We had an exciting evening on Friday March 5 from 7 to 9 pm with about 60 visitors to Pupin Hall and Rutherfurd Observatory. John Ruan, a Columbia College Senior in the Department of Astronomy (going on to graduate school next year) gave a fantastic lecture about gamma-ray bursts. Among the most amusing anecdotes he gave was the number of Coca-colas all of humanity would need to drink over the age of the universe in order to equal the amount of energy given off by one gamma-ray burst. The answer was a number too large to count in your lifetime!
Although it was hazy, the skies were clear enough to get a peak at Mars. The Red Planet is on a close approach to the Earth right now (an event that happens approximately once every two years) and so our view of it is getting to be pretty good. Even a small pair of binoculars can reveal that it is a disk and a moderately powered telescope can resolve the white polar ice caps! Definitely worth a look.