Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exoplanet Hunting Techniques!

Summer Ash gave an amazing talk last night entitled: "Galactic Planet Hunting." She discussed the different techniques astronomers are using to find planets outside of our solar system, from looking at the wobble of the planet's host star, to looking at the drop of light that occurs when a planet eclipses its host star, and finally to looking for the planet directly. Additionally, we gave away some NASA swag, we had the 3D wall show and a flythrough the Solar System, and we had a few slideshows (Astronomy Picture of the Day and the discovery of water on the Moon).

Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative. It was clear when the lecture began but quickly became totally overcast for the observing period. However, we were able to give several groups of people a tour of the telescopes along with some history and background as to how they work.

Thanks to the 100 attendees and several volunteer graduate students!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Brown Dwarfs and 3D Mars on a cloudy night

Though the clouds kept us from observing the heavens, we had a delightful time from 7 to 9 pm Friday, February 5, 2010 learning about brown dwarf stars from Dr. Emily Rice of the American Museum of Natural History in a half hour lecture. Dr. Rice explained how brown dwarfs were first hypothesized and discovered and what we could expect with new missions including the WISE spacecraft for finding more of these enigmatic objects. She believes that it is likely there is a brown dwarf closer to us than Proxima Centauri (the second closest star to us after the Sun) that hasn't been discovered yet, but will be with WISE. Watch the news for exciting announcements coming from this mission which has been flying for almost two months now.

Additionally, we had a wonderful 3D-tour of Mars led by our own graduate student, Jana Grcevich using new 3D-display technology in our 1322 Pupin theater. These trips through 3-dimensional space are getting to be a real hit with those who attend our outreach events. If you haven't been in a while, consider coming and experiencing it for yourself!

Family Astro Day will be happening in two weeks February 20th from 5 to 7 pm. The theme this time will be "EXOPLANETS: The Search For Planets Outside Our Solar System". The program is designed for families with children aged 6 to 12. Space is limited, though, so please e-mail us to RSVP.