REU at the MMOmbedell | June 15, 2010
Hi! I’m Megan Bedell and I’m a physics/astro major in the class of 2012. I am spending the summer as an REU student at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket- I’ve been here for nearly a month now and so far the experience has been fantastic! There are seven astronomy interns in total living across the street from one of the two observatories. We each have our own research project; I’m making photometric observations using interference filters to study an interesting type of variable star called uxors (named after UX Ori, the prototype). Along with my research, I give tours of the historic observatory and work at public observing nights three times a week. It’s a busy schedule but luckily interns are free to do our work whenever we want without set working hours, so we can always take time off during the day to go to the beach or walk around town!
Being on Nantucket is tough duty, but somebody’s got to do it…
Most recently, we took a five-day road trip to visit observatories on the east coast (including Haverford!). It was a great trip and I had the chance to meet a lot of interesting people and get an inside view of some really impressive research institutions. My boss, Vladimir, has connections to all of these institutions, so we were able to meet scientists (and friends of his) everywhere and hear about their research projects and experiences. A few of my personal highlights were:
- seeing the scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope at the Hubble Institute
- eating sandwiches at a cafe down the street from the Harvard CfA and overhearing nerdy astronomy conversations all around us
- Hubble 3D movie at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, so cool!!! bonus points for narration by Leonardo DiCaprio
- having the chance to meet and consult with a leading expert in my research area at Wesleyan
- watching construction on the MIT Haystack Observatory’s main radio telescope using the biggest crane in the state of Massachusetts!
- the Naval Observatory’s beautiful astronomy library
- a brief return to Haverford for a great talk by Bruce Partridge
- making the ferry home in time to catch the Celtics-Lakers game on the ferry’s television, which we watched alongside what felt like half of Cape Cod! What, I couldn’t work the entire time.
In conclusion, my REU experience has been great so far! It’s interesting to live the life of a full-time observational astronomer- I am definitely developing a whole new level of appreciation for online weather forecast services. Interacting with the public at open nights is also a lot of fun. I have quite a bit of work ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to getting some interesting results!