The public is invited to “Islam at the Crossroads- Reflections on the History and Historiography of Astronomical Transmission” by F. Jamil Ragep on Wednesday, June 12, at 7:00 p.m. in the Digital Visualization Theater (DVT) at Jordan Hall of Science:
“Premodern Islamic societies stood at a crossroads both in time and in space, temporally between the ancient world and the modern, and spatially in the midst of the civilizations of the oecumene. Recent studies have discovered any number of interesting cases of scientific transmission to and from Islam, which accentuate its critical role in both scientific transmission and transformation over more than a millennium. But another line of argument has played down this role, based on either cultural specificity or else on assumptions of parallel (but independent) development. This talk will explore these alternatives and argue that in fact intercultural scientific transmission, both in the Islamic case and in others, should be seen as more the norm rather than the exception.”
Ragep is the Canada Research Chair in the History of Science in Islamic Societies, Director of the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
A good way to experience and to appreciate the night sky is to camp out under the stars with telescopes. Mark your calendar now for two such opportunities in Michiana, one targeting youths and the other for all ages.
For kids, consider AstroCamp at YMCA Camp Eberhart in Three Rivers, MI, July 7-13, 2013. See http://www.astrocamp.us for details. For adults and families, register now for the Michiana Star Party, May 10-12 at Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Vandalia, MI. See http://www.nightwise.org/blog/michiana-star-party-5/ for incentive (I hope) to attend, whether overnight or just for an evening visit.
Both outings are opportunities to step away from many modern conveniences and their attendant light pollution, and to enjoy the night sky as it ought be seen. You can do this.
Maybe you’ve seen the picture: the best image we have of the cosmic microwave background radiation, from the Planck mission. This newest image of the oldest things is creating a bit of stir. It’s important to know something about why.
Cosmic microwave background radiation is the observable limit of the light that is emitted from the big bang. For most of us this has an unfamiliar ring, but it’s not so hard to grasp. When we catch a glimpse of the sun, light has just traveled the ~93 million miles to reach us, which took about 8 minutes. As we look further out–to the nearest star, say–it takes light longer (about four years) to cover the distance. But it turns out that the space over which that light is traveling is actually stretching: we know this from watching the chemical signatures in the light, which shift with distance in just the way that sound waves stretch (and seem lower in pitch) when their source (say, an ambulance) is moving away from us. Our speeding away from the source makes the wavelength of light more red when we detect it, just as sound waves seem lower when their source is fleeing; we call this change in light “red shift.” The upper limit of red-shifted light is from the oldest, furthest-away sources. These sources–like points on opposite ends of a balloon while it is being blow up–are fleeing every other point on the balloon most rapidly, and are stretched into longer wavelengths, in the microwave region.
This oldest, most red-shifted light from the big bang is the cosmic microwave background radiation. And it’s not behaving quite as the standard model of cosmology–what most scientists accept as pretty well established–predicted that it would. In many ways, that’s a bit misleading: it behaves as expected in a great many respects. But not in all. Watch the short video below to find out more. And stay tuned: Planck is still taking data, and what it has already delivered has stirred a flurry of scientific activity. It’s worth stretching a bit to follow the conversation.
Planning for the 2013 Comet Festival is underway, with some initial details announced at http://www.nightwise.org/blog/comet-festival-after-perihelion/. It will unofficially begin Thanksgiving Day around 5:00 p.m., when Comet ISON makes its closest approach to the sun. Public events will likely begin that Saturday, which is Small Business Day in South Bend, IN.
It is important to convey the message that the comet’s appearing as a good morning apparition is no certainty, for comets are fickle. But that uncertainty is no reason to back away from an opportunity to celebrate math and science in action. The success of the Comet Festival is not dependent on Comet ISON surviving its sungrazing.
The comet festival will have several events that parallel the regional transit of Venus programs (http://www.transitofvenus.org/june2012/trove). Dayle Brown and Cathy McCormick are already stepping up to coordinate a comet-related art exhibit, and the Riverbend Community Math Center will again lead math activities and a community treasure hunt. I welcome your ideas for other festival features. An organizational meeting will be occurring soon, so let me know if you are interested in a role.
Dr. Philip Sakimoto will be a featured speaker at the Michiana Star Party, May 10-12, 2013. His talk, “The Dream is Alive…and Changing”, addresses the questions many of us astronomy enthusiasts are asking:
What is humankind’s destiny? Is it to travel to the stars and build colonies in space, or is it something closer to home on Planet Earth? In this talk, Dr. Sakimoto will offer an insider’s perspective on human space travel from Apollo to the present day. How do political forces shape space policy? What are the realities of time, costs, and safety? Why do we now seem so lost in space, and what can we do about it?
Dr. Philip Sakimoto is currently the Director of Academic Excellence for Notre Dame’s College of First Year of Studies. Before coming to Notre Dame, he was the Program Manager and Acting Director of NASA’s Space Science Education and Public Outreach Program, and a member of NASA’s strategic planning team.
Yes, you can witness Comet Pan-STARRS with binoculars or a modest telescope. I observed it last night with a crowd at Weko Beach in Bridgman, MI. Never did see it naked-eye, however, as the haze and sky glow over northern Chicago washed out the background sky. See www.nightwise.org/blog/panstarrs-weko-beach/.
Look for it in ensuing nights while it’s still relatively bright. Binoculars work well for finding it about 20-30 minutes after sunset.
At http://www.nightwise.org/blog/awaiting-comet/ is a summary of the comet-watching from Weko Beach. The Andrews University team is going try again this evening, Wednesday, March 13. The public is welcome to join the Astronomy Club. Enjoy the vantage point with their binoculars or telescope, or bring your own. Dress warmly.
A comet cometh–see it yourself. Look over Lake Michigan on Tuesday, March 12, with telescopes set up at Weko Beach in Bridgman, MI, by the Andrews University Astronomy Club. Enjoy a Lake Michigan sunset and comet activities, then segue into comet gazing at twilight and stargazing at night. Details and any weather postponement at http://www.andrews.edu/agenda/keywords/AstroWatch.
Comets are within our ken, and you can build your own denizen from the deep! Make a dry ice comet (http://www.nightwise.org/blog/comet-class/) with Comet Chef Chuck Bueter on Monday, March 18, then take your new skill back home or into the classroom. Join the hands-on session at the regular meeting of the Michiana Astronomical Society (http://www.michiana-astro.org/) at 7:00 p.m. in the Lions Room of the downtown Mishawaka library, 209 Lincolnway East. A $3.00 donation is requested to cover the cost of supplies if you pre-register. However, if you prefer to be a casual spectator, you’re welcome simply to drop in on the action. That said, it’s much more fun to make one yourself, and it will build your confidence so you can make a comet before your own audience.
Whether Comet PANSTARRS (peaking in mid-March) and Comet ISON (peaking around Thanksgiving) are visual spectacles or over-hyped poofs, they’ll be in the news and in the minds of the public. Now’s your chance to embrace one of nature’s itinerant celestial wonders. Details, registration, links to the comet recipe, and chef tips are at http://www.nightwise.org/blog/comet-class/.
On Sunday, March 3, at 3:00 p.m. in the Notre Dame Digital Visualization Theater (DVT), Professor Grant Mathews “will examine how the universe is a time machine and how Einstein’s theory of relativity helps to conceptualize the meaning of space and time,” per the South Bend Tribune (March 1 “Briefs”). The program Birth of the Universe and the Meaning of Space-Time: The Real Big Bang Theory is free and open to the public. Notre Dame’s state-of-the-art digital theater is at the north end of Jordan Hall of Science.