In less than a hundred years, we’ve learned an astonishing number of things about the universe– that it contains some 100 billion trillion stars, that we live in one galaxy that’s just one of a hundred billion other galaxies, that the universe is expanding, and that it had a beginning some 13.8 billion years ago. But all these discoveries were made by astronomers looking at the same sky we can see with our own telescopes. This talk examines a series of sights in the night sky that were observed and studied by the greatest thinkers and observers in history like Isaac Newton, William Herschel, William Huggins, and Edwin Hubble, and it shows how these sights helped us understand the size and composition of the universe. By the end of this talk, you will learn to see the ‘faint fuzzies’ in your telescope not as individual, unrelated objects, but as stepping stones on the way to understanding the universe and your place in it.
Brian Ventrudo is a writer, scientist, and astronomy educator. He received his first telescope at the age of five and completed his first university course in astronomy at the age of twelve, eventually receiving a master’s degree in the subject. He also holds a doctorate in engineering physics. During a twenty-year scientific career, he developed laser systems to detect molecules found in interstellar space and planetary atmospheres, and leveraged his expertise to create laser technology for optical communications networks. Since 2008, Brian has taught astronomy to tens of thousands of stargazers through his websites OneMinuteAstronomer.com and CosmicPursuits.com.