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Department of Astronomy's 50th Anniversary

2015 marks the Department of Astronomy’s 50th Anniversary! From a one-faculty member area of study to a vibrant undergraduate and graduate department, Astronomy’s history is rich in scientific intrigue, discovery and community. Throughout our first 50 years, Astronomy has provided engaging and challenging research and educational opportunities that cover the spectrum of astrophysics, chemistry and astrobiology.

As we look ahead to the next 50 years, join us for a thrilling line-up of anniversary events that will stretch your imagination and understanding about the universe around us all. Learn more about our students, faculty and programs here. Read more about Astronomy's legacy in Columns magazine and our Perspectives newsletter. 

For more information on Astronomy's 50th Anniversary email us at or call us at (206) 616-4470. 



Charles Simonyi: Practicalities of Orbital Space Tourism

September 29, 2015, 7pm
Kane Hall 120, Free

We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Charles Simonyi, honorary chair of our 50th Anniversary, to the UW for an exciting talk on private space travel. Already acclaimed as a high-tech pioneer and philanthropist, Dr. Simonyi added space traveler to his résumé as one of the first private space tourists. Dr. Simonyi will discuss his experiences with orbital spaceflight in 2007 and 2009 and what this portends for future orbital space tourism. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more.


Origins: Life and the Universe Series


Bruce Balick: Star Formation and Nebulae as Cosmic Science and Song

Thursday October 1, 2015, 6pm
Museum of Flight, Free

As part of the Origins: Life and the Universe series UW Astronomy Professor Bruce Balick discusses the origin and development of nebulae and star-nurseries. Composer Nan Avant’s piece “Bijoux” showcases some of the more spectacular nebulae ever discovered. The event is free to the public through the Museum of Flight's First Free Thursday


Matt McQuinn: Origin of the Universe and Everything in It

Saturday October 17, 2015, 2pm
Museum of Flight, Free with Museum Admission

As part of the Origins: Life and the Universe series UW Astronomy Professor Matt McQuinn takes a close look at how our universe was formed and how small fluctuations on the cosmic microwave background grow into galaxies with stars and planets. Glenna Burmer, who composed a piece entitled “The Big Bang,” discusses her musical and visual interpretation of the 13.8-billion-year history of our universe, exploring the process that composers and filmmakers use to bridge science and art.


John Delaney: Origin and Evolution of Oceans: Understanding Planetary Life Support Systems 

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 7pm
Pacific Science Center, Free to Members, $5 for General Public

As part of the Origins: Life and the Universe series UW Oceanography Professor John Delaney, one of the world’s foremost experts on deep-sea volcanoes, explores the hydrothermal activity that may have produced life on primordial Earth. He is joined by composer Barry Dowsett, whose composition, “The Evolution of Carbon and Stardust,” premieres Nov. 7 as part of the Origins concert.The event is free to PSC members, UW students and alumni with ID, and Seattle Astronomical Society Members. General public admission is $5. 

Origins: Life and the Universe Concert

Saturday November 7, 2015, 2pm
Benaroya Hall Seattle, Buy Tickets

Join us for a fascinating blend of science and art with an innovative multi-media concert of original symphonic music. In collaboration with the University of Washington Astrobiology Program in the Department of Astronomy, eight Seattle composers will premiere original gorgeous orchestral music that showcases the complexity and beauty of our universe. The concert’s visual component uses photos and films of recent discoveries in astronomy and astrobiology in ways never before seen. Proceeds benefit the UW Department of Astronomy and Astrobiology program. Tickets are available at For more information on the artists, please visit



UW Alumni Association Presents:

The Big Bang & Beyond: Four Excursions to the Edges of Time and Space

When studying the sky, the farther out you look, the further back in time you see. Journey to the edge—and the beginning—of the universe in this series of fascinating lectures. Three top UW faculty members join noted science communicator Adam Frank, ’92, in this celebration of the UW Astronomy Department’s 50-year legacy of exploring the wonder and grandeur of the stars. The series is free to the public through registration.

ADVANCED TICKETS ARE SOLD OUT FOR ALL LECTURES. Standby seating may be available. If you are seeking standby seating, please plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early at each lecture. For more information on the Big Bang series, contact the UW Alumni Association at (206) 543-0540 or


Andy Connolly: Unravelling Our Own Cosmic History (SOLD OUT)

Wednesday October, 21, 2015, 7:30pm
Kane Hall 120, Free

How do we map the universe from Earth? How do these data help us view our own origins? UW professor Andy Connolly will take us on a tour of how, using the latest technologies, astronomical surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Large Synoptic Sky Survey Review produce some of the deepest optical images ever obtained. These images allow us to look for flashes from the most energetic events in the distant universe and dramatically extend our cosmic reach. With them, we are further unraveling the last 13.8 billion years of the history of the universe. 


Miguel Morales: The End of the Beginning (SOLD OUT)

Wednesday November 4, 2015, 7:30pm
Kane Hall 120, Free

Inflation, particle production, huge sound waves and gravity waves—the early universe was a strange place. This phase of the universe culminated with the release of the oldest light we can ever hope to see: the Cosmic Microwave Background. In this lecture, UW Professor of Physics Miguel Morales will focus on how scientists read the subtle patterns in the Cosmic Microwave Background to infer what happened in the first few moments of our universe’s history—a time when the cosmos was a very different place than the one we live in today.


Julianne Dalcanton: Building the Universe, Piece by Piece (SOLD OUT)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 7:30pm
Kane Hall 120, Free

Professor Julianne Dalcanton has led several teams of researchers who have combined the extraordinary images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope with data from the ground to investigate how galaxies like ours formed, evolved, and produced new stars. In this lecture, Dalcanton will highlight the unique role that Hubble has played in shaping our understanding of galaxies and stars as she illuminates the complex forces that have shaped the universe we see around us. She will also talk about the future of space exploration and how it will shape future discoveries about the universe. 


Adam Frank: Before time, beyond the universe (SOLD OUT)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015, 7:30pm
Kane Hall 120, Free

Join science communicator, UW alumnus, and professor Adam Frank for a journey to “the wild west of physics”—the speculative realm of how time began, how many universes are out there and whether or not we need to rethink our fundamental approach to cosmic questions. Beginning with questions that informed philosophy for centuries, Frank will show how physicists and astronomers are working to create bold new ways of seeing reality, much in the same fashion as Leonardo, Copernicus, Bacon, Newton and their contemporaries reframed the human perspective in the 16th and 17th centuries. A professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, Frank is also the co-founder of NPR’s “13.7: Cosmos and Culture” blog.