First of six astronomy lectures explores 'Dark Side of the Universe'

University Park, Pa. — J. Anthony "Tony" Tyson, distinguished professor of physics at the University of California-Davis, will present "Exploring the Dark Side of the Universe" from 11 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 in 100 Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park campus. The free event is a Penn State component of the International Year of Astronomy and is the first of six lectures in the 2009 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, a free minicourse for the general public with the theme "Our Universe: From the Big Bang to Life." No registration is required for the lectures, which will take place on six consecutive Saturday mornings.

Tyson will share his insights about dark matter and dark energy -- the invisible components of our universe that appear to be controlling its large-scale evolution by causing it to expand at ever-faster rates. Tyson directs a national effort to build a new kind of telescope/camera called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope -- an instrument that promises to shed light on the mysterious dark energy, which is considered to be the most urgent problem in understanding the physics of our universe. "Studies of dark matter and dark energy bridge our knowledge in particle physics and cosmology and offer unique windows onto new physics," Tyson said. During his lecture, Tyson will describe the clues that recent explorations have revealed about this dark side of the universe.

An experimental physicist, Tyson designs new observational tests of cosmology and builds equipment to carry out long-term investigations, which typically also result in the development of new technology. He is pursuing several collaborative surveys of the faint optical universe, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) project, which is expected to open new windows on the universe with its large aperture and wide field of view and is slated for completion in 2014. At UC-Davis he has developed an interdisciplinary collaboration involving the physics, math, computer science and statistics departments. "A collaboration between theorists, observers and experimentalists gives us the best chance for a breakthrough," he said.

Tyson is an experimentalist interested in gravitational physics. His current research in cosmology includes the distribution of dark matter, the nature of dark energy, and effects of gravitational lensing including a phenomenon known as cosmic shear. These investigations involve software for pattern recognition, detection of transients in images, handling and processing of large databases, and new instrumentation for optical astronomy.

Tyson received a bachelor's degree in physics from Stanford University in l962 and a doctoral degree from University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1967, after which he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science are a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information at or (814) 863-0901. Information also can be found at online.

Last Updated November 18, 2010