Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28: A visit to PS 282 in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Today, March 28, 2011, in the morning three Columbia University Astronomy Department graduate students and one undergraduate visited PS 282 in Brooklyn with two telescopes in tow. As the moon was a few days past third-quarter phase, it was possible to see both the sun and the moon! 120 first graders braved the cold and waited patiently for their turn to take a look at each of these celestial objects. Many of them had never looked through a telescope before and were very excited that they could see dark and light spots and even a few craters on the moon's surface as well as sunspots on the Sun. At the end of the visit, each class was presented with 3D images of the Sun, posters, and some CD-ROMs for distribution among the students.

Many thanks to the volunteers who made the trek out to another borough to help raise astronomy awareness.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 25, 2011: Ancient East Asian Astronomy

This past Friday we had an excellent lecture on ancient east Asian astronomy given by graduate student Joo Heon Yoon. The talk focused on ancient astronomical techniques from Joo's homeland of Korea. Joo described how modern astronomers and historians can use observations made by ancient astronomers to constrain both scientific models and historical theories.

Hazy weather obscured the view for most of the night, but our roof volunteers persevered and gave visitors views of M44, the Orion nebula and Sirius. Our roof volunteers Neil Zimmerman, Richard Darst, Bryan Terrazas, Dan D'Orazio and Ian Allen did a great job. Graduate student Yuan Li also showed visitors 3d visualizations astronomical topics spanning the universe from the solar system to the formation of large scale structure. A few people stuck around in the lecture hall for slide shows on star clusters and exoplanet detection led by Christine Simpson.

Thanks to all our volunteers and to the 120 people who came to our


Monday, March 14, 2011

March 11, 2011: IceCube Astronomy

On March 11, one of our senior undergraduates majoring in astrophysics, David Fierroz, gave a talk about a neutrino telescope that he worked on last summer, IceCube. David talked about how IceCube was built at the South Pole and he described the long trip to get there. About 150 visitors came by to hear how the telescope is opening up a new branch of astronomy, discovering objects in a completely new way. As arguably the largest telescope in the world, IceCube will be able to observe some of the most extreme phenomena in the universe including supernova, and supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.

Afterwards, one of our incoming graduate students, Jia Liu, gave a talk about a standard day and night at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Also, one of our graduating students explained how Stellarium works and showed the conjunction of planets over the year. While the weather was not great enough to look at stars through the telescope, we were able to give tours of the telescope roof and dome, and even look at the moon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Family Astro: Telescopes!

We had over 50 people visit for Family Astro Saturday on March 5, 2011 including both children and parents. The topic was telescopes. The kids learned about different types of telescopes, including the Hubble space telescope and the way that astronauts fixed it. Then everyone got a chance to observe pictures they drew of objects in space through small telescopes. In one activity, kids pretended to be light moving at different speeds as it was being bent, just like it would be as it went through a lens. We also made models of telescopes using paper cups, and used balls of different sizes to show how different types of telescopes are able to catch different wavelengths of light. Finally, we watched a 3D movie about galaxies. Thanks to the volunteers, Jana, Jennifer, Lia, Brandon, and Yuan for helping out and making the event a success!