Skip to main content

Celebrating the 2019 Physics Nobel Prize: COSMOLOGY and EXOPLANETS

November 13, 2019

Celebrating the 2019 Physics Nobel Prize: COSMOLOGY and EXOPLANETS

Thursday, November 14 | 6:00 pm Morehead Planetarium Full Dome Theater

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 was awarded “for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos” with one half to James Peebles “for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology”, the other half jointly to Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.” Join UNC faculty, Prof. Laura Mersini-Houghton, Prof. Adrienne Erickcek, and Prof. Nick for a lecture celebrating the 2019 Physical Nobel Prize. The talk is sponsored by the COSMS Institute, UNC Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Virginia Kilborn: Unveiling the Unseen Universe Public Lecture

October 10, 2019

On October 15th at 5:30 in Chapman Hall at UNC,

Prof. Virginia Kilborn, Dean of Science at Swinburne University of Technology, will take us on a journey of the unseen parts of our galaxy and others like it.



Atomic hydrogen gas is one of the main components in a galaxy like our own Milky Way – but we can’t see it when we gaze into the night sky. I will take you on a journey of the unseen parts of our Galaxy – and others like it – using sensitive observations taken with the world’s best radio telescopes. I will explain how astronomers use observations of atomic hydrogen gas to determine the history, and predict the future, of galaxies in the universe. A whole new generation of radio telescopes is under construction, and I will show the latest results from these telescopes, and discuss how we plan to use them to observe the very beginnings of the Universe.



Professor Virginia Kilborn is Dean of Science at Swinburne University of Technology. Her primary research interests include tracing galaxy evolution by studying the neutral hydrogen gas in galaxies, and she is now working towards preparations for surveys with the next generation radio telescopes, such as the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the SKA.  Virginia undertook her PhD studies at the University of Melbourne, and following a post-doc at Jodrell Bank observatory in the UK, returned to Melbourne and has been at Swinburne since 2003. Virginia is active in the Australian Astronomical community and has been President of the Astronomical Society of Australia (2015-2017) and is currently Deputy Chair of the National Committee for Astronomy for the Academy of Science. Virginia is a leader in gender equity initiatives at Swinburne and beyond, co-leading the Swinburne-wide Women’s Academic Network, and she is a steering committee member and co-founder of the Women ATTaining Leadership (WATTLE) program, a multi-university leadership program for women. Virginia is a leader of the SHINE project where high school and university students send experiments to the International Space station, and she is strategic lead of the Swinburne Space Office.


CANCELLED -Rainer Weiss Public Lecture

November 1, 2018

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this lecture has been cancelled. We hope to reschedule Dr. Weiss’ visit to Spring 2019.


Dr. Rainer Weiss, Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT and 2017 Nobel Laureate, will discuss “Probing the Universe with Gravitational Waves.” The observations of gravitational waves from the mergers of compact binary sources opens a new way to learn about the universe, as well as test General Relativity in the limit of strong gravitational interactions — the dynamics of massive bodies traveling at relativistic speeds in a highly curved space-time.

Clifford Johnson Colloquium

April 10, 2018

Holographic Heat Engines For Fun and Profit

Abstract:   New work has shown how to complete the correspondence between the physics of black holes and the laws of thermodynamics by incorporating volume and pressure into the formalism. This results in a change in the thermodynamic interpretation of the black hole’s mass, and may give a new handle on understanding aspects of theories of gravity with non-vanishing cosmological constant. The concept of the “holographic heat engine”, where a black hole acts as the working substance for a heat engine, arises naturally in this framework, and further connects ideas from traditional thermodynamics, quantum gravity, and field theory. This talk will try to motivate and explain some of these developments and show some potential applications.

April 11 at 4:00 in Chapman Hall 201

Black Holes, Space and Time – Clifford Johnson Public Lecture

August 17, 2017

Dr. Clifford Johnson, professor of physics & astronomy at the University of Southern California, will take us on a whirlwind tour of Black Holes, Space & Time while sharing his experiences as a science adviser to television and movies, including Marvel superhero movies. His graphic novel Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe, will be available for sale with a book signing following questions and answers. The event will take place April 10 starting at 5:30 at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. This talk is part of the NC Science Festival and reservations available through the Morehead‘s site.


20th Capra Meeting on Radiation Reaction in General Relativity

March 31, 2017

The Capra meetings have brough together relativists interested in the problem of radiation reaction in general relativity and its application to extreme-mass-ratio inspirals (EMRIs) as astrophysical sources of gravitational waves. This year’s meeting will be held June 19-23, 2017 at UNC.

Daniel Kleppner Colloquium

March 31, 2017

Prof. Daniel Kleppner from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and recipient of the 2017 APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research, will present a talk entitled “Three Seeds in the Flowering of Quantum Science,” April 10 at 2pm.

Has Kepler Found Aliens?

October 29, 2016

Prof. John Lattanzio, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Monash University, Victoria, Australia, will give a colloquium about data from the Kepler spacecraft.

Has Kepler Found Aliens?

Abstract:  The Kepler spacecraft has revolutionized the search for exo-planets and provided asteroseismology data for thousands of stars. But it probably gathered more publicity from observations of one single star. This star does not look like anything predicted – with one exception: It looks very much like predictions made for the signature alien megastructures around a star. In this talk I review the Kepler data for this star and look at possible explanations.

See flyer here

A Light refreshments will be served on the 3rd floor of Chapman from 3:30pm.

Colloquium at 4pm in Chapman Hall 125.

A reception will be held at 5pm outside of Chapman Hall 125.

CoSMS Workshop on Naturalness

August 11, 2016

This 3-day CoSMS workshop centers on Theoretical and Experimental constraints on Naturalness, the main driver for physics beyond the Standard Model for many years. The next few years are expected to be especially informative.

Numerical Relativity and the Future of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

July 14, 2016

Prof. Mark Hannam, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, will give a talk on

Numerical Relativity and the Future of Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

Abstract:  Gravitational waves have been directly detected for the first time, from the collision of two black holes. Measuring the properties of the black holes (their masses and spins) required theoretical models of the signal, calculated by combining analytic approximation techniques with numerical solutions of the full Einstein equations for the last orbits and merger. I will discuss how the models were produced that were used in measuring the properties of the first black-hole-binary observed, and the challenges ahead as we enter the era of gravitational wave astronomy.

See flyer here

This talk follows a UNC Astrophysics lecture by Dr. Subinoy Das of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, “Astrophysical Small Scale Signatures of Non-WIMP Dark Matter” in 277 from 3-4pm.

A reception will be held at 5pm in Phillips 277.