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DATE: March 24, 2005

Noted astronomer to give lecture at UM-Dearborn on April 5

DEARBORN---Astrophysicist Donald York will give a free public lecture on "Galaxy Evolution: A Changing View from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 5 in Room 1030 of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters Building at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The talk and related events have been planned to highlight developments in the astronomy program at UM-Dearborn, including the construction of the campus's first permanent observatory and related changes in curriculum.

York, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, is visiting UM-Dearborn through a program sponsored by the American Astronomical Society. He also will visit classes and take part in informal discussions with students and faculty members while on campus.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the subject of York's talk, is one of the most ambitious astronomical survey projects ever undertaken, according to UM-Dearborn physics Prof. Donald Bord. The SDSS, which involves hundreds of scholars and dozens of institutions, will map in detail one-quarter of the entire sky, determining the positions and absolute brightnesses of more than 100 million celestial objects. It also will measure the distances to more than a million galaxies and quasars.

"His talk will also touch on other important astronomical questions," Bord said. "For example, how do supermassive black holes affect their host galaxy's appearance? What role does dark matter play in galactic evolution? How often do galaxies collide and what happens to them when they do?"

UM-Dearborn's astronomy program will take a big step forward with the completion of a new science building addition early next year. One of the most distinctive features of the new building will be an observatory including a 16-inch telescope, along with five other stations to mount telescopes on a third-floor deck of the building.

In addition to its use in astronomy classes, the large telescope will help advanced students work on independent projects that may lead to publishable data, according to Bord. The campus has received a $144,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support the purchase of the main telescope.

While the building is under way, faculty members at UM-Dearborn are considering some important changes in the astronomy curriculum that will be made possible by the new facility, according to Bord. "We have plans to introduce some new upper-level courses, including one on observational astronomy tied to the opening of the observatory," he said.

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