8 classrooms in 5 hours. 30 minutes per class. Grade levels ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. Unscripted, 1 index card of talking points. When I compare 'Career Day' at my kids' elementary school with my Ph.D. defense, that dissertation committee seems the easier audience-- fewer questions outside of my field.

This blog serves me well for my K12 talks. Many of the concepts I work with here-- what it's like to be a working astronomer, what motivates me, what neat science stuff have I come across-- are perfect for talking to school kids. I used much of material here when I talked there.
The Whole Earth Telescope (WET), a worldwide network of observatories coordinated by the University of Delaware, is synchronizing its lenses to provide round-the-clock coverage of a cooling star. As the star dims in the twilight of its life, scientists hope it will shed light on the workings of our own planet and other mysteries of the galaxy.

The dying star, a white dwarf identified as WDJ1524-0030, located in the constellation Ophiuchus in the southern sky, is losing its brightness as it cools, its nuclear fuel spent. It will be monitored continuously from May 15 to June 11 by WET, a global partnership of telescopes which was formed in 1986.
Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Drew Feustel successfully installed the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) Thursday during the first of five scheduled EVAs, or spacewalks, to rejuvenate the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble was "full of surprises" for the astronauts, and EVA 1 took an hour longer than planned, but the veteran space and ground crews overcame all obstacles and Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) remains right on schedule.  (See the full scheduled timeline in my previous post.)
They did a great job describing the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, but an awful job showing a picture of it.  "They" will remain nameless, as they otherwise put together a really great exhibit of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.  But in a panel where they talk about the Ultra Deep Field, they show pictures of something completely different: two galaxy clusters named Abell 1689 and CL0024.  They are beautiful examples of gravitational lensing which enables us to almost "see" dark matter, but not they are not the UDF.
Monday afternoon the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off into the Florida sky carrying with it the hopes and dreams of astronomers like me and people around the world.  Seven NASA astronauts have set out to repair the aging Hubble Space Telescope and upgrade it with new instruments.

The launch was picture-perfect from our vantage point at Space View Park in Titusville, Florida.  This may be the second shuttle launch I have seen in person, but it is the first I am old enough to remember.  (photo courtesy of David Radburn-Smith)
The recent Star Trek movie raised a new set of conundrums about time travel and alternative realities. As an astrophysicist, I am clearly most able to tackle these issues.

Basically, time travel theories fall into two classes. C. J. Ander posits 6 Theories of Time Travel, but Anders is more of a trek anthropologist. His work categorizes how time travel affects people and things, not entire universes. From a physics point of view, these can be simplified to two different energy perspectives.
Astronomy and green space? Yes, indeed. As an astrophysicist I always find great pleasure in pointing out that the Earth is a planet, just like all the rest of the bunch orbiting our Sun and thus an astronomical object. The Earth is special though because we live on it. And we talk about a green planet referring to environmental issues on planet Earth.
Credit: NASA
I've just wrapped up my time with another mission!  Can you match each satellite picture with its name?


  1. Asca (Astro-D)
  2. RXTE (XTE)
  3. Astro-E
  4. SWIFT
The Fermi collaboration released yesterday a paper describing their measurement of the electron and positron flux of cosmic rays. Simultaneously, a second paper was published by the HESS collaboration on the very same topic. Together, these two important new articles provide the means for a significant advancement in our understanding of the spectrum of electrons and positrons from nearby sources.

It is especially meaningful to consider the two results together because the two instruments are as different as salt grains and tequila. Let me see where to start:

While I was napping, Jupiter became a 2nd sun. Although it was observed in January by STEREO, we forgot to tell people. Or perhaps we were hiding the truth. Also, it was so well covered on YouTube that we didn't think we had to bother with a press release.

And thus occurred the most benign conspiracy in the history of NASA.

See, usually NASA is accused of hiding evidence of aliens, moon landing hoaxes, flat Earths, and other things Too Dangerous For People To Know. But when Jupiter was seen igniting as a second sun, the response was... upbeat.

HI image of Jupiter and Sun