Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 16: How I Discovered A Supernova

We had a wonderful turnout for Caroline Moore's talk "How I Discovered a Supernova." Caroline gave an enthusiastic and informative talk that covered all aspects of her amazing discovery of SN2008ha. Caroline primed her audience with the background on stellar evolution needed to understand why supernova form and emphasized what types of stars ultimately end as supernova (not all do!). She mentioned some debate that has surrounded the classification of the SN2008ha -- indeed, SN2008ha has a very low luminosity and determining its class has required followup work using a wide range of telescopes to understand its nature. Caroline described the process of "blinking" frames that she used to find SN2008ha. There were many children present in the audience, and in the end she let them try to find SN2008ha by blinking the frames and letting them find the supernova. Indeed, this proved more difficult than expected but also got the point across that this kind of work requires extreme meticulousness. After the talk, Caroline answered a range of questions and this is when we learned that she also discovered another supernova recently: SN2009he!

Unfortunately, the sky was cloudy but around 40 people still went up to the rooftop observatory for a tour, led by grad student Josh Schroeder and assisted by Jeff Andrews, Curtis Cooper, Ian Allen, and Miao Li. Grad student Jana Grcevich led 3D visual simulations up on the 13th floor of Pupin Hall. In the lecture hall after the talk, undergrad Emir Karamehmetoglu and I showed the video "Cosmic Collisions" and this led to an open discussion on a variety of astronomy topics. Thanks to all the volunteers and the 170 people who came out for the night!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 2: Are there other Universes?

Last night we had a fantastic lecture given by postdoctoral researcher David Kagan entitled: "Is Our Universe Alone in the Multiverse?" David covered a full introduction to assure everyone was on the same page for this high-level but philosophically interesting subject. He described the idea of an expanding observable universe, the multiworlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the inflaton field theory and how it could describe other universes popping into existence ourside of our observable window and more. After his talk, he fielded questions for the remainder of the period from a group of dedicated enthusiasts.

In addition to the lecture, we had great observing conditions on the roof. Adrian Price-Whelan led a crew of graduate volunteers on our telescopes, helping attendees see the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy, the first-quarter Moon, and Jupiter. In addition Yuan Li ran the 3D visualization wall permitting attendess to see simulation results and education movies in 3 dimensional projections. Thanks to all of the 160 people we had turn out!