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World-renowned astronomer to deliver fifth annual Edmondson lecture at IU Bloomington

For Immediate Release Oct 30, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A world-renowned astronomer and astrophysicist will deliver the fifth annual F.K. Edmondson Astronomy Public Lecture on Nov. 8 at Indiana University Bloomington.

Wendy Freedman of the University of Chicago and its Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, will speak from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Rawles Hall, Room 100. Freedman has played a major role in observational cosmology, particularly in the measurement of the expansion rate of the universe.

Freedman’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Our Unexpected Universe.” The Edmondson lecture is hosted by the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Astronomy. A reception will follow in Rawles Hall, Room 107.

The way astronomers view the universe has been upended in recent years as they discovered new forces causing the universe’s expansion to accelerate over time. This new model bears little resemblance to what researchers understood a few decades ago, and new advancements in giant telescopes are expected to reveal even more surprises in the future. Freedman’s lecture will describe these advancements in cosmology and the new giant telescopes planned for the next decade that are likely to reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy that appear to cause this acceleration.

Freedman became world-renowned after leading a team of 30 astronomers to carry out the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to measure the current expansion rate of the universe. In 2001, the project resolved a vigorous debate over the age of the universe, determining it is  13.7 billion years old. She also initiated the Giant Magellan Telescope Project and served as chair of the board of directors from 2003 to 2015. The Giant Magellan Telescope will be the largest optical telescope in the world upon its completion in 2025.

“Dr. Freedman’s work determined the ‘Hubble constant’ to a precision of 10 percent, one of the most important measurements in astronomy,” said Catherine A. Pilachowski, the Daniel Kirkwood Chair in the Department of Astronomy. “Her current work involves developing additional methods to increase the precision of this measurement, which will help improve our theories of cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe. Her lecture will open a new window to the universe for all who want to learn more about these big questions.”

Freedman continues research on the Hubble constant using the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Magellan Telescope. This includes determining the intrinsic luminosities of certain types of stars and other astronomical objects in the “local universe,” then measuring the brightness of similar objects in distant galaxies.

Her other areas of interest include the stellar populations of galaxies, the evolution of galaxies and the initial mass function.

In 2009, Freedman was a recipient of the prestigious Gruber Cosmology Prize, and was awarded the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics Dannie Heinemann Prize for Astrophysics in 2016. She is also an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Physical Society.

Freedman holds both doctoral and Bachelor of Science degrees in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Toronto.

The annual F.K. Edmondson Astronomy Public Lectures were established to honor the memory of professor Frank Kelly Edmondson, a faculty member of the Department of Astronomy at IU from 1937 until his retirement in 1983, and chair of the department from 1944 until 1978. Edmondson is remembered not only for his contributions to the study of asteroids through the Indiana Asteroid Program, but also for his dedication and service to IU and to the astronomical community. The Edmondson Lectures are endowed in honor of Edmondson by his family and friends.

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