[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.