Comet ISON has had a recent outburst, just as the Comet Festival starts to ramp up in South Bend, IN. Today at 6:30 p.m., astronomer Martin Ratcliffe will speak about comets at the PHM Digital Video Theater. See http://cometfestival.com/index.php/events/comet-or-bust/. An avid astrophotographer, Ratcliffe captured ISON’s splintering tail in stunning detail, which he’ll show at the Comet or Bust program.
Much else is happening with the Comet Festival, as suggested by the following links:
I invite you to check in often as the line-up continues to grow. Some events are underway. For example, the Potawatomi Zoo has a Tail End of the Season program (http://cometfestival.com/index.php/events/tail-end-season/) that features the characteristics of tails both for animals and for comets, but their last day of the season is December 1, 2013.
Next up: Over 20,000 students in the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) have made comet-themed art, of which 10 pieces from each of 33 schools go on display at the Colfax Cultural Center. Nearly all SBCSC schools had full assemblies (http://cometfestival.com/index.php/events/comets-schools/) to introduce the students to Comet ISON.
Dr. Micha Kilburn will present “The Universe Within Us” on Monday, October 21, at 7 PM in the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library at 209 Lincoln Way East, Mishawaka.
The iron in our blood, the calcium in our bones, and even the gold in our jewelry has an “out of this world” story that you won’t want to miss. At the regular meeting of the Michiana Astronomical Society, Dr. Micha Kilburn, Outreach Coordinator for the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA) will discuss nuclear processes occurring in stars, supernovae and other celestial realms.
The talk will begin after some regular club business opens the meeting.
Just as Comet ISON re-emerges from the other side of the sun, the Comet Festival is gaining steam. The Comet Festival embraces the uncertain fate of the sungrazing comet with a celebration from November 28 (periheilion) through December 8, 2013. One intention is to show that science does not have all the answers as we collectively watch a celestial phenomenon unfold.
Participating organizations range from A to Z (literally, from the astronomical society to the zoo). To encourage the cross-promotion of each group’s respective events and to coordinate activities, a planning meeting will be at the planetarium in Kennedy Primary Academy on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 9:00 a.m. Organizations, businesses, or individuals that want to step up for community-based science education are welcome to attend. Here’s a chance to show we value science, not just by teaching it but by living it together.
Dr. Padma Yanamandra-Fisher
Dr. Padma Yanamandra-Fisher of the Space Science Institute will join the dialogue via Skype to share some of the latest findings from the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign, for which she is spearheading the social media aspects while also conducting research with key NASA spacecraft.
This is a shout out to a great group of kids (of all ages) who explored the cosmos together for two weeks in July. 55 middle school students, two physics graduate students, one high school student, a veteran middle school teacher and myself had a great time. I could tell you a lot about it, but navigating some 1400 images taken during the event will be a lot more fun than reading about it. (This is a busy page, and the embedded widgets sometimes won’t load on the first attempt: if they don’t, just refresh the page.) Oh…and please don’t miss the fun you can have with the Cooliris widget: play with the buttons, and build your own here.)
For those who like a more ordered presentation, below is a slide show organizing some images around activity headings. The STC schedule has links to many of these activities. Enjoy.
There is no doubt that some truly unbelievable things exist beyond our universe. Space, however, is so vast that we have experienced only a fraction of everything that exists out there. Everyday astronomers are trying to learn more and more about what exists beyond Earth.
The NDQC Astro group is also trying to learn more about the mysteries of space. The students and teachers are using the amenities of the Jordan Hall of Science Observatory to do that. Focusing primarily on observing specific stars, the students are able to learn things like how to calibrate a research-grade telescope to make it do what is needed. Students also learn a lot about individual stars such as Arcturus or Vega.
I was given the privilege to go with them on one of their observations last week and in a short couple of hours I learned a lot about the night sky that I did not know before.
The educational camp “Sensing the Cosmos” has been going on the past few days on campus. Elementary school students from across the South Bend area have come to Notre Dame to learn what they can about the universe beyond Earth.
As would be expected, participating in a program like this involves the use of telescopes. A lot of telescopes. Many different kinds of telescopes. Telescopes that the students working at the NDQC are very familiar with. Throughout the week, the NDQC Astro group has been participating in a counselor’s role to these children.
Yesterday, for example, the NDQC students led the elementary school students through the process of viewing the Sun safely and by use of three different telescopes. One type of telescope, for example, was a solar filter. In a very basic sense, the solar filter removes all of the dangerous solar rays and enables the Sun to be looked straight at. It kind of looks like a bowl with a mirror across the surface and is shown in the picture below. Small sun spots and solar flares can also be seen with this device. The NDQC students tried yesterday, through use of the solar filter and other telescopes, to instill a basic understanding of the components of the telescope into these students.
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.