Mauna Kea Summit

Astrophysical Ages and Time Scales

Gemini Observatory

February 5 - 9, 2001
Hilo Hawaiian Hotel
Hilo, Hawaii

Subaru Telescope

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  • Astrophysical ages and time scales provide the basis for a host of studies in astronomy, ranging from the energetics of supernovae to the masses of brown dwarfs, from the concordance of cosmological parameters to the abundances of the elements. Indeed, the determination of the ages of the Earth, Sun, Galaxy, and Universe has occupied a primary role in biology, geology, physics, and astronomy over the last century. In addition to the historical importance of astrophysical ages, observations over the past decade from a host of new x-ray, optical, infrared, and radio telescopes and theoretical advances in physics, chemistry, and biology have changed the landscape of the topic. Helioseismology has dramatically refined our understanding of stellar structure, technological revolutions in the infrared and sub-mm have opened giant new windows on star formation processes, ground- and space-based telescopes are now routinely observing galaxies at large look-back times, and cosmic microwave background experiments have recorded the beginning of structure formation.

    The results of these myriad observational and theoretical advances are now becoming precise enough that conflicts have arisen, for example the well-known tension between the expansion age of the Universe and the ages of globular clusters. In other fields of astronomy advances hinge upon greater precision in astrophysical ages, for instance progress in starburst galaxy studies and star formation requires measuring the ages of embedded star clusters.

    We are organizing a conference to review measurements of astrophysical ages and time scales, including the latest state-of-the-art results, to focus on areas where greater precision is needed, and to expose and discuss conflicts in current astrophysical ages and time scales from solar system formation time scales through the age of the Universe. The emphasis of the conference will be on connecting time scales from different sub-fields of astrophysics. From the conflicts and contradictions between ages derived by different techniques and from different astronomical fields we will map out promising lines of research for resolving these differences.

    February 13, 2001