Barnes Science Center
NOTE: This class is now full and has a waitlist.
For centuries, humans have looked up at the heavens and wondered about the origin and fate of the universe. Did the universe have a beginning? If so, how old is the universe? In the last 75 years we have learned the answers to many of these questions. The universe seems to have begun 13.7 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since. However, the answers to these questions have inspired new questions. Will the universe expand forever or will gravity someday stop the expansion and reverse it, leading to a "big crunch?" We think we know the answer to this question as well. In 1998, two rival teams of astronomers discovered that the expansion is actually accelerating! We know how the universe is expanding but we don't understand why. The 2011 Nobel Prize was awarded to the leaders of these teams for their discovery. The "stuff" that causes accelerated expansion has been dubbed dark energy. Understanding the nature of dark energy is likely to shake the very foundations of our conception of the physical world. in this class, students will look at the latest images and data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, and other modern telescopes and discuss what we know about the universe and what is still a mystery. Professor Shane Burns teaches physics at Colorado College. He is a member the Supernova Cosmology Project, one of the two teams that discovered accelerated expansion, the work that earned the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. He has worked with 2011 Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter since they were graduate students at UC Berkeley in the early 80's. This class is part of the Enrich Your Life! series of courses for the community.