Saturday, September 26, 2009

Science Fiction and Water on the Moon

Jana Grcevich delivered one of the best lectures of the year last night entitled: "Science vs Fiction in Science Fiction". She had movie clips from Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and explanations as to why the physics in these scenes was not real science. The weather was very clear and the Moon was at first quarter, so we got great views of Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, the Double Cluster, and the Moon.

After the lecture, Cameron Hummels explained the recent discovery of water ice on the surface of the Moon and its implications for the future of space exploration. There was also a Q&A session and a slideshow on different types of spiral galaxies by Maureen Teyssier. Lastly, we showed parts of the old AMNH planetarium show, Cosmic Collisions to finish off the night.

Thanks to all of the 100 attendees who showed up. I hope we'll see you at the From Earth to the Universe photo exhibition on campus the week of October 5-October 13.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Aliens and Life in the Universe

Last night, Friday September 18, we had a great lecture by Maureen Teyssier about what extraterrestrial life might have in common with us. She detailed the chemistry necessary for life as we understand it, as well speculated on how the environments of other lifeforms might affect them.

Unfortunately, the weather started out pretty crummy at the beginning of the night with clouds covering the sky. At 9:00 however, the clouds thinned, and we were able to set up 4 of the telescopes on the roof to look at various targets. We viewed Jupiter, Albireo, Alcor & Mizar, and the Double Cluster. Because some thin cloud remained, we were unable to look at any fainter targets.

At the same time, keeping in line with the "life in the universe" theme, Andrew Brown ran a slideshow on the possibilities of life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. We also showed a space shuttle launch video, some time-lapse photography from the summit of Mauna Kea (one of the biggest observatories in the world), and took questions from the audience on a variety of astronomical topics.

Thanks to all of the 125 attendees who showed up, and I hope we'll see you next week!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New school year, new web presence

Thanks to the work of Destry, we now have a much-improved homepage to represent our outreach programs. In addition, we've expanded our web presence to include the following:

*this blog, where we'll document each of our events with descriptions and photos

*a schedule of our events at Google calendar

*a Facebook group to help spread the word

*a Twitter page with quick weather updates for stargazing

*a youtube account, where we'll soon archive video recordings of our Friday lectures.

Our first event of the fall semester is coming right up--this Friday, September 18th. We'll begin at 8 pm in the basement lecture hall 301 with a half-hour talk by Maureen, Is There Life Like Us in Outer Space?, and we'll follow that with rooftop stargazing if the sky is clear. We're looking forward to seeing new and familiar faces!