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Monster Black Holes: What Lurks at the Centers of Galaxies

As part of the 14th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, astronomer Chung-Pei Ma, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, will discuss Monster Black Holes: What Lurks at the Centers of Galaxies, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is first come, first served. Arrive early to locate parking.

Black holes are among the most fascinating objects in the cosmos and have long entranced the public as well as astronomers. Today we understand that black holes can grow to monstrous size, swallowing the mass of millions or billions of suns. New telescopes and techniques in the past decade have expanded and improved our ability to weigh such "supermassive black holes." Dr. Ma will describe recent discoveries of record-breaking black holes, each with a mass of 10 billion times the mass of the Sun. New evidence shows that these objects could be the dormant remnants of powerful "quasars" that existed in the young universe.

A cosmologist and astrophysicist, Dr. Ma's research interests include the origin and large-scale structure of the universe, the formation and development of galaxies, and the growth of giant black holes. She is also an avid violin player and pursued parallel studies in physics and music at MIT and the New England Conservatory of Music.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available free on YouTube, at the series' own channel at www.youtube.com/user/SVAstronomyLectures/. The site gives instant access to over two dozen past lectures, including Steve Beckwith on the Hubble Telescope's deepest views, Mike Brown on his discovery of worlds beyond Pluto, Natalie Batalha on the Kepler mission planet discoveries, Chris McKay on what it's like on Saturn's moon Titan, Sandra Faber on the origin of galaxies, Alex Filippenko and Roger Blandford on black holes, and Seth Shostak on new approaches to finding extra-terrestrial civilizations.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.

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  • Mark R.

    I was wondering if group members might want to meet for a bit before or after the event...

    May 21, 2014

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