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"I would like to thank you for an extremely insightful evening as well as a absolutely superb talk on such a large range of topics, which you managed to make understandable to all of our members, young and not so young!" Caroline Woods, Highlands Astronomical Society.

Star forming region at centre of the Omega Nebula

Emission nebula in the Triangulum Galaxy (M33)

CO intensities overlaid on a dust map of Edge Cloud 2

Galactic centre region of the Milky Way

Lagoon Nebula (M8)

Image credits (from top): Star forming region at centre of the Omega Nebula (M17), GBT radio image, DSS optical image, 2MASS IR image; NGC 604 emission nebula in the Triangulum Galaxy (M33), HST wide field and planetary camera 2; CO intensities overlaid on a dust map of Edge Cloud 2, JCMT, IRAM, Paul Ruffle; Galactic centre region of the Milky Way, S.Guisard, ESO; Lagoon Nebula (M8), Julia Arias and Rodolfo Barbá, Universidad de La Serena, Chile and ICATE-CONICET.

Matter Between the Stars:
The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium

by Dr Paul Ruffle
Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, The University of Manchester

Astronomers don't just look at stars and galaxies. In fact, a great deal of astrophysical research is devoted to examining the processes that take place in the space between the stars, known as the interstellar medium (ISM). The different processes that take place in the ISM give us clues as to how stars are born, live their lives and finally die. In this presentation I discuss how astronomers use different types of telescopes (e.g. radio, infrared, optical) to detect the various types of emission produced in the ISM, and how the very faint signals from these astronomical sources are processed and then analysed to reveal the physics and chemistry of the ISM. In particular, I give examples of radio telescopes that I have used, from the 15 metre James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii to the 100 metre Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia. I will also talk about my recent work analysing infrared spectra taken with the Spitzer Space telescope from the SAGE-Spec legacy survey of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

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Carina Nebula

Central region of the Carina Nebula, NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley) and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

About Paul Ruffle

Paul is a visiting research fellow and SAGE-Spec research associate in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester. Prior to this he worked in the USA for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) as a support scientist on the 100 metre Green Bank Telescope (GBT).

His research interests include planetary nebulae (PNe) and the chemistry of low metallicity environments such as molecular clouds at the edge of our Galaxy or molecular gas in dwarf irregular galaxies. He is also interested in the role of dust in the interstellar medium (ISM) and how it relates to the formation of molecular clouds and subsequent star formation.

He is currently working on methods for analysing Spitzer-IRS spectroscopy from the SAGE-Spec legacy survey of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, in order that infrared sources may be classified and spectral energy distributions may be constructed for each sub-class of object. He is investigating the different modes of star formation in the most distant low metallicity molecular cloud in the Milky Way, as well as developing the Xgear project for astrochemical modelling. He is also a collaborator on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) Spectral Legacy Survey (SLS).

Paul started his career in the late sixties, working as a graphic artist in design studios and advertising agencies in London. In the mid-eighties he got involved with computers and the electronic publishing revolution. This led to working for a large corporation producing multilingual publications and multimedia. He also ran his own company providing consultancy services and building internet web sites.

Despite his creative abilities he always had a strong interest in physics and astronomy, so in 1989 he started studying in his spare time for a physics degree with the Open University and completed his BSc in 2002. After that he took up a full time PhD research studentship in astrophysics at The University of Manchester, which he completed in 2006. He has been an Associate Lecturer for the Open University, and also does some teaching at The University of Manchester.

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