Tag Archives: Astronomy on Tap

LSST: mining the sky in 4D

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is going to be a unique astronomical instrument.

“Unlike a lot of other telescopes around the world, LSST is actually aptly named,” joked Dr. David Reiss of the University of Washington at a recent gathering of Astronomy on Tap Seattle at Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard. Reiss and Dr. John Parejko, two UW astronomers involved in the project, gave an overview of the telescope, which is under construction in Chile.

Parejko and Reiss

John Parejko (left) and David Reiss, research scientists at the University of Washington, discussed the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at an Astronomy on Tap Seattle event October 28 at Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

As for the name, Parejko noted the scope will be truly large. It will have an 8.4-meter mirror, a 3.2-gigapixel camera, and will take an image of the night sky every 30 seconds.

“We’re going to generate 15 terabytes of data every single night,” Parejko noted. “That means by the end of the survey we’ll have 30 trillion database entries, and over half an exabyte of data and images being catalogued.”

“That’s a lot of data even for those of you who work at Amazon,” he quipped.

Synoptic is the word even the scientists say they have to look up every time. Essentially it means that the instrument will look at everything as a whole and provide a synopsis.

“Unlike a lot of other telescopes, the LSST has been designed to serve thousands of astronomers with interests ranging from supernovae or exploding stars, to planets and asterois, to the universe as a whole,” Reiss explained.

It’s a survey because LSST will not look at just one object.

“Not only is it covering all kids of different science, it’s actually covering the whole sky,” Parejko said. They hope to start observing in 2022, and the 10-year survey will photograph the entire sky every three nights. They expect to discover 37 billion stars and galaxies.

Lastly, it’s a telescope, but it’s much more.

“The main thing that LSST is going to produce is lots and lots of data,” Reiss said, “images and catalogs and databases of all of the objects in the sky that are going to be shared with everybody in real time.” With new information coming in constantly, they’ll be effectively creating a 10-year, multi-color, ultra high-resolution movie of the night sky.

The building

Parejko described the facility, which is being built on the Cerro Pachón ridge at 8,700 feet elevation, not far from town of La Serena in the mountain desert of Chile. It’s a good site for an observatory, with high elevation and low humidity. The building has been designed with a lab for working on the mirror and other parts of the telescope so that they don’t have to send things off the mountain for repairs.

“That means we minimize our down time; we can spend as much time as possible taking data,” Parejko said. You can watch progress of the construction on the LSST webcam.

LSST

An artists’ concept of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Image: LSST.

The telescope itself will be short, squat, and compact, with the secondary mirror and camera located out at the end. They’re building it short to reduce wobble when it moves—another measure for minimizing down time. They were able to keep it short by using a different shape on the outside of the primary mirror than on the inside. Light will come into the scope, reflect off the outside of the primary to the secondary mirror, back down to the inside of the primary, which will beam it up to the camera.

“That’s how we can keep the telescope so short and compact, by folding the light like that,” Parejko explained.

The camera, about the size of a Smart Car, will have three lenses and space for five filters. The detector will feature 21 “rafts” each with nine CCDs. If one raft breaks, they’ll just pull it out, plug in another, and keep imaging.

The building will also include a major computer lab. That’s still under design.

LSST software

Reiss explained that, with so much data being collected, computing will be important. Essentially, they’re building, “sort of a Google index of the entire night sky over the course of ten years.” To do that, they’re creating a high-speed network to connect the telescope in Chile to a supercomputing center in Illinois. There, they’ll look for things that move or blow up, and expect to spot some 10 million events every night. Information about these discoveries will go out in nightly alerts to interested users.

“We’re basically providing the equivalent of astronomical Twitter, Google, and Amazon Web Services to the community,” Reiss said.

“We’re going to be sending out nearly 600 gigabytes worth of simply just these alerts every night,” he added. “If one of you were going to subscribe to these you’re going to max out your Comcast monthly allocation in one night.”

Researchers will be able to upload their software or algorithms into the LSST computing cluster and do calculations in the cloud, rather than having to download all of that data. Many institutions will receive the alerts and write algorithms that will help users pick and choose data. There will likely be smartphone apps that will allow users to, say, track their favorite asteroid, and people will be able to use the data to learn about the universe or do citizen science. Reiss noted that, by keeping a constant eye on the sky, we will be able to spot lots of the sorts of things that we only find today through the luck of looking in the right place at the right time.

LSST goals

The main science goals of the LSST are to learn about dark matter and dark energy, catalog the solar system, watch how things change, and learn about the structure and formation of the Milky Way.

Astronomy on Tap Seattle, November 2016The LSST team includes 39 institutional members, among them 21 colleges and universities. The UW is a founding member. The project employs 200 astronomers and engineers from 19 different countries. The total cost of getting LSST up and running by 2022 will be about $400 million. That sounds like a lot of money, but Reiss and Parejko pointed out, given the season, that it’s about what Americans spend on Halloween costumes for their pets in a typical year. Funding for the project has come from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and through fundraising by the nonprofit LSST Corporation.

Astronomy on Tap Seattle is organized by graduate students in astronomy at the University of Washington. The events are free, but you can help them cover the costs of creating them by donating online to the Friends of Astronomy Fund at the UW. The next event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 16 at Peddler, and will be a Cosmos on Tap. Attendees will watch an episode of the original Carl Sagan series, and scientists will give updates on how the science has changed since the show first aired. As always, there will be trivia contests, and beer.

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Learning about LIGO at Astronomy on Tap

The most recent gathering of Astronomy on Tap Seattle brought to town two scientists working in one of the most groundbreaking areas of astronomy: detection of gravitational waves.

Nature was kind to us

Jeff Kissel, a control systems engineer at the LIGO Hanford Observatory, talked about how exciting it was when they switched on advanced LIGO back in September 2015.

“Boom! Right out of the gate we saw this whopper of an event,” Kissel said, detecting gravitational waves from the merger of a pair of stellar-mass black holes. “Nature was very kind to us.”

What they spotted at Hanford and at LIGO in Livingston, Louisiana was a match.

“Inside our data, which is almost always noise, we saw this very characteristic wave form that was predicted by general relativity,” Kissel recalled. They found gravitational waves from a couple of other black-hole mergers in the following months.

“This is the beginning of gravitational wave astronomy,” Kissel said.

Gravitational waves oscillate through spacetime in a way
demonstrated
by this animation. Credit: ESA–C.Carreau

Kissel pointed out that LIGO only detects a small part of the gravitational wave spectrum. As with light, gravitational waves can come in a wide range of wavelengths with periods ranging from milliseconds to billions of years. Longer-length waves might come from the mergers of galactic nuclei, or even from quantum fluctuations from the early universe.

“There’s a whole zoo of things to find out there,” Kissel said. He anticipates more ground-based observatories as well as some space LIGOs that could have detector arms millions of kilometers long.

How LIGO works

LIGO sounds awfully complicated, but, broken down, the idea is pretty simple. Jenne Driggers
is a Caltech postdoctoral scholar stationed at the LIGO Hanford Observatory, where her gig is improving the sensitivity of the interferometers. Driggers explained that, essentially, they shoot a laser beam into a splitter that sends beams down two equal arms four kilometers long. The beams reflect from mirrors and return to be put back together.

A simplified look at how LIGO works. A laser beam is split and sent down two equal
arms four kilometers long, then reflected back by mirrors. When they return to be
recombined, they will usually cancel each other out and no light will get to the detector.
But if a gravitational wave distorts the system, the light will be spotted by the detector.
Credit: T. Pyle, Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

“When they recombine they can be exactly out of phase, and then there’s no laser light (at the detector),” Driggers said. “They cancel each other out totally. Or the lengths will change and these two electromagnetic waves can add up, and so we do get some light.”

When that happens it means that a gravitational wave has distorted the LIGO arms ever so slightly. They measure the light received at the detector to learn more about the wave.

In practice it’s a lot more complicated. It all happens in a total vacuum to avoid any distortion from air. The mirrors are suspended from a system of four pendulums, which helps to eliminate vibration. The mirrors are highly reflective pieces that each weigh around 100 pounds and cost half a million dollars. The laser is about the best there is.

“The laser wavelength itself is our ruler that we’re using to measure the distance between those two mirrors,” Driggers said, “and we need to be able to measure that distance to 10-19 meters.”

“This is one of the highest-power, frequency stable, power-stable lasers on the planet,” she added.

Driggers invited people to tour LIGO Hanford. Public tours are held twice each month, and groups of 15 or more can arrange for a private tour.

Up next: LSST

Astronomy on Tap Seattle is presented and organized by astronomy graduates students at the University of Washington. Their next event is planned for Friday, October 28 at Peddler Brewing Company in Ballard and will feature UW scientists Dr. John Parejko and Dr. David Reiss, who are working on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project. The events are free. Enjoy beer and astronomy!

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Annual Moon viewing festival highlights week’s calendar

The last installment of the Pacific Science Center’s Science Café series and an annual Moon viewing festival are the high points of this week’s astronomy events calendar.

Viewing the Moon

Seattle Japanese GardenThe popular annual Moon Viewing Festival at the Seattle Japanese Garden will be held beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 17 at the garden, which is within the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. The evening will include music, a haiku contest, and a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand with telescopes to offer a great, close-up view of the Moon. Unfortunately, as of this writing the event is sold out.

Farewell to the science café

Pacific Science CenterThe Pacific Science Center is discontinuing its Science Café program after more than ten years at The Swiss Restaurant & Pub in Tacoma, Wilde Rover in Kirkland, and, up until a year or two ago, T.S. McHugh’s in Seattle. The center plans to have many of the same sorts of speakers and topics at its new, onsite Science in the City lectures.

One final astronomy-themed science café remains on the calendar and will be held at The Swiss at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 13Josh Krissansen-Totton of the University of Washington Astrobiology Program and Department of Earth and Space Sciences will give a talk titled “The Search For Life Beyond Earth.” Krissansen-Totton will go beyond the headlines and explore how astronomers and astrobiologists are trying to detect life on exoplanets, and when they’re likely to be successful. Admission is free. Bring questions; there’s always plenty of time for Q-and-A.

OAS meets

Olympic Astronomical SocietyThe Olympic Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 12 in room Art 103 at Olympic College in Bremerton. They plan to make a comet, among other activities.

Futures file

You can scout out future astronomy events on our calendar. New additions this week include:

Up in the sky

September often offers great weather for stargazing as it’s still typically fairly warm in the evenings but the nights are getting longer. This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope magazine and The Sky This Week from Astronomy have observing highlights for the week.

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Space oddities at Astronomy on Tap Seattle

Things got a little strange at the most recent gathering of Astronomy on Tap Seattle, and not just because we were all drinking beer at Hilliard’s Beer Taproom in Ballard and enjoying eats from the Cave Man Food Truck parked outside. The event, organized by astronomy graduate students at the University of Washington, took on space oddities like Hanny’s Voorwerp and Thorne-Żytkow Objects.

Seattle Astronomy gets all sentimental about Hanny’s Voorwerp because it has a cool name and it was a subject of our third post ever when we started this effort in January 2011. The Voorwerp was noticed by Hanny van Arkle, a Dutch schoolteacher who was categorizing galaxies in Sloan Digital Sky Survey images as part of the Galaxy Zoo project. The object (voorwerp is Dutch for thing or object) appeared as a blue blob near the galaxy IC 2497.

What’s a voorwerp?

John Ruan

Graduate Student John Ruan spoke about Hanny’s Voorwerp at Astronomy on Tap Seattle May 25. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

During his talk titled, “Citizen Discovers Strange Black Hole Echoes: The Science Behind Hanny’s Voorwerp,” UW graduate student John Ruan said there were four ideas about what it was. All of them were wrong.

Imaging artifact. It could have been just a blip on the camera, Ruan said, but other observers were able to spot it.

Unknown solar system object. Ruan said solar system objects move rapidly, but the Voorwerp was found on photographic plates made more than 50 years ago, and it hadn’t budged.

Distant, high-redshift galaxy. The redshift was not high enough for the Voorwerp to be at great distance.

Milky Way nebula. Conversely, it wasn’t something in our own galaxy, either, this time because the redshift was not great enough.

It was in examining the spectra, though, that Ruan said a clue was found. The emission lines were strong.

“To get emission lines that are this strong, you need a really, really bright source that emits a lot of high-energy light,” Ruan said, the kind of light you get from gas falling onto a black hole. “This is evidence that this object was produced by a quasar.”

Hanny's Voorwerp

Hanny’s Voorwerp appears as a green blob in this photo by NASA, ESA, W. Keel (University of Alabama), and the Galaxy Zoo Team.

There was just one small problem with the idea. There’s no quasar in any of the photos. Ruan said the quasar was probably created when the galaxy merged with a smaller one.

“It disturbs the gas in this larger galaxy, and this gas, some of it, because it’s disturbed it will fall into the center of the galaxy and fall into the black hole,” Ruan explained. This ignited the quasar, but at some point it literally ran out of gas.

“That quasar became quiet again, and it looked like just a normal galaxy, however the gas cloud that the quasar was shining on still appears to be lit up,” he said. “And that is Hanny’s Voorwerp.”

Similar objects have been discovered and are generally referred to as quasar ionization echoes. Ruan said Hanny’s Voorwerp will gradually fade as the ionization of the gas wears off.

The weirdest stars in the universe

Emily Levesque is just finishing her first year on the astronomy faculty at the University of Washington, and her research bailiwick fit perfectly into space oddity night.

Emily Levesque

Emily Levesque makes a point about TZOs. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“I study weird stars, strange stars, the really oddball stars that we can’t easily explain,” Levesque said. Indeed, she started out looking at the odd couple of stars: red supergiants and neutron stars.

Red supergiants are enormous, massive, relatively cool stars. The largest one found so far is so big that it’s surface, if it were plunked into our solar system in place of the Sun, would reach almost out to the orbit of Saturn. Neutron stars are the small, dense remains of supernovae. They are no bigger than a city.

“There’s only one thing that I can do to red supergiants and neutron stars to make them weirder at this point,” Levesque said. “If we put a red supergiant and a neutron star into a binary, and we merge them, we get a very, very weird object.”

The TŻO

The weird object is called a Thorne-Żytkow Object (TŻO) because Kip Thorne of Caltech and Anna Żytkow of the University of Cambridge hypothesized just this sort of thing way back in 1977. Żytkow heard that Levesque was studying red supergiants, and sent an email asking if she’d like to give a shot at spotting a TŻO. It was quite a challenge.

“A neutron star is the size of the city of Seattle,” Levesque said. “A red supergiant is bigger than the orbit of Jupiter. If you embed a neutron star inside a red supergiant it’s virtually impossible to detect.”

As with Hanny’s Voorwerp, the spectra were the key. Inside a TŻO, convection pockets would circulate material and create bizarre chemical processes. As stuff nears the neutron star at the core it would be bombarded with protons, changing it into a different element. Then as it nears the surface of the star, it would decay into yet something else. The process repeats. If the spectrum reveals the presence of elements that you would not normally expect to see at the surface of a cold star, you may be onto something.

Two years ago Levesque and her team looked at 100 red supergiants, and 99 of them appeared normal. The spectrum of one of them, HV 2112, showed unusual concentrations of rubidium, lithium, and molybdenum.

“This was a signature that we’d actually found the first example of a Thorne-Żytkow Object in the universe,” Levesque said.

If true, it means a new way to make stars and a new way to make elements. Levesque said they’re still calling the star a candidate or possible TŻO because of the Sagan Standard that holds that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

“The evidence that we have is really compelling, but it’s three little blips in a spectrum,” Levesque said. “We desperately want to find more of these, we want to find other ways of detecting them. We’d ultimately love to have a whole set of Thorne-Żytkow Objects, and have a whole set of stars that we can look at that can hold the title of weirdest star in the universe.”

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The universe is big, even in small spaces

The universe is pretty vast even in confined spaces. That was the lesson given on opposite ends of the size scale at the most recent Astronomy on Tap Seattle event hosted at Hilliard’s Beer Taproom by University of Washington graduate students in astronomy.

Ethan Kruse

UW astronomy graduate student Ethan Kruse said the universe is a big place, and it will take some technological advances to reach Alpha Centauri in 20 years. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Grad student Ethan Kruse was all set to give a talk that concluded we would never even get out of our solar system because it is way too big. Then a few weeks before the talk Stephen Hawking and friends announced their plan for getting all the way to neighboring star Alpha Centauri in 20 years through a project called Breakthrough Starshot.

“If I’m disagreeing with Stephen Hawking,” Kruse recalled thinking, “I should probably stop for a minute and reevaluate my thesis.”

Kruse remained on point about the mind-boggling scale of the universe. He said that if our Sun was the size of a basketball sitting on the stage of Hilliard’s, Earth would be the size of a sesame seed in the back of the room, 84 feet away, and the orbiting Moon would be the size of a grain of salt. At this scale Jupiter would be a golf ball on the Ballard Bridge and Pluto would be a grain of salt about a kilometer away—about the distance to Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company, which served as the venue for Astronomy on Tap Seattle for its first year. Alpha Centauri, in this set-up, is some 4,400 miles away—in London or Tokyo.

Kruse pointed out that the fastest spacecraft we have built so far, New Horizons, took a decade to get to Pluto.

“We went from Hilliard’s to Bad Jimmy’s in ten years,” he observed. “Don’t worry guys, we’re going to go to London in 20 years!”

The idea behind Starshot is that a super-light craft with a light sail could be accelerated by lasers to up to 20 percent of the speed of light. Kruse outlined a litany of technological challenges with the concept, including the ability to generate sufficient laser power, creating an adequately reflective material for the sails, being able to accurately aim the lasers at great distances, and shielding the craft from possible collisions with space debris. Still, he concluded, the idea is worth exploring, especially since the same technology could be used to explore the solar system more quickly.

“This is honestly the most realistic thing that anyone has proposed so far for getting to any other star system,” Kruse said.

It will, however, take a great deal of research and development.

“Don’t necessarily count on this before you die,” Kruse concluded. “Space is big.”

Jessica Werk

UW astronomy Prof. Jessica Werk says your atoms took quite a journey to become you. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Professor Jessica Werk, one of the newest hires onto the astronomy faculty at the University of Washington, also used sports equipment to illustrate her talk, “The History of You: The Rather Tumultuous Past of the Atoms in Your Body.” Werk pointed out that atoms are mostly empty space. If the nucleus of an atom were the size of a baseball, the nearest electrons would be a football field away.

After the Big Bang the universe was mostly light atoms: hydrogen and helium and a few others. Where did the carbon and calcium and other heavier stuff we’re made of come from?

“All evidence suggests that these atoms were fused in the cores of very, very massive stars twelve-and-a-half billion years ago,” Werk said. “Since then they have been on an absolutely crazy, long, sometimes violent journey to end up in your body 93 million miles from the Sun on this speck named Earth.”

Those atoms took a somewhat circuitous route to get here.

“Sixty percent of the atoms in your body we at one point outside of the galaxy in the circumgalactic or intergalactic medium,” Werk said. We don’t really know how they got here, but the best theory is that the atoms tend to cool off, and the gas rains back down on the galaxy, collapsing in star formation or becoming part of the debris disk out of which planets form.

There’s some mind-bending scale at the atomic level, too. Werk pointed out that there are 1023 atoms in a breath of air.

“Each breath-full of air contains more atoms than the number of breath-fulls of air in the entire Earth’s atmosphere,” she said. “What that means is that it is very likely that the last breath of air you just took contained at least one oxygen atom from the first breath of air that you ever took as a human being on planet Earth.”

That reminds us of a recent post by Ethan Siegel on the blog Starts With a Bang, in which he concluded that we all probably share atoms that were once part of King Tut or any other historical figure you might name.

AOT crowd

Astronomy on Tap Seattle outgrew Bad Jimmy’s, and pretty well packed the larger Hilliard’s at its first event there in April. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“The matter that makes up your physical body is part of a huge universe that is continually evolving and recycling the material in it into new forms,” Werk concluded.

The next Astronomy on Tap Seattle event is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 25 at Hilliard’s. Astronomy Prof. Emily Levesque and graduate student John Ruan will give talks about some of the strangest celestial objects ever discovered or theorized. People outnumbered seats at the April event, and so the organizers suggest that you can bring a lawn chair and create your own premium seating.

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AoT Seattle celebrates 1st birthday, announces move to larger venue

Astronomy on Tap Seattle last month celebrated its first year of of bringing the latest astronomical research and good beer to interested space geeks. The party was a little bittersweet, as they also announced that the series will be leaving Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company for the larger Hilliard’s Beer Taproom, another Ballard watering hole.

AOT at Bad Jimmy's

Astronomy on Tap Seattle packed in the crowds in its first year at Bad Jimmy’s. The series is moving to the larger Hilliard’s Taproom in Ballard. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The move does not come entirely as a surprise. The early Astronomy on Tap events last spring were well attended, and they’ve grown in popularity to the point where nearly 140 people were sardined into Bad Jimmy’s for the monthly gatherings. Brett Morris, an astronomy graduate student at the University of Washington who is the emcee and one of the co-founders of Astronomy on Tap Seattle, hinted at a move in an interview we posted before the birthday event.

“It’s been a wild ride growing from our initially small size to something that we almost can’t handle,” said Morris. “We’re going to try our best to keep up with it as it grows through our second year.”

Kristin Garofali, another co-founder of AoT Seattle, thanked Bad Jimmy’s for their support over the first year, noting that they even let participants vote to name their imperial Scotch ale (The Big Sipper) and at the birthday party served up a delicious version of it that was aged for several months in rum barrels.

“To see how this has grown has been super amazing,” Garofali said. She added that they hope to keep doing smaller events at Bad Jimmy’s.

We recently attended one of the Pacific Science Center’s PubSci events at Hilliard’s, which probably has four times the floor space of Bad Jimmy’s.

Supernova impostor

Breanna Binder gave an interesting talk at the March 23 birthday event, about a supernova impostor that turned out to be an x-ray binary system. An amateur astronomer spotted what looked like a supernova in 2010, but it kept churning out x-rays long after it faded visually. Binder said that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

“Supernova 2010da, not only is it not a true supernova, it may be the youngest possible x-ray binary,” Binder said, noting that it theoretically takes between four and five million years before an x-ray binary begins emissions. They’d seen none prior to 2010. “The 2010 eruption might have been the birth of a brand new x-ray binary, which is something that we had never witnessed before.”

The story was featured on the popular website IFLScience. Binder will give a talk about the supernova impostor at the UW Astronomy Colloquium at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 5 in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building on the UW campus in Seattle.

Planet 9

One of the other more interesting mini-talks of the evening was made by Dave Fleming, who took a look at the possible Planet 9. Astronomers have recently speculated that there’s a ninth planet in our solar system, a so-called super-earth that is somewhere between Earth and Neptune in mass and about 700 astronomical units out. Fleming noted that a fair chunk of the exoplanets discovered so far are in that mass range.

“If there is one of these guys lurking in the solar system, if we could actually detect it with a telescope and send a probe to it, it would give us a huge insight into the planet-formation process,” Fleming said. “If this ninth planet does exist, maybe it’s some relic of the planet-formation process that got scattered out by Jupiter.”

Former planet 9, and more

Morris showed a large number of photos that New Horizons shot at Pluto. He had given a talk back in July, on the day of the mission’s fly-by, and shared the very first pictures it beamed back to Earth. Though it will continue transmitting data for quite some time, we already have a sizable collection of pics from the system. Among the most interesting discoveries from the new batch: a large canyon around the equator of Pluto’s moon Charon that may indicate an underground ocean.

Other talks at the birthday event covered supermassive black holes, fast gamma-ray bursts, how to find a Tatooine, and funky, planet-shaped megastructures.

The next Astronomy on Tap Seattle event is planned for April 27 at Hilliard’s. The program has not yet been published.

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Astronaut talk, Astronomy on Tap this week

We’ll hear from South Korea’s first astronaut this week and celebrate the first birthday of Astronomy on Tap Seattle.

Astronaut Soyeon Yi

soyeonyi_calendarSoyeon Yi became South Korea’s first astronaut when she flew with a Russian crew on Soyuz to the International Space Station in 2008. Yi, who retired from the astronaut business in 2014 and now lives in Puyallup, will give a talk at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 26 at the Museum of Flight. Yi’s appearance is part of the museum’s annual Women Fly! event for junior- and senior-high girls who are interested in aviation and aerospace careers.

Happy birthday to Astronomy on Tap Seattle

AOT Seattle March 23In March 2015 Astronomy on Tap Seattle started bringing us beer and astronomy on a monthly basis. They’ll celebrate a year in business with a big bash at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 23 at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company in Ballard. A handful of mini-talks will highlight astronomical discoveries and advances of the past year. You’ll also be able to buy a special Astronomy on Tap Seattle beer glass and fill it with deluxe, barrel-aged Big Sipper, an imperial Scotch ale that was named by popular vote of AoT participants. Check out our article and podcast from earlier this month about Astronomy on Tap Seattle’s first year.

Rose City

The Rose City Astronomers will hold their monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 21 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. Prof. James Schombert of the University of Oregon will take on the question of whether the universe is infinite, and how the latest observations are helping find answers.

LIGO lecture

A century after Einstein predicted gravitational waves, scientists with LIGO found them. Dr. Muzammil A. Arain, one of the authors of the paper that announced the discovery, will give a lecture at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 21 at Building 27 on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. The talk will cover the science behind the LIGO detectors, the basics of gravitational waves, and the data processing techniques employed by LIGO that enabled gravitational wave detection. Registration is $5 and can be done online.

Art on the Moon

NASA photo.

NASA photo.

The Giant Steps art exhibition and contest continues Saturday and Sunday at Seattle’s King Street Station, where it will be open from noon until 6 p.m. both days. The event challenged students, artists, engineers, architects, designers, and other space enthusiasts to imagine and propose art projects on the surface of the Moon. Their submissions will be on display at the station weekends through April 3. Admission is $10.

 

Up in the sky

Jupiter is just two weeks past opposition and well placed for viewing these days. The King of Planets will pass close to the Moon on Tuesday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing highlights for the week.

 

 

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