EXPIRED: 07/02/10 – Leonard Searle, 79, was starstruck.
Maybe awestruck by stars is a better way of putting it. Or maybe he was just able to explain something that we were all awestruck by – the stars.
Searle helped explain the Big Bang theory to those of us who couldn’t comprehend such a thing.
As an astronomer, Searle “made observations that provided crucial information in determining the conditions of the Big Bang that created the universe and helped explain how heavy elements are produced in stars.”
Just transcribing that part confused me, so I know he must have been really smart.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, researchers are interested in the precise conditions that existed during the Big Bang. To calculate the temperature and pressure that existed at the moment of explosion, you need to know the ratio of helium to hydrogen that existed immediately afterward.
Most old stars are too cool to measure their helium-to-hydrogen ratio. And in even the hottest old stars, helium has diffused inward to the core, so we’re kinda screwed
Thank our luck stars for Searle! He helped identify small galaxies with slow star formation rates whose helium-to-hydrogen ratios were probably very similar to those at the creation of the universe. Voila! Those values are still used in modeling the conditions of the Big Bang.
And so I get to laugh once a week at my favorite sitcom. Thanks, Searle!
Oh yeah, he also helped build of the twin Magellan telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. When they started being used in 2000 they were (and still are) considered to be the best natural imaging telescopes in the world.