Five major mass extinctions have occurred in the past billion years. The latest one, 66 million years ago and triggered by a huge asteroid impact and massive volcanic eruptions in India, undermined the food chain and erased 75% of the species on Earth. Astronomers are confident that similar extinction events lie in wait. (That may be a good thing: catastrophic extinction events have always opened opportunities for major evolutionary advancements.) In this talk Bruce Balick, Emeritus Professor of Astronomy, U.W., reviews what happened in previous extinctions and what can be expected in our future.
Bruce Balick was a member of the faculty of the Astronomy Department at the University of Washington from 1975 to 2014, including five years as its Chair. He is best known for the discovery of the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. His research portfolio includes studies of mass ejected from dying stars and violent outflows from galaxies. He has served an many leadership roles for NASA, the American Astronomical Society, and the Faculty Senate of UW. He presently supervises students in research projects and leads the UW outreach program at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the campus.