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Two orange planets in space

Tides: from curious Kimberley to cannibalistic black holes

Explore the wonder and science of tides
Why does the Earth have two tides a day? What causes spring and neap tides? Astronomer Don Kurts uncovers the fascinating and mysterious topic of tides.

At Talbot Bay in Western Australia, the tides are big enough to create waterfalls. Tides on other bodies in the solar system can lead to moons disintegrating, which is how the rings of Saturn were formed. Some stars also have tides, including the amazing "Heartbeat Stars" that were discovered using NASA's Kepler Mission. Tides from some black holes would tear a person apart.

Professor Don Kurtz presents a richly illustrated talk that will cover tides on the Earth, in stars, and even in colliding galaxies.

Professor Kurtz was in Sydney as the 2020 Hunstead Distinguished Visitor, supported by Sydney Institute for Astronomy

The speakers

Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, to an American father and Canadian mother. He obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976, then spent 25 years in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. He is now a British citizen and has been Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire since 2001.

He is a past councillor and vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society and serves on many international committees. Don observes with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and nearly 500 professional publications. He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He is co-author of the fundamental textbook, Asteroseismology.

In 2007, Joss moved from the Australian Astronomical Observatory to take up an ARC Federation Fellow Professorship at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics. In 2010, he was the Visiting Fellow at Merton College and Leverhulme Professor to Oxford. In 2014, he was awarded the ARC Laureate Fellowship. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and the Optical Society of America. He has won numerous awards including the Muhlmann Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2011), the Jackson Gwilt Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society (2012), the WH Steel Medal from the Australian Optical Society (2015), and the Peter McGregor Team Prize (2016) for the development of SAMI. He was the 2016 NSW Scientist of the Year. In 2017, he was awarded the Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal from the Australian Academy of Science, the first astronomer to receive this recognition in over 40 years. In 2018, he was the Miller Professor to Berkeley.

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