Saturday, May 8, 2010

Photographing Extra-Solar Planets

Despite forecasts for bad weather last night, we got some relatively good skies and views of M3 (a globular cluster of stars), Alcor & Mizar (a binary pair of stars in the Big Dipper), and Saturn. There was a wonderful lecture by Anand Sivaramakrishnan, the chief instrumentation engineer at the Museum of Natural History, on the topic of directly imaging extrasolar planets using interferometry. He discussed a new way in which to observe with modern optical and infrared telescopes which provides more information about planetary companions of stars than other methods. This new technique is currently being used on the Gemini telescope and will soon be used on the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's successor.

To follow up on the lecture, we showed a couple of short films on various aspects of stars, including the new program: "Journey to the Stars." Additionally, we had a few informal lessons from Jia Liu and Jennifer Weston regarding "Stars" and "Comets and Meteor Showers" to celebrate the Eta Aquarids meteor shower going on last night. There was some NASA poster swag for everyone to take.

Thank you to the 8 volunteers and 75 attendees last night!