Astronomy luminary inspiration for international conference

October 11, 2010 | Events, UToday
By Jon Strunk



For more than four decades, Dr. Adolf Witt has investigated the origins of the majesty of the universe by studying one of the most seemingly mundane substances in existence: dust.

Dust is left behind when a star dies and, a few billion years later, may end up helping birth a new star, nebula or planet. Because of the important role it plays in so many processes, dust is an invaluable tool in helping to explain why the universe is the way it is.

To celebrate Witt’s contribution to the understanding of the universe, his important role in growing and developing the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy, and his 70th birthday, UT will hold WittFest: Origins and Evolution of Dust. The three-day event, which started Sunday and included a reception at Toledo Botanical Gardens, will continue Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 11 and 12, on Main Campus.

The international conference will bring some 75 astronomers from as far as France, Korea and South Africa to join top researchers from across North America.

“A key component of Dr. Witt’s research was his discoveries that have helped us understand components of how stars form and galaxies evolve,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, Distinguished University Professor and chair of physics and astronomy.

Witt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, continues to be an active member of UT’s astronomy group, Bjorkman said.

“Many of Dr. Witt’s former students and colleagues will be here for WittFest, and it speaks volumes about the impact he has had at this University,” she said. “While our department proudly claims Dr. Witt as our own, it’s also important to recognize how his work has influenced the way astronomers around the world understand the universe.”

Scientific sessions began Sunday, Oct. 10, in Memorial Field House, and will cover a broad range of knowledge about the universe that comes from using the study of dust as a central investigative tool.

Sessions continue through Tuesday morning, culminating in a presentation by Witt and a panel discussion on “The Future of Dust Astrophysics.”

“The University of Toledo has been very fortunate to have a thinker and teacher of Dr. Witt’s caliber on its faculty. We have all benefitted from the depth of his knowledge, the patience with which he conveys it, and his prominence within the international scientific community,” said Dr. J.D. Smith, UT assistant professor of astronomy and chair of the local organizing committee for the conference.

“So much of the strength that exists in our department today is due to his efforts,” Smith said.

More information about WittFest is available here.

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