The stars are ours!
a public lecture by
Professor Don Kurtz
Visiting Professor, School of Mathematics and Physics, University of Lincoln, UK
Wednesday, 7 April 2021,
“What good is astronomy?” Through colourful historical anecdotes and science this talk leads from a lonely death in a cold stone tower over 400 years ago to the discovery of the ultimate energy source for humanity – the biggest payoff of all time. Hear stories of wealth and poverty, castles and dungeons, kings and princes, sailors, sea battles and voyages of discovery as we look back at the improbable, unpredictable path that gave us the Power of the Stars.
Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, to an American father and Canadian mother. He obtained a BA in astronomy from San Diego State University in 1970, and his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship for one year at the University of Cape Town (UCT) starting in February 1977. That one year stretched to 24 years, by which time he was a Professor of Astronomy and Life Fellow of UCT. After a short spell at the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées in Toulouse, France, in 2000, Don moved to the UK, where he was Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), UK, from 2001 until 2020; he is now Emeritus Professor at UCLan. Don was appointed Extraordinary Professor at North-West University (NWU) from 2020 and was awarded an A1 rating by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2021. He currently has a three-year appointment as Visiting Professor at the University of Lincoln, UK. Don has dual British and American citizenship and divides his professional time between South Africa and the UK.
Don is a past councillor and Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society and has served on many international committees. He is frequently invited to speak internationally to both professional astronomers and to the public, typically presenting several dozen talks per year to diverse audiences all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is committed to astronomy in Africa, where he has lectured and done research in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Uganda and Ethiopia. Don has observed with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and 500 professional publications. He primarily works now with data from the Kepler and TESS Space Telescopes.
He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He is also co-author of the 866-page fundamental textbook, “Asteroseismology”, and his primary research interests are in diverse applications of asteroseismology. Don is an outdoorsman and has travelled and adventured widely. In addition to his lectures to schools, clubs, summer schools, societies, he regularly lectures at game reserves, on private trains, cruise ships and on outdoor adventure trips.
Don is married to June Kurtz (née Heffer) of Grahamstown (now Makhanda), South Africa. They divide their time between South Africa and the UK, residing most of the year in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape.
*About the header photo:
Resembling an opulent diamond tapestry, this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows a glittering star cluster that contains a collection of some of the brightest stars seen in our Milky Way galaxy. Called Trumpler 14, it is located 8,000 light-years away in the Carina Nebula, a huge star-formation region. Because the cluster is only 500,000 years old, it has one of the highest concentrations of massive, luminous stars in the entire Milky Way. (The small, dark knot left of center is a nodule of gas laced with dust, and seen in silhouette.)
Diamonds are forever, but these blue-white stars are not. They are burning their hydrogen fuel so ferociously they will explode as supernovae in just a few million years. The combination of outflowing stellar “winds” and, ultimately, supernova blast waves will carve out cavities in nearby clouds of gas and dust. These fireworks will kick-start the beginning of a new generation of stars in an ongoing cycle of star birth and death.
This composite image of Trumpler 14 was made with data taken in 2005-2006 with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Blue, visible, and infrared broadband filters combine with filters that isolate hydrogen and nitrogen emission from the glowing gas surrounding the open cluster.