Modelling and Observing Dense Stellar Systems

MODEST17, an international conference on astronomy, held at Charles University in Prague from September 18th until 22nd.

Throughout the past 500 years, Prague has played a leading role in founding the knowledge which allows astronomers to ask the deepest questions on the origin of planetary systems, the motions of stars and how supermassive black holes came to be. With, amongst others, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, Christian Doppler and Albert Einstein, the experimental and mathematical doors were opened in Prague allowing modern astronomers to try to find answers to such and many more questions.

In September of 2017 the historic city of Prague again witnessed the gathering of more than 100 astronomers from about 20 nations, this event being part of the modern re-awakening of Prague to its historic role as a leading university and research centre. The conference Modelling and Observing Dense Stellar Systems (MODEST17) was organised by astronomers at the Astronomical Institute of Charles University to collect renowned astronomers to the historic city of Prague to exchange knowledge and ideas.

The conference took place for a whole week with a packed programme at the very historical location of Charles University in the Old Town, not far from where Johannes Kepler used to live and a stone's throw away from Tycho Brahe's tomb. Leading famous scientists discussed the current understanding with aspiring female and male young researchers and students, covering questions from how planetary systems, described by Kepler's laws, can form and evolve when other stars, the motions of which are found using Doppler's effect, are passing by or through them. The astronomers also discussed how stars explode in their star clusters leaving black holes which can merge and radiate gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein's theory, and how stars change as they age over incredible lengths of time. How the new and amazing observing techniques will influence future astronomy, therewith massively extending the era of high-precision observations which Tycho Brahe pioneered 500 years ago, was also a major topic of this conference. The conference was opened in the ancient halls of the historic main building of Charles University with a wonderful reception and it was accompanied by a splendid dinner at Cafe Adria, a concert of classical music in the representative hall of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University in the building of the former monastery on Malostranske namesti, and a guided walk through historic Prague.

A special highlight was the openly and freely accessible public lecture given by world-renown Prof. Mark Morris from the University of California, Los Angeles, USA, on Thursday evening on the stars which live at the very centre of our Galaxy next to our supermassive black hole which is 27 thousand light years distant from us. There the stars are moving at incredibly high speeds around the supermassive black hole, they can collide catastrophically and in general live in conditions very exotic and different to the stars we see on the night sky.

– AUUK –

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