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I usually enjoy the NZ Royal Society Lectures. This year we have had the Galileo Lectures to mark the International Year of Astronomy.

Here are the description of the six lectures, together with links to download the podcasts. Taken from: Radio New Zealand National : Lectures & Forums : The Galileo Lectures.

The Galileo Lecture series is produced by Radio New Zealand National in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand. It celebrates the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo used a telescope to view the solar system and transformed our understanding of Earth’s place in the Universe.

Galileo Lecture 1 – Galileo’s Telescope1_Ruth_Barton_Hamilton_200
Associate Professor Ruth Barton, The University of Auckland

When Galileo turned his telescope to the stars he saw spots on the sun, mountains on the moon, and moons about Jupiter. The moons of Jupiter, he wrote, proved the glory of the Medici name (and this gained him the position of mathematician and philosopher at the Medici court), but did they prove the Copernican theory that the Earth moved in circles around the Sun as Galileo claimed?

Recorded in Hamilton.

(duration: 43′42″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Galileo Lecture 2 – The mystery of the first stars2_Grant_Christie_Auckland
Dr Grant Christie MNZM, Research Astronomer, Stardome Observatory.

The first stars formed when the Universe was less than 2% of its current age. At this early epoch the conditions were very different to those that exist now so exactly how these stars got started and what they were like remains a major unsolved problem in astronomy. Can we probe this far back in time and shed light on how the first stars formed?

Recorded at Auckland’s Stardome.

(duration: 43′16″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Galileo Lecture 3 – The search for other planets, other life3_Alan_Gilmore_Lake_Tekapo
Alan Gilmore, Mt John Observatory, University of Canterbury

The realisation that stars are just distant suns, like our own, led to speculation about the existence of other planets, and other life forms. The first extra-solar planet orbiting a ‘normal’ star was detected in 1996. More than 300 planets have now been identified, and many have been discovered by New Zealand astronomers. But the chances of finding one which has the pre-requisites for life are slim, and even if we do find another in ’The Goldilocks Zone’, the possibility of travelling to it is as yet out of the question. Earth is a very special place indeed.

Recorded in Tekapo

Alan Gilmore has been resident superintendent of the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo since 1996. An amateur astronomer since his school days, he began professional astronomy at the Carter Observatory, Wellington, in 1970. He is involved in many observing programmes at Mt John, including, with wife Pam Kilmartin, a long running programme to track near Earth asteroids

(duration: 41′06″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Galileo Lecture 4 – Comets and asteroids: clues to our origin and threats to our survival4_Jack_Baggaley_Chch
Professor Jack Baggaley FRAS FRSNZ, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Comets and asteroids provide us with vital clues as to how the solar system was born. Small sized asteroids may reach the ground as meteorites, sometimes producing impact craters or exploding dramatically. Impacts by large comets and asteroids are a very real threat to the survival of mankind. There are international programmes with networks of dedicated telescopes to map the positions of these objects and forecast their future trajectories and approaches to the Earth.

Recorded in Christchurch

(duration: 40′53″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3
Galileo Lecture 5 – Neutrinos: Ghosts of the UniverseJenni-Adams
Dr Jenni Adams, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury.

More than 50 trillion solar neutrinos pass through your body every second! Abundant but elusive, these particles have truly amazing properties and provide a new way to look out at objects in our galaxy and beyond.

(duration: 52′08″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3

Galileo Lectures 6 – The Square Kilometre Array

Brian Boyle, Director, Australian National Telescope Facility

Stretching over a continent and comprised of over 5000 antennas, the Square Kilometre Array is proposed to be the world’s largest radio telescope and one of the most ambitious pieces of scientific infrastructure ever built. It will address some of the key questions of 21st century astronomy and physics and act as a scientific icon for generations to come. New Zealand has the opportunity to join in Australia’s Bid to host this multi-billion dollar telescope.

Recorded in Wellington.

(duration: 41′42″)

Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3

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