Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 8: Astronomer vs Astronomer

Scientists do not always agree with each other, and many times, scientific progress is made through debates. On Friday, November 8th, graduated student Jennifer Weston gave a public lecture about a few of the greatest arguments in astronomy in the past 150 years, and how they were resolved. One of the biggest debates in the history of astronomy and astrophysics, the 'Great Debate', was about whether the Milky Way, our own galaxy, was the entire universe, or there were other galaxies out there, seen as the "spiral nebulae". The debate was eventually resolved by the work of Edwin Hubble, which shows that the spiral nebulae are not only galaxies outside of our own, but they are also moving away from us at high speeds. 

After the lecture, many people went to the roof where graduate student Adrian Price-Whelan showed off the Moon and Albiero along with Andrew Emerick, Susan Clark, Aleksey Generozov, and David Jaimes. On the 13th floor, visitors enjoyed 3D astronomy movies with Barnard student Gladys Velez-Caicedo. In the lecture hall, graduate student Yuan Li presented a slide show on planets outside the solar system found by NASA's Kepler telescope

Join us on November 22 for a lecture by Jeremiah Murphy on supernova explosions.

-- Yuan Li (graduate student)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

October 25: The Sounds of the Stars

In the lecture on Friday, October 25th, the magic of sound was unveiled by Jeff Oishi, a research scientist in AMNH, who vividly showed that sound waves could be decomposed into simple sinusoidal plane waves. With the help of specific frequency-analyzing software, the differences among various types of sounds, such as whistles, noises, singing were visualized based on their amplitudes and frequencies (pitch). Jeff also introduced an application of sound waves in asteroseismology, by which means the internal structures of stars wound be known since sound waves wound present different oscillation modes when propagating through different depths. 

After the lecture, discussions on topics such as interpretations of sound waves’ propagation and the earth tides took place between the speaker and the audience. In addition, the weather was so amazingly good that a lot of visitors went up to the roof to enjoy the observations of Altair, Albireo, Vega, and the Owl Cluster

Volunteers on Friday night included graduate students Jingjing Chen in the lecture hall and Susan Clark, Steph Douglas, Ron Tso, Tze Gho and David Jaimes on the roof.

— Yong Zheng (graduate student)