Monday, November 28, 2011

November 18: The Truth About Black Holes

On Friday, November 18th, over 200 astro enthusiasts gathered in Pupin to hear "The Truth About Black Holes." Dan D'Orazio shed some light on these enigmatic photon traps, discussing gravity, the equivalence principal and time as a malleable entity. Dan cut past the hype and speculation surrounding these theoretical predictions, and instead focused attention on the astrophysical contexts in which black holes exist, and how we can spot them.

Afterwards folks ascended to the roof, where Hugh Crawl, Jeff Andrews, Lauren Corlies, Sam Gordon and Lia Corralles showed visitors Jupiter, the Pleiades and Andromeda. For those who stayed downstairs, Munier Salem and Jenna Lemonias led a short quiz on Planet Trivia, which was entirely too easy for the stalwart enthusiasts.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

November 4: Captain Cook and the Cosmic Yardstick

Last Friday, Professor Martin Hendry, from the University of Glasgow, described how the first measurements of the size of the solar system were conducted, first by the ancient Greeks, and later refined by observations of the transit of Venus from two different towns in England. He demonstrated how the geometry of the transit, seen from two different locations, can provide enough information to determine the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Martin then described the voyage of the HMS Endeavor, and how the measurement of the transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti provided the most accurate measurement of the astronomical unit (AU) until Radar allowed for more refined measurements.

Following the talk, Brandon gave a talk on the next few rungs of the distance ladder, and how the measurement of the AU allows us to measure much vaster distances. Jeff, Adrian and Miao enlightened visitors with views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Uranus on the roof, lead by Sam Grunblatt. Jana expertly ran the 3D wall, highlighting some of the more exciting events in the universe, and Jia helped with organizing and ensured that visitors were able to find their way to the roof and movies. Concurrently, Martin Hendry was delivering another talk, this time for an audience of students from one of the astronomy department's other ventures, Rooftop Variables. All in all, it was a very successful night for Columbia Astronomy.