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Duncan lecture featured discussion of quasars and black holes

Published: 04/25/2014

The annual Duncan Lecture was held on April 23, and featured Bradley M. Peterson, professor and chair of the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University and a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee and chair of the Astrophysics Subcommittee. The title of his lecture was, “Solving the Quasar Mystery: A 50-Year Quest,” and featured discussion of quasars, which are among the most distant and intrinsically brightest objects in the universe, but also small and dense. Quasars are powered by spectacularly massive “black holes,” objects so dense that not even light can escape from them. Peterson related the story of how quasars and supermassive black holes and their role in the cosmos have come to be understood. To listen to the lecture online, click here.

The Dr. M. M. “Dunc” Duncan Memorial Lecture was established in 2012 by Dora Duncan in memory of her husband. He enrolled at Auburn University in aeronautical engineering. Following his freshman year, Duncan volunteered for service in World War II and served in the signal corps aboard the USS Cleburne. Upon his discharge, he returned to Auburn where he met and married fellow student Dora Tisdale, with whom he had two children. Duncan earned a bachelor of science in chemistry in 1949 and continued his education at Auburn as a graduate student in X-ray cryptallography. After completing his master’s in physics in 1953, he began a career as an aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft. However, he soon realized his true calling and began teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Duncan went on to earn a doctorate from Duke University in 1956, and taught there and at Texas A&M before joining the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1961, where he remained for nearly half a century. An active amateur astronomer, it is with respect to his enduring interest in the field, combined with his penchant for exploration, discovery and knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics, that the lectureship is dedicated.

Pictured, from left: Bradley Peterson (speaker); Dora Duncan; Richard Duncan, son of Dora and Dr. Duncan; and David Ennis, assistant professor of physics at Auburn.

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