Comet expert to speak at Vanderbilt University March 25

David Jewitt, professor, astronomer and comet expert will give a free, public talk at Vanderbilt University about “Primordial Ice Reservoirs of the Solar System” and how much we know, and don’t know, about them. Jewitt will deliver the annual Seyfert Memorial Lecture on Thursday, March 25, at 4 p.m. in Room 4309 of the Stevenson Center.

Jewitt, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of California-Los Angeles and in the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics of the University of California, is credited with recently discovering an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that at first appeared to be a comet. When the Hubble Telescope took a closer look, it turned out to be the first ever recording of an asteroid collision.

“I am interested in the primitive bodies of the solar system, especially the comets,” said Jewitt. “My hope is that the properties of the comets will throw light on the nature and evolution of the planets.”

In addition to continuing to investigate the asteroid collision, Jewitt’s research efforts to date have yielded the discovery of the Kuiper belt (likely source of Jupiter family comets) and of numerous unexpected properties of the belt (such as the large velocity dispersion, the existence of distinct orbital sub-types); discovery of a new comet reservoir in the outer parts of the asteroid main-belt (likely contributing source to the Earth’s oceans); dozens of irregular satellites of the planets (and the demise of the standard model for their capture); and physical measurements showing that the Jovian Trojan asteroids are most likely ice-rich.

The Seyfert Lecture is an annual honorary lecture in astronomy and space exploration in memory of Carl Seyfert, professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt. Seyfert was principally responsible for the construction of the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory and was a successful researcher in the study of galaxies. This year’s lecture is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory and the Vanderbilt departments of astronomy and physics.

Dyer Observatory serves as a community resource for the teaching of science as well as a venue for public, private and corporate events. Each year Dyer hosts thousands of visitors through school tours, observations nights, scout events and other community programs, such as Bluebird on the Mountain.

Media Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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