Surrey Museum lecturer takes audience to a galaxy far, far away

Learn about the birth of stars July 23.

Astrophysicist Dr. Gaelen Marsden sometimes describes himself as a person who builds telescopes. Yet what he does is incredible: He finds galaxies that are forming stars – some 100 to 1,000 new stars each year, in galaxies far, far away.

On Saturday, July 23 (2-3 p.m., by donation, pre-registration recommended), the Surrey Museum will host Marsden as he presents his work to families, to inspire the next generation of budding scientists.

Marsden has spent the last 10 years working in rugged environments in Antarctica and Arctic Sweden, with a revolutionary two-metre telescope called the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST).

“We go to the Arctic and the Antarctic for this work, because of the 24-hour sunlight,” says Marsden. “But working in such remote places presents significant challenges.”

Despite the environmental challenges, the BLAST project successfully measured galaxies as they formed. The telescope detected star formation that was hidden to optical telescopes. While the universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, the light observed in the images took about 12 billion years to reach us at 300,000 kilometres per second from this earlier time in our universe’s history.

Marsden is a researcher in the UBC Experimental Cosmology Lab. The successful Canadian Space Agency-funded BLAST balloon experiment in the Antarctic inspired a full-length documentary “BLAST! The Movie.”

Marsden now works with Herschel, a satellite performing observations pioneered by BLAST but from space, and last year at the first International Herschel Science Meeting in Madrid, he revealed images of tens of thousands of newly discovered galaxies.

The Surrey Museum is located at 17710 56A Ave. Hours of operation are Tuesdays-Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 5 p.m.. Closed Sundays, Mondays and statutory holidays. Admission in 2011 will be sponsored by the Friends of the Surrey Museum Society.

For more information, call 604-592-6956 or visit


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