LMS/IMA/BSHM Joint Meeting 2022 – Women in Astronomy

Hybrid Meeting: De Morgan House, London and online, hosted by the LMS, IMA and BSHM.
Start date
Meeting Date
Dr Meg Schwamb (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Isobel Falconer (University of St Andrews), Professor Suzanne Aigrain (Oxford University), Dr Isabelle Lémonon Waxin (Cermes3), and Dr. Mathilde Jauzac (Durham University)


The LMS is delighted to announce the 2022 LMS-IMA-BSHM Joint Meeting, focused around the theme of Women in Astronomy.

Organising Committee; Martine Barons, Isobel Falconer, Brita Nucinkis, Marika Taylor, Anna Watts.


10.30am - Registration

11.00am - Welcome and opening of the meeting

11.15am Meg Schwamb (Queen's University Belfast)

Exploring the Solar System with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory

Vera Rubin was a pioneering observational astronomer and a champion for women and gender minorities in STEM. Her ground-breaking work studying the observed motions of stars in galaxies led to the conclusion that galaxies must contain a significant amount of unseen mass or dark matter that emits no detectable light. The next generation wide-field telescope has been named after Vera Rubin Observatory to honor her contributions to science. 

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is currently under construction in Chile. This international facility will radically transform our view of the changing night sky. Rubin Observatory will contain an 8.2-m telescope equipped with the world’s largest optical imager, a 3.2-gigapixel camera capable of capturing a 10 square degree patch of the night sky (~40 times the size of the full Moon) in a single exposure. Starting at the end of 2024, the Rubin Observatory will carry out the widest and deepest optical survey to date, the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Scanning the whole sky approximately once every three nights for ten years, LSST is expected to produce up to ten million identifications of transient/variable sources per night and generate ~15Tb of data nightly. In addition to discovering thousands to hundreds of thousands of explosive transients, LSST will discover and monitor over 5 million Solar System asteroids, comets, interstellar objects, and trans-Neptunian objects. Most of these objects will be observed hundreds of times in multiple filters, providing an unprecedented dataset to explore the Solar System’s inventory. 

In this talk, I will present how the upcoming LSST will revolutionize our understanding of the Solar System and how astronomers are preparing for this data deluge. In particular, I will discuss how Rubin Observatory is our best chance to learn whether there is a previously unseen planet lurking in the distant Outer Solar System.

12.15pm Isobel Falconer (University of St. Andrews)

Maria Cunitz and Urania Propitia - was marriage to an astronomer a "career" for women mathematicians in the 1600s and 1700s?

Urania Propitia, published by Maria Cunitz in 1650, is one of the earliest known books by a female mathematician, publishing cutting edge research in her own name. Cunitz was an early adopter of Kepler’s Rudolphine Tables, but re-cast the underlying mathematics and tables into a much more usable form, promoting her book as “wonderfully easy astronomical tables, comprehending the essence of the physical hypotheses brought forth by Kepler, satisfying the phenomena by a very easy, brief way of calculating without any mention of logarithms.” This talk will consider the book in the context of Cunitz’s life, and go on to explore the possibility that, although pre-eminent, Cunitz represents the tip of an iceberg of women – especially those married to astronomers – working in mathematical astronomy in 17th and 18th century Europe.

1.15pm - Lunch

2.30pm Suzanne Aigrain (University of Oxford)

Portraits of exoplanets on a red background

In barely 30 years, the study of exoplanets has gone from science fiction to a major discipline, and the key science driver for the next generation of observatories both on the ground and in space. Yet exoplanets are typically detected indirectly, via rare and tiny signals which must be disentangled from much larger correlated noise sources  - these are the “red background” to which my title refers.

In my talk I will outline how we do this, focusing on the transit and radial velocity methods which I work on and which account for the vast majority of exoplanet detections to date, and bringing in modern statistical methods to construct flexible, data driven noise models. I will take stock of the main discoveries of the last decade, including the ubiquity and extraordinary diversity of exoplanet systems, and what these teach us about the formation and evolution of those systems. I’ll also touch on the prospects for and challenges of detecting habitable planets around nearby stars, and of searching for signs of life on those planets.

3.30pm  Isabelle Lémonon Waxin (Cermes 3)

"She only does calculations like a machine"... The French Enlightenment Women Astronomers: Simple Arithmeticians?

During the 18th century, the increased visibility of women savantes accompanied the enthusiasm for science shared by the men and women of the Enlightenment. Among them, some entered the field of mathematical sciences, and more particularly astronomy, to varying degrees. This presentation will examine their mathematical, philosophical - in the sense of natural philosophy - and observational practices in astronomy in order to characterise the nature of these practices and the way they evolved during the century. Through the cases of Émilie du Châtelet, Marie Anne Pigeon and the calculators of Jérôme Lalande's astronomy workshop, I will also discuss the strategies they used to cope with the gender norms of the Enlightenment society while practicing science.

4.30pm - Break

5.00pm Mathilde Jauzac (Durham)

Uncovering the nature of the dark sides of our Universe using Cosmic Beasts

Astronomers have only observed 5% of the content of the Universe: the luminous (or baryonic) mat- ter. The remaining 95% is invisible, consisting of so-called Dark Matter and Dark Energy. The nature of dark matter and dark energy is one of the most pressing fundamental questions in modern physics. This Dark Sector has remained impossible to detect directly, because neither component interacts with standard matter particles. Moreover many theories predict DM will remain fundamentally undetectable in terrestrial experiments, and can only be probed by astrophysical laboratories.

Galaxy clusters, the most massive astrophysical objects observable, are ideal cosmic laboratories to study dark matter and dark energy. Indeed the number and mass distribution of galaxy clusters as a function of cosmic time is sensitive to the properties of dark energy, a repulsive force or modifications of the laws of gravity which could explain the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. Furthermore, they are composed of 85% of dark matter, making them the largest dark matter reservoirs in the Universe.

During this talk, I will present an overview of astrophysical searches for the ‘invisible’ components of our Universe, from the beginning of the 1900’s up to today, and will discuss the first results obtained with the uniquely powerful James Webb Space Telescope which first science observations were released mid-July 2022.

5.55pm - Meeting closes

6.00pm - Drinks Reception at De Morgan House

7.15pm - Society Dinner at the Antalya Restaurant.


  • The registration for in person attendance has now closed.
  • The registration for online attendance has now closed.
  • The registration for the Society dinner has now closed.

If you have any queries, please contact lmsmeetings@lms.ac.uk.

LMS Members' Book: Members of the London Mathematical Society can sign the Members' Book, which dates from 1865 when the Society was founded, and contains signatures of members throughout the years, including Augustus De Morgan, Henri Poincaré, G. H. Hardy, and Mary Cartwright.