Dark Forces in the Invisible Universe
Magnetic fields are one of the most crucial components of the Universe. We know that magnetic fields are present everywhere. Large-scale fields intersperse the gas in our own Milky Way, and contribute significantly to the turbulent motion of gas between galaxies. Magnetic fields affect the evolution of all astrophysical systems – from the vast cosmic web that binds together intergalactic matter over cosmological distances, down to the smallest scales, where they are essential for the onset of star formation. However, in spite of how important magnetic fields are, we know embarrassingly little about them. Magnetic fields are elusive, we cannot see them directly - only the effect of the forces they exert on other things. What is the effect that cosmic magnetic fields have on matter in the Universe? How can we use new radio telescopes to probe these dark forces in order to understand magnetic fields better, because without understanding magnetic fields, how can you understand the Universe?
Anna Scaife is Professor of Radio Astronomy and head of the Jodrell Bank Interferometry Centre of Excellence at the University of Manchester. She holds a European Research Council Fellowship, which funds her group's work investigating the origin and evolution of large-scale cosmic magnetic fields. In addition, she runs a number of projects in technical radio astronomy research and development as part of the Square Kilometre Array. In 2014, Anna Scaife was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of thirty scientists under the age of 40 selected for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering or technology in areas of high societal impact.
The Kapteyn Astronomical Institute organizes the yearly Blaauw lecture, in collaboration with Studium Generale. This is a lecture by an internationally renowned astronomer which everyone, including the general public, can attend. The Blaauw chair and Blaauw lecture were initiated in 1997 as one of six visiting professorships in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.