Interviews

 

 

“There is so much to be discovered about the universe that astronomy is certainly an area worth pursuing”

Interview with David Sobral

Astronomer Dr David Sobral is on a quest to trace the origins of the Universe and understand how galaxies like our own formed and evolved from the end of the cosmic dark ages to galaxies we see today, much like our own Milky Way. He credits a boyhood passion for stargazing in the dark skies of Alentejo (Portugal), coupled with early help from the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and Lisbon’s Astronomical Observatory. Since 2016, David Sobral is part of the new Observational Astrophysics group at Lancaster University (United Kingdom). This young astronomer has obtained very high impact results, including measuring, with a single technique, the decline of the star formation history of the Universe, and e.g. the discovery of the CR7 galaxy, the brightest of the early Universe and with hints of light sources similar to first generation stars or black holes. David Sobral recently visited the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) within the Severo Ochoa Program of Visiting Researchers, which seeks to deepen scientific collaborations among leading research institutions. >> Read the interview

“If we don’t look outside, we will never know if we are alone in the Universe”

Interview with Malcolm Fridlund

Life, as we know it, exists only on Earth. The emergence of life here may be a matter of probability or luck, but in Science there is no place for the second. Evidence is needed and, for this reason, there are researchers like Malcolm Fridlund, an expert on Astrobiology and Exoplanets, bent on finding other earths that can host some form of life, however simple it may be. Professor at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and Affiliated Professor at the Chalmers Technical University in Gothenburg (Sweden), he has been involved in instrumental development and space missions of ESA and NASA since the 1990s in search of Exoplanets, like Darwin, PLATO or CoRoT, first mission of this type in which he was the project scientist. If human being is a biological accident or not, perhaps it is not for him to answer, but his contribution may bring us closer to know if we are alone in the Universe. Malcolm Fridlund recently visited the IAC within the Visiting Researchers Programme of the Jesús Serra Foundation, which seeks to deepen scientific collaborations and initiate new lines of action. >> Read the interview

“Our new library of stellar models will be made publicly available at the whole international scientific community via the web page of the IAC”

Interview with Santi Casissi

Is it possible to know how stars formed billions of years ago? Santi Cassisi, a staff researcher at the INAF - Teramo Astronomical Observatory (Italy) since 1998, is convinced of this. He studies the evolutionary and structural properties of the stars, both of galactic and extragalactic populations, to elaborate theoretical stellar models. With them, he has been developing for more than ten years a new library that will be available to the entire international scientific community. This projects, in collaboration with the IAC, has recently brought him to this center, within the Severo Ochoa program that fosters collaboration between leading research institutions. >> Read the interview

“Not seeing the complexity of everything that can alter the life of a galaxy sometimes leads to misconceptions”

Interview with Dimitri Gadotti

On nights which are sufficiently dark, we can observe a starry strip that runs across the sky from side to side. This is the arm of our Galaxy, because (rather like people) spiral galaxies like our own have huge arms, which are linked via a central bar of stars. But why don’t all galaxies have this structure? And why do some of them develop it earlier than others? Maybe Dimitri Gadotti, Astronomer of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), can give us the answer as he is Principal Investigator (IP) of the TIMER project. The objective of this international program is to calculate the epoch when the bars of the galactic disks were formed, the structures that are formed when they are dynamically settled. And to understand how galaxies were formed and evolved throughout cosmic history this aspect is crucial. Dimitri Gadotti has set up this project during his visit to the IAC in the framework of the Severo Ochoa Program, which aims to foster, among others, collaboration between the scientific communities of prestigious institutions. >> Read the interview

“We are going to build the largest ground based telescope to fully exploit the Adaptive Optics capabilities”

Interview with Giuseppe Bono

Giuseppe Bono, astrophysicist and associate professor of the Department of Physics at the Università degli Studi di Roma "Tor Vergata" (Italy), is currently Chair of the E-ELT Project Science Team, the future 39m European Extremely Large Telescope, intended to be the largest optical-infrared telescope in the world. Interested in the evolution of stars, pulsations and stellar populations, as well as cosmological parameters based on these objects, he has visited the IAC several times, both as a researcher and professor at the Canary Islands Winter School of Astrophysics that has been annually organized by this institution for almost three decades. On this occasion, Giuseppe Bono has been part of the Severo Ochoa Program. >> Read the interview

“I’m afraid I don’t know what happens when the matter passes through the event horizon of a black hole and neither does Stephen Hawking”

Interview with Phil Charles

Black holes, those "cosmic ghosts" on which literature and cinema have based many of their stories, were no longer so mysterious when Phil Charles, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Southampton (United Kingdom), found in 1992, along with the IAC researcher Jorge Casares, the first empirical evidence of their existence in the Milky Way. From that moment, everything changed in the field of High Energy Astrophysics. Even today, he continues to investigate these binary systems, although he is also interested in all cosmic objects that are X-ray sources. Linked to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) since its beginnings more than three decades ago, Phil Charles has returned to this center as visiting researcher of the Severo Ochoa Program. >> Read the interview

“OSIRIS is a very useful instrument for the investigation of low mass late-type hosting stars and exoplanets which cannot be observed directly”

Interview with Yakiv Pavlenko

As a "theoretical scientist", Yakiv Pavlenko develops models to interpret and explain observed phenomenahea. Physics graduated from the University of Kiev (Ukraine) in 1976 and Doctors in Astrophysics from the Institute of Astrophysics and Atmospheric Physics of Estonia in 1982, Pavlenko devotes most of his time to theoretical modeling and interpretation of stellar spectra. He is an expert in radiative transfer and the physics of the formation of atomic and molecular lines in the stellar atmospheres. Since 1989, he has been collaborating with the research group on Exoplanets and Astrobiology of the IAC and has recently been part of the Visitor Program of the Juan Serra Foundation. >> Read the interview

“If there really is a Planet X, finding it would force to revise the models of the creation and evolution of the Solar System that didn’t include it”

Interview with Noemí Pinilla

Researcher at the Florida Space Institute of the University of Central Florida, Noemí Pinilla has a very close relationship with the IAC. She studied astrophysics at the University of La Laguna (ULL) and after obtaining her doctorate she made the jump across the Atlantic to the NASA Ames Research Center as a postdoc. She is at the IAC, under the Severo Ochoa Visitors Program, to collaborate in the preparation of a spectroscopic catalogue of asteroids, and studying the ices and the surfaces of the dwarf planets of the Solar System. >> Read the interview

“Understanding how the stars produce dust is fundamental for all the fields of astrophysics”

Interview with Paolo Ventura

After participating in the Severo Ochoa Visitors Program which aims at increasing the collaboration between IAC personnel and prestigious researchers from other leading scientific institutions, this astrophysicist from the Astronomical Observatory of Rome and professor at the University "Roma Tre" has collaborated with researchers from the IAC studying the dust generated by AGB stars. His line of research is Stellar Physics, specifically the structure and evolution of stars, stellar nucleosynthesis processes and chemical abundances in the interstellar medium. >> Read the interview

“The European Solar Telescope will allow us to improve the quality of the data, and our knowledge of the Sun”

Interview with Juan Manuel Borrero

Researcher at the Kiepenheuer Institute of Solar Physics in Germany, he has worked for a period at the IAC within the Severo Ochoa Visitors Programme. At the present time his research is centred on the development of a numerical method which can allow us to determine the magnetic field in the solar atmosphere in three dimensions. Borrero assured that “The IAC is the best place to carry out this research” because within its solar physics group some of the scientists with the greatest experience and knowledge of the inversion of the equation of radiative transfer are working. “They have been pioneers in this field, and their reputation at world level in incomparable”. >> > Read the interview

“The use of tunable filters on the GTC will allow us to detect very young and active galaxies”

Interview with José Antonio de Diego

This astrophysicist from the Institute of Astronomy of the National Autonomous University of México (IA-UNAM) is here within the Severo Ochoa Visitors Programme. His fields of research focus on the study of active nuclei of quasars, gravitational lenses and galaxies at high redshift. At the present time he is in charge of a technology development project, and has been named Head of the Deartment of Science Communication at the IA-UNAM. During his stay at the IAC he has collaborated with the researchers Jordi Cepa Nogué and Ángel Bongiovanni in the statistical analysis of data bases of extragalactic sources. >> Read the interview

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