Last Thursday, the public observing team hosted a successful event with the theme of black holes and galaxies. Andrea, Mariah and Erica provided a great set of arts & crafts and trivia facts for all those who attended; we brought out galaxy catalogues for our attendees to look through and draw inspiration from, and a word search all about black holes. I gave a short talk about how stars die and how black holes are born, and was blown away by the amazing questions all the kids asked. Special thanks to the local boy scout troop for adding to our incredible turnout! Our next event will be the Thursday evening of Halloween; we’ll be opening up the telescopes, weather permitting, and troubleshooting an episode of The Simpsons!
Hey all! Unfortunately, the weather last Thursday put a damper on our plans for public observing. The good news is that Dave Goldberg, a cosmologist and popular science author, still made it to campus for a whole day of lecturing and a public talk. Dave has just published a new book titled The Universe in The Rearview Mirror, which is all about the idea of symmetry and why it is integral to most branches of physics. I’ll borrow a word he used a lot on campus and say that the book is ‘awesome’! It is both comprehensible and mind-blowing, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any level of interest in physics. Dave sat in on a couple of astro classes during the day, teaching an engaging lecture on clusters and gravitational lensing in the upper-level galactic astronomy course. He then gave a public talk about the idea of symmetry in physics, outlining some key principles and covering a wide range of topics and examples. Pictures from the talk will follow soon, and once again I recommend his book to anyone interested in physics on any level!
Lee Rosenthal, ’15
Over Spring Break in March, John Bochanski and I took 4 students to Tucson. Three current sophomores in my Intro to Astrophysics class (Dan DeLuzio, Lyn Oehrig, Tianyi Yang) and a senior astronomy major at Swarthmore, Jake Neely. As always, the Green Fund and Koshland Integrated Natural Science Center supported our trip.
We arrived on a Monday and, after a quick stop at In-and-Out burger, headed straight for the mirror lab at the University of Arizona. This amazing facility is where the largest mirrors for the largest telescopes in the world are made, including mirrors to go in the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Buddy Martin is a Haverford alum who is the polishing scientist and the Team Leader for the optics team at the lab. He very generously invited us for a special tour of the facility. John brought along his camera and got a couple of nice pics, including one of all of us posed near the LSST mirror.
The next morning, we headed up the mounting for our four night run on the WIYN 0.9m telescope. We were there to obtain time-series observations of a couple of Milky Way satellites, including Ursa Major II and Bootes III. This summer, students will use these data to search for RR Lyrae stars. We had a great time!
This pic shows Lyn and Dan working on making a pretty picture out of some fun observations. The students enjoyed making pics out of nebulae including the Crab and Ring nebulae:
Although we spent most of the time working hard, John found time to go outside and take an art shot (I’m having technical challenges uploading it for some reason) and also time to make us pose for a group pic.
[I wrote this posting in late 2012, but never got it posted on the Astronoblog. Here you go!]
Last semester, Haverford and its students got to experience the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and its discoveries through a special event and a related project engaged in by our Astronomical Ideas students.
Saving Hubble screening
At the end of October 2012, we had two distinguished visitors to campus to participate in a number of Hubble-related events with students, faculty and the public: David Gaynes (director of the documentary Saving Hubble) and Nitya Kallivayalil (astrophysicist, Yale University). The first event was a big dinner in the observatory, for our visitors, our students, faculty, and local amateur astronomers. The dinner was great fun. Unfortunately the skies were cloudy, so we couldn’t take full advantage of the expertise of our amateur astronomy friends. After dinner, about a hundred students, and members of the public gathered in Stokes Auditorium for a screening of Gaynes’s film Saving Hubble. Afterwards, we had a panel discussion were Gaynes and Kallivayalil talked about the film itself, as well as some of Hubble’s major discoveries:
The next day, Gaynes, Kallivayalil, John Bochanski (astronomy postdoc at Haverford) and I went to our Special Collections to view the 1543 first edition of Copernicus’s book On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres, Newton’s Principia as well as early editions of some of Einstein’s work. We were generously hosted by John Anderies (who you can see in the picture below) and Ann Upton, as always.
We enjoyed our trip to Special Collections so much, that we needed to hurry to reach the Visual Studies lunch, hosted by John Muse and Vicky Funari, in time. We had an enjoyable conversation about visualization in astronomy, and in particular related to the images produced by HST. The conversation sparked some ongoing exchanges between John Bochanski, Willie Williams and I about HST images as “fine art”. [This reminds me, that I should follow-up on this!]
Gaynes’ and Kallivayalil’s visit was capped off by visits to my back-to-back Astronomical Ideas classes, during which the students could ask them questions. The students were required to attend the screening the night before and hand in questions they had afterwards. To structure the class visit, Gaynes, Kallivayalil, and I curated a list of discussion questions from that set. The pic below makes the class visits look far less exciting than it actually was. I’m an astronomer, not a photographer.
These visits and associated events were supported by the Humanities Center, the KINSC, and the Provost’s office.
Inspired by HST’s discoveries and the visits of Gaynes and Kallivayalil, Astronomical Ideas students worked in teams to record podcasts about an object that HST has observed. They were great fun to listen to; this project has been one of the highlights of the last two iterations of Astronomical Ideas at Haverford.
This evening, we hosted a wildly successful and fun event in Strawbridge Observatory for families in our community. Thanks to Mariah Baker, the student who led the event, and a number of other student volunteers, we entertained 125+ guests in our small space. Mariah knocked it out of the park with her selection of fun science-based activities, her preparation and leadership, and the awesome signs she created. She deserves huge recognition for her accomplishment in pulling off this event. We didn’t know if we would have 10 guests or 80 and we had more. Hopefully, many future scientists had fun with the telescope and activities on offer.
I have just a handful of phone pix taken before the event was in full swing. We were happily very busy with our generous turnout!
Lee Rosenthal and Mariah Baker talked about cratering with two guests. Kids were given the opportunity to select their own meteor and experiment with how height of infall correlated with the crater morphology generated upon impact.
Robin Chernow and Lyn Oehrig got very messy with oobleck – a slimy mixture of cornstarch and water that has properties in common with the Earth’s mantle. You can see some of the collateral damage in this picture.
This is our first audience for our liquid nitrogren comet ice cream. We went through about 80 spoons for kid visitors alone. Peter Ferguson started out as one of the student leads on this demonstration. Lee Rosenthal was the student lead for this awesome demonstration for the rest of the night, once Peter left to manage the telescope. Special thanks to Chemistry professor, Alex Norquist, for hooking us up with the dewars and LN2 access.
The paper bag space helmet craft activity was also a big hit, with junior Sarah Sofia setting a very high bar with the space helmet she made to begin the night.
The unsung heros in the basement, Alex Dillaire and Eric Smith, led a moon phase demonstration. They capitalized on the stream of customers heading to the basement bathroom sink, messy with melted ice cream and oobleck.
Last but not least, Peter Ferguson did a hero’s job on our 16-inch telescope. He and I carefully considered whether to open the dome given the prior night’s snow (and consulted Steve Boughn). While the main floor of the observatory was overflowing with astronomy, Peter opened the telescope on his own and safely led dozens of families through observing Jupiter and some star clusters.
I cannot speak highly enough for the excellence demonstrated by all of these student volunteers tonight. I felt privileged to be working along side of them.
Hello, my name is Alexander Dillaire and I am a junior Astrophysics major at Haverford College. Tonight is the last night we will be staying at Kitt Peak; we fly out tomorrow morning. So far this has been a phenomenal experience, with no shortage of excitement. Last night, we had major technical issues that almost forced us to stop collecting data. I might be exaggerating a little on that part, but not too much. Unfortunately, the first instance of serious trouble came when I was the main person collecting data. That was really frustrating. Luckily, we tackled the problem by side-stepping the issue. It took more effort on our part, but it made things much smoother.
We also took pictures of two celestial bodies, M33 and Barnard 33. M33 is a spiral galaxy and Barnard 33 is the Horsehead nebula. All of our images came out well, which was really a highlight of the night. Both are great to look at. My partner and I are planning to make posters with our pretty images for our personal enjoyment. It was a blast taking the pictures, even if the exposure time was long. 9 minutes is a long wait for a cool picture, but they were worth it.
Tonight, we have not had much technical issues. We kept the solution from yesterday and so we are diligently taking notes. The data we are collecting from the CCD camera is turning out well, there’s just a lot of work to be done and it’s very repetitive. It’s all in the name of science, so it’s a burden we are willing to take. Overall, I think that this has been a wonderful experience. I mean, seriously, how often do you go on field trips in college. It’s the greatest. Just shows how awesome being an Astrophysics major at Haverford College is.
I just returned from Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) with five students. We left our colleagues Professor Steve Boughn and students Alex Dillaire and Estella de Souza behind to finish up the last two nights of our observing run on the 0.9m telescope. Erica Hopkins and Sarah Sofia have already talked a bit about our experience (that also included Mimi Fuchs, Peter Ferguson, and Mariah Baker). I had an amazing time, and the students were highly impressive in their dilligence in data acquisition, analysis, and troubleshooting. We were very busy both nights, whether obtaining time-series observations of a Milky Way globular cluster for science, observing beautiful nebulae and galaxies for fun, looking up at the sky trying to see M31 with our naked eyes, trying to figure out how to reset the emergency stop switch, filling the dewar, eating spicy hot Cheetos, or listening to music. One highlight for me was seeing both Venus and Jupiter bright in the sunrise sky at 6 am.
I could go on and on about our trip, but I really want to show a few pictures taken by Mariah Baker:
My name is Erica Hopkins and I’m a junior astrophysics major. Tonight was our second night observing at Kitt Peak. We had good observing for most of the night, however it got cloudy near the end. We got over a dozen images of Palomar 13 in both V and B band and a few images of Ursa Major II. Ursa Major II is only up for a short time and we lost some of that time due to bad weather. Overall it was a successful night and we look forward to continuing our observations the next two nights.
Hello from Kitt Peak National Observatory! My name is Sarah Sofia and I am a Junior Physics/Astronomy major at Haverford. I am here observing with Haverford’s Observational Astronomy class. We are currently on our second night of observing on the 0.9 meter telescope at Kitt Peak taking data of Palomar 13 and Ursa Major II, looking for RR lyrae variable stars.
Although we had a few struggles with weather and equipment problems our first night, we had a great night of observing. We had a big set back at the beginning of the night after the CCD camera had warmed up significantly, making our images unusable. However, with a lot of refilling of the dewer by my classmates, the camera was cooled back down and we were back in business for observing. There were a few other setbacks in the night like setting off the dome alarm (DON’T hit the emergency stop!), persistent cloud cover, and Mimi and I even managed to get lost on our way to the dome (it’s VERY dark out here at night). Despite all that, we managed to have a fun, productive time observing. Because of the unfortunate cloud cover, we were unable to take good data of out targets. This, however, allowed us to take some beautiful pictures of the crab nebula and the orion nebula that made the long night completely worth it.
Tonight, the observing has been fantastic with a seeing of about 1.5 arcseconds. The night is absolutely beautiful up here, and we have been periodically standing outside to gaze at the crystal clear night sky, clearly seeing the milky way and stars we can never see at Haverford. We’re getting great data of Palomar 13, and hopefully will continue to throughout the night.
Greetings from San Francisco! My name is Miriam Fuchs, and I am a senior Astrophysics major at Haverford College. This summer I’m interning at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), a non-profit dedicated to increasing science literacy through astronomy education. After spending the previous two summers conducting astronomy research, I wanted to try out astronomy education and see how I liked it.
So far, I’ve been having a blast! I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hand in a few different areas of astronomy education and outreach. My main focus for the summer has been multicultural astronomy education. Astronomy has been an important focus for cultures throughout the centuries; how can we incorporate cultural models of the universe and observational methods into current astronomy education? I’ve been attempting to answer this question in a few different ways. One way is through updating a multicultural astronomy resource guide compiled by Andrew Fraknoi in 2008. For a variety of cultures, there are different activities, articles, links and general information for educators to turn to. More recently, I’ve been helping developing a multicultural astronomy activity to be used in two upcoming teacher workshops. The activity is based on calendars throughout the ages and how did different cultures marked the passage of time through astronomical observations.
I’ve also been able to get some more hands-on outreach experience at a myriad of local astronomy programs and events. In early June, I worked at Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA for the Transit of Venus. Over the course of the afternoon, around 3,000 people showed up! I showed visitors how to use the solar telescopes and answered questions about planets, transits and general astronomy conundrums. Here’s a photo of a family using one of our solarscopes:
Later in the month, I worked at a SETI convention where I got to have an incredible conversation with Dr. Frank Drake (of the famous Drake equation), and discuss my interest in astronomy. Definitely a highlight for the summer. Last week, I helped run a supernovae session at a local NASA Space Art Summer Program for high school students. Here’s a photo of the students participating in an activity called “The Kinesthetic Lifecycle of Stars” (they had just gotten to the supernova phase!):
I just got back from a weekend training workshop of the Bay Area Project ASTRO. Project ASTRO is a national program to improve science education through linking professional and amateur astronomers with local classrooms. At the workshop, we trained over 20 local astronomer/teacher pairs about different ways to teach astronomy in the classroom. We went over different methods of teaching science, innovative astronomy activities, and how astronomy/teacher partnerships can benefit students of all ages. It was an incredible experience that I am proud to be a part of. Here’s a photo of two astronomers and a teachers working on a scale model of the solar system:
I was fortunate enough to receive conference funding from Haverford to attend the ASP’s annual conference entitled “Communicating Science” in Tucson, AZ in early August. I’ll be presenting a poster there and helping facilitate a teacher training workshop.
All in all, everyone at the ASP has been incredibly inviting and helpful, whether it is inviting me to work on one of their projects, sharing their stories about how they got involved in astronomy education, or introducing me to useful contacts. I went into this summer considering a possible career in astronomy education and outreach, and my experience so far has pretty much solidified this notion. I’m excited to go back to Haverford in the Fall and share my outreach experience with my peers!
(If you want to see more photos or learn more about my summer work, you can check out my blog: aspintern.blogspot.com/)