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‘Barred Spiral Galaxies’ at ‘Imiloa

“Gems of the Universe: The Barred Spiral Galaxies” will be the topic at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 19.

Pierre Martin, professor of astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, will take a closer look at spiral galaxies and differentiate between barred spiral galaxies.

“Among the family of spiral galaxies seen in our universe, a large fraction shows an elongated, stellar structure in their central regions commonly described as a ‘bar,’” stated Martin. “These magnificent objects, the barred spirals, represent the norm, and not the exception, among all of nearby spiral galaxies.”

The bar phenomenon has drastic effects on the evolution of a galaxy, from changing where stars are formed, to how the chemical elements are distributed across its disk, and to possibly helping in feeding its central region where a massive black hole might reside.

In this presentation, Martin will review some of the early history of observations of spiral galaxies, including some of the first descriptions of galaxies with bars. Then he will discuss how bars can be formed, how they evolve and how they might considerably affect the evolution of their host galaxies.

He notes, “Our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, is in fact a barred spiral.”

Finally, he will briefly describe an ambitious project to be undertaken with an innovative instrument at the Canada France Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea next year, aiming in better understanding of the significance of bars in galaxies. But, maybe more importantly, he will show that barred spiral galaxies are among the most beautiful objects in the universe.

Martin is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and the director of the UH-Hilo Hoku Ke‘a Observatory.


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