Via email from astronomer extraordinaire Chuck Bueter:
“Tonight is a good night to look up. The International Space Station zooms over Michiana from 6:34 p.m. to 6:39ish, southwest to northeast. You can’t miss it, so take a friend or family member outside with you.
Then the Geminid meteor shower happens late into the night and morning darkness. I’ve been watching some dazzling Geminds the past few nights. The weather forecast is favorable (again, in Michiana), and the moon is nearly new, so out of sight. For details see “Go Outside December 13-14″ at http://www.nightwise.org/blog/. ”
Three astronomy events are coming to Michiana in mid-November. First, on Saturday, November 17, the Michiana Astronomical Society (MAS) is gathering on the plaza at Villa Macri after 9 pm to watch the Leonid meteor shower. Dress warm, bring a lawn chair, and await shooting stars patiently.
Two days later, on Monday, November 19, people who are interested in buying a telescope for the holidays can drop into the Lions Room of the downtown Mishawaka library anytime from 4 PM to 7 PM for advice. Veteran telescope user Jim Hopkins of Naperville, IL, will be on hand to speak one-on-one with inquiring buyers.
Third, after the telescope buying dialogue, the regular meeting of the MAS will feature Dave Brunsting speaking about Michiana Rocketry. The meeting begins at 7 PM, with the talk covering “almost everything you ever wanted to know about hobby rocketry.”
On July 4, 2012, scientists at CERN from the CMS and Atlas collaborations announced that the evidence they’ve accumulated for the Higgs Boson has finally crossed the “discovery” threshhold of 5 sigma. Huh?
The more you learn about the discovery of the Higgs, the more the news of its discovery seems both old hat and an incredibly big deal. On one hand, the evidence has been long in coming: it better have been, for the $10B investment investment we’ve made in the hunt. So there’s not much new in the discovery announcement. On the other hand, what is unfolding here is an almost unfathomably successful episode in the history of science: a REALLY big deal. Rather than try to sketch the spectrum of reactions myself, I’ll just put down a few contributions that I’ve found useful, below. But first, a small story.
Back in 1999, Notre Dame physicist Randy Ruchti invited a bunch of local physics teachers into a program designed to invite students into particle physics. These invitations–to teachers first, and with them to students–were on the whole pretty well received. Teachers have hung around the Notre Dame QuarkNet Center for 14 years, and brought local students with them…hundreds of them. Seeing these invitations as a pretty good way to conduct science education, these teachers worked together–successfully proposing the Notre Dame extended Research Community (NDeRC) for funding to the National Science Foundation in 2006–to invite hundreds more, not only into particle physics but into many other areas of science and engineering. Working with graduate students and university faculty in university laboratories, these teachers designed experiences to extend the invitation to their students…now approaching tens of thousands of them.
A few handfuls of these local students assembled components now taking data in the CMS detector; others helped design the interface for student analysis of data flowing from CMS; others still are even this summer busy developing components for the next CMS upgrade: these relatively few students and their teachers were closely involved in the particle physics community. But all tens of thousands of them, in a way, owe a major part of their experience of science and engineering to the hunt for the Higgs: no CMS, no NDeRC. So it’s fair to say that the hunt for the Higgs is a pretty big deal around here. We’re better able than many to see the story of the Higgs discovery as our story. It’s entirely common to hear teachers and students talking about the hunt and its success in terms of “we”. And well they should.
So what’s the Higgs? Here’s a useful movie. It’s pretty basic, but it moves fast. Consider watching it twice.
If you want just a little bit more–you can read it slower;)–check out this blog post. Finally, here’s another take on why the discovery of the Higgs is such a big deal, and why it’s such a sad thing that the general public doesn’t appreciate the discovery so well.
I’ve got to say that it’s not quite so sad around here.
I had a wonderful opportunity to observe the transit of Venus this past month (June 6th, 2012). Dr. Craig Lent is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Dept. at the University of Notre Dame. He is an amateur astrophysicist as well as an astrophotographer. He kindly set up his personal telescopes at the Trinity School Athletic Center, and hosted a star party- or actually a Transit of Venus party.
Here are some pictures of Dr. Lent and some of the observers.
If you would like to see some of his incredible astrophotos, check these out.
If you missed the spectacular musical/digital concert in the DVT at Notre Dame last week, I can honestly say that it was a unique and overwhelmingly enjoyable experience. Axiom Brass (If you have ears, you should experience their music) performed in collaboration with Keith Davis in the DVT for a musical event which was accompanied by digital astronomical pieces also performed live on the dome of the DVT.
While Axiom Brass performed pieces named after the great astronomers (Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Hubble, & Hawking), Keith would display different astronomically related imagery, such as galaxies, the planetary orbits, and asteroids, on the dome that were created to go along with the music. It was a beautiful experience and the visuals were a hauntingly impressive connection to the movements in the music.
They were great guys, both musically and in person. I hope we get to have them back again before the next transit of Venus.
I had a great time with some 40 middle school students from South Bend Community School Corporation’s Navarre Intermediate Center this morning: they created close to 40 astroimages using the Aladin applet after an exploration of the cosmos in Google Sky. Orienting to Google Earth and Sky, all the way through creation and publication of astroimages, was a pretty big challenge for 5th graders, but they proved up to the task. (The procedure they used can be found here.) Thanks to Deb Notestine and JINA for the invitation to spend time with these students, part of a much larger group that came to campus to explore a variety of topics in astronomy; thanks to the astrophysics graduate students who put research aside for a time to assist; thanks also to the teachers from Navarre who helped make this trip work.