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An Astrophysicist Returns

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Dr Becky Smethurst returned to Bolton School as a Junior Research Fellow in Astrophysics at Christ Church College, Oxford University, where she is carrying out cutting-edge research into Galaxies and Super Massive Black Holes. She explained how, having left in 2008, she had gone on to study a Physics with Astronomy MPhys degree at Durham University and then an Astrophysics PhD at Oxford University. 

Throughout the day, Dr Smethurst worked with AS and A2-level Physics students and a number of Year 11 and Year 10 Physics pupils and provided stimulating presentations explaining how the Universe has evolved to give us what we see today. She talked about Edwin Hubble, one of the most important of astronomers of all time, and his idea of the Hubble Tuning Fork Diagram. She also told of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile which will soon be superseded by the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and how this surveys and classifies the sky every night. Girls learnt how there are hundreds of billions of stars in each galaxy and about ‘Galaxy Zoo’, which is an online project which invites the general public to help classify millions of galaxies. 

Mr Ball, Head of Physics in the Girls’ Division, said: “Not only did we benefit from some fascinating insights from Becky, but she also helped out with our Astrophysics Club at lunch and gave the girls ideas on how they might embark on a career path similar to her own. Astrophysics is currently very popular amongst our pupils; last year we set up the Astronomy Club in response to this interest and this year it has grown and evolved in to the Astrophysics Club.”

 

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