Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Lecture

The annual Cline Observatory Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Day Lecture features a prominent researcher in astronomy, astrophysics, or planetary science. The lecture is held each fall in Koury Auditorium at GTCC's Jamestown Campus. It is free and open to the public.

World of Webb, and seeing through the Eyes of Einstein

A free public lecture, Friday, 22 September 2023, 7:30 p.m., Dr. Rogier Windhorst (Arizona State University)

The recently deployed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is rapidly expanding our knowledge of the universe, especially at its earliest epochs. This year’s Jo Cline Memorial Lecturer, Rogier Windhorst, is Regents' and Foundation Professor at Arizona State University and Interdisciplinary Scientist for JWST. He and his group at ASU use the Hubble Space Telescope and JWST to study the formation and evolution of distant galaxies and probe the epoch of First Light by using gravitational lensing of the earliest stars by foreground galaxies.

See this JWST team profile of Rogier Windhorst

Rogier Windhorst

About the Talk: In this talk, I will give a summary of the 6.5 meter NASA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the near mid-IR sequel to Hubble. The telescope building and testing was completed in summer 2021 and was successfully launched from Kourou in France on an ESA Ariane V rocket on Dec. 25, 2021. I will review some of best early science that JWST has done starting in summer 2022, as inspired by Hubble Wide Field Camera 3.

This talk will summarize the main and most dramatic discoveries by JWST: how much cosmic star formation has produced its own dust, and has been hidden in its own dust. Webb has revealed the "cosmic circle of life," where stars and their planetary systems are formed in this environment of cosmic dust, while stars return their own dust at the end of their lifetimes. I will end this part by putting the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago in perspective when other galaxies were already twice as old!

Last, I will show Webb's beautiful deep field images that have revealed the most distant galaxies which produced the dust out of which the Earth and the solar system were later formed. In particular, I will show the most dramatic JWST images of gravitationally lensing clusters, which are the most massive known gravitational structures in the universe, with masses up to several thousand trillion solar masses.

Einstein predicted that such massive objects would bend the light from objects behind them, although he did not think this could be observed. Yet, Webb has shown us dramatic examples of these massive clusters bending background galaxy images into the most beautiful and exotic arc-like structures. Even better yet, Webb has shown a number of very distant stars going across the "near-infinity magnification" lines, so Webb could observe them. Webb was designed to see the epoch of first light, and now it is indeed observing some of the first stars directly, viewing the universe through the eyes of Einstein.

The Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Day Lecture is made possible, in part, by an endowment established by Don Cline in September 2015 with an initial funding goal of $50,000. Interest from the endowment provides annual ongoing support of the Jo Cline Fall Astronomy Lecture Series. Cline will match, dollar for dollar, contributions made to this fund until our goal is reached. Please consider honoring Jo’s memory by contributing to the fund. For information about, and donations to, the Jo Cline Endowment, visit our Support the Observatory page.

North Carolina Astronomers’ Meeting (NCAM)

Cline Observatory also hosts the annual technical meeting of North Carolina astronomers in association with Fall Astronomy Day. This event is open to professional astronomers and their students, and is not an open public event. The 2023 edition of NCAM will be held in the Koury Hospitality Careers auditorium on Saturday, 23 September.

Past Lectures


Rebekah Dawson, Penn State University, "Beyond Eta Earth: Exoplanets as a Window on the History and Habitability of Planetary Systems" Click here to watch a video of this presentation.


Sheperd S. Doeleman, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/EHT, "First Pictures of a Black Hole! Imaging a Black Hole with the Event Horizon Telescope"


No Lecture held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic


Cathy Olkin, SWRI, "Exploring the Outer Reaches of Our Solar System"


Gabriela González, LSU/LIGO, “Einstein, Gravitational Waves, Black Holes, and Other Matters


John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “The History of the Universe from the Beginning to the End: Where Did We Come From, Where Can We Go?”


David Charbonneau, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “How to Find an Inhabited Exoplanet”


Sean Solomon, Director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute, and Principal Investigator for the Mercury MESSENGER Mission, “The MESSENGER Spacecraft Mission to Mercury: Surprises from the Innermost Planet”


Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford, “The Last and Next 100 Years in Astronomy“


Don Winget, University of Texas at Austin, “Small Stars in a Large Context:  All Things White Dwarf”


Bob Benjamin, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, “A Visitor’s Guide to the Milky Way Galaxy


Francis Halzen, University of Wisconsin-Madison / IceCube, “Ice Fishing for Neutrinos


Giovanni Fazio, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / Spitzer, “Viewing the Universe with Infrared Eyes:  the Spitzer Space Telescope


Hal Levison, Southwest Research Institute, “What Planets Are and How they Form


Neil Gehrels, NASA Goddard / Swift Mission, “Black Holes:  From Einstein to Gamma Ray Bursts


Michael Turner, University of Chicago, “The Dark Side of the Universe


Scott Ransom, NRAO-Charlottesville, “The Stellar Undead


Jeff Hester, Arizona State University, “From the Big Bang to Big Brains:  the Evolution of Structure in the Universe


Paul Butler, Carnegie Institute, “Extrasolar Planets:  a First Reconnaissance


Prasun Desai, NASA Langley, “Mars Exploration in the Coming Decade


Steve Murray, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / Chandra, “X-ray Astronomy Comes of Age:  the Chandra x-ray Observatory View of the Cosmos


Jay Bergstralh, NASA Langley, “The Galilean Satellites of Jupiter


Virginia Trimble, Univ. Cal-Irvine / Univ. Maryland, “Cosmology:  Man’s Place in the Universe


Robert Kirshner, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “The Universe:  Big, Old, and Accelerating


John Wood, NASA Goddard, “Resolution:  Latest Results from the Hubble Space Telescope


Bruce Carney, UNC-Chapel Hill, “How Old is Our Universe?