On Friday 26th January we were treated to a fascinating talk by Professor Michael Merrifield from Nottingham University all about extending our understanding of galaxies.

Whilst the title might sound like Mike would be delving into the realms of science fiction, the reality was far from it. Indeed, the lecture was all about looking at galaxies in many different ways.

Our current view is two dimensional. As we look at any galaxy we cannot gain a great deal of information because we cannot appreciate the dimension of depth. However, Gaia will soon start feeding data back from space that looks into galaxies. This opens up a wealth of dimensions.

If you think of a dimension as just another way to look at a galaxy, it will start to make more sense. Here’s a few ways in which we will be able to ‘see’ galaxies and the individual stars within them:

  • X-Ray
  • Radio waves
  • Visible light

These are three extra ‘dimensions’ from the electromagnetic spectrum that give us more detail about each galaxy Gaia looks at.

On top of this, we use red-shifted and blue-shifted light to understand galactic rotation.

This combined view of galaxies will give us a revolutionary understanding of all galaxies and their evolution.

As always, Mike gave his talk in a clear and easy to understand fashion and we’re very grateful to him for taking time out of his busy schedule to share this intriguing insight into the next steps we will take to understand out extraordinary universe.

If you would like to learn more about the Gaia space mission, click here.

Mike also runs a small company that sells beautiful lasered glass ornaments featuring space objects. If you are interested, you can visit his website here.

I have one of these crystals and can tell you it really is a beautiful ornament.

Mark.