The Universe is a vast place, filled with an amazing variety of objects. Humanity has been wondering about our Universe’s size, origin, and content since the first of us looked up at the stars. This talk will discuss the scale, age, and content of the Universe. It will also look back at how humanity first determined the size of the Earth and solar system objects, made measurements, determined distances, and discovered our place in the Universe. This journey will start with how we determined the size of the Earth and then discuss all the steps that take us to the edge of the visible Universe. The last part of the talk will be about how we determine distance, age, and composition of astronomical bodies today and how new data from James Webb Space Telescope and other telescopes, on the ground and in space, have given us a new view of the Universe and how they are likely to continue to change our perception of the Universe for many decades to come.
Ronald Polidan is an astrophysicist/space technologist who retired and moved to Terrebonne, Oregon in 2016. He unretired in 2020 and currently holds the position of Director of Programs at Lunar Technologies, Inc., a space industrialization company based in Houston, TX. He is leading a NASA-funded study to develop a detailed concept for a very large radio observatory (larger in area than Bend), that would be robotically built on the far side of the Moon using materials extracted from lunar dirt. The primary science goal of this observatory is to see back to the dawn of time beyond what can be observed with the James Webb Space Telescope to before the first stars in the Universe have formed.
He has over 45 years of space mission experience working almost equal amounts of time in academia, government, and industry. His previous two employers were NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (1989-2004) and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (2004-2016). At Goddard Space Flight Center he served in a variety of roles, beginning as NASA’s Project Scientist for Operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, from prior to its launch in 1990 up to the first Hubble servicing mission, and ending as the NASA Center’s Chief Technologist, overseeing all technology development in the NASA Center. At Northrop Grumman he worked in the civil science sector in various roles (Manager, Director, and Chief Architect), overseeing the development of new science missions and related technology.