lecture will end by showing some examples of ongoing research and development at LLNL in instrumentation and observing techniques, and the importance of detailed computer simulations for interpreting astronomical observations.

Today you will learn

  • What tools do astronomers use?
  • What does redshift mean?
  • How did the universe begin and how does it continue to change?
  • How do astronomers hunt for very distant galaxies?
  • How do galaxy collisions create starbursts?


You will learn about galaxies, how they form and how they continue to change when stars form in large groups ("starbursts"). You will learn about some of the evidence that astronomers use to better understand the universe.

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.

Barry Marson

Science Teacher
Tokay High School, Lodi Unified School District

Barry Marson teaches chemistry and AP chemistry at Tokay High School in Lodi. He has taught in Lodi Unified School District for 35 years and is a charter member of the Tokay High staff. He has a Bachelors Degree in Biological Sciences and a Masters Degree in Biochemistry, both from University of California, Davis.

While at LLNL Barry has been an instructor with the Student Research Academy. He currently works with science teachers in the ETEC summer workshops. Barry has also spent the last four years mentoring groups of students who monitor the effects of storm drain effluent on the Mokelumne River, a program sponsored by the City of Lodi. His involvement has allowed him to combine his academic interests, his interest in student field work and research with his concern for environmental issues. He has been named Educator of the Year for Tokay High School and Teacher of the Year for Lodi Unified School District.

Mr. Marson was the 1991 educator of the year in Lodi Unified School District.