Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope

Astronomer Michael Bicay, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss Lifting the Cosmic Veil: A Decade of Highlights from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.
Admission is free and the public is invited.

The Universe is continually radiating information to Earth, sending signals in wide-spectrum of light. However, not all of these messages reach the ground. Because our planet’s atmosphere blocks most radiation coming in from space.

The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 to study the cool universe with waves that are invisible to the human eye. It was designed to probe the birth and youth of stars and planetary disks, and to observe some of the most distant objects in the universe.

However, Spitzer’s mission has since changed—the study of planets orbiting other stars. Dr. Bicay will describe the long road leading to Spitzer’s launch, and present highlights from the mission’s remarkable first decade of discovery.

The planned mission period was to be 2 and a half years with a pre-launch expectation that the mission could extend to five or slightly more years until the onboard liquid helium supply was exhausted in 2009. Without liquid helium to cool the telescope to the very low temperatures needed to operate, most of the instruments are no longer usable. However, the two shortest-wavelength modules of the Infrared Array Camera are still operable with the same sensitivity as before the cryogen was exhausted, and will continue to be used in the Spitzer Warm Mission.

Spitzer has been put to work studying exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) by modifying its hardware. This included doubling its stability by modifying its heating cycle, finding a new use for the camera, and analyzing the sensor at a sub-pixel level. In its “warm” mission, the spacecraft’s passive cooling system keeps the sensors at minus 407 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr. Bicay is the director of science at the NASA Ames Research Center, leading more than 400 scientists and technical staff conducting research in space, earth and biological science. He holds a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University and his research interests include the properties and contents of galaxies and galaxy clusters, as well as the large-scale structure in the universe.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos, California 94022

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3.00 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

Exploding Stars, Black Holes & Lick Observatory

Astronomer Alex Filippenko, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, will discuss Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes and the Crisis at Lick Observatory, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, February 26, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

Dr. Filippenko, Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley, is a world-renowned expert on some of the most dramatic fields in astronomy, including exploding stars, black holes and cosmology. An elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. This discovery, based in part on work done by him at Lick Observatory and elsewhere. Voted the “Best Professor” on the Berkeley campus a record nine times.

The first remote mountaintop observatory in the world, Lick Observatory has a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars; the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies.

Located on the summit of 4,200′ Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Filippenko was involved in the development of a 0.8-meter robotic telescope at Lick Observatory (KAIT, the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope) that obtains data automatically, every clear night. With KAIT, they have found over 300 supernovae in the past five years.

The UC Berkeley Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016–2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this Bay Area institution. The lecture includes what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
7:00 pm

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

(650) 949-7888

Black Widow Stars That Consume & Destroy Their Partners

Astronomer Roger Romani, Ph.D., of Stanford University, will discuss Black Widow Stars That Consume and Destroy Their Partners, an illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, January 22, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dr. Romani is an astrophysicist interested in neutron stars, black holes and other relativistic, high energy sources —where density, gravitational field and, often, magnetic field reach their maximum measured values.

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has revealed a violent high-energy universe full of stellar explosions, black hole jets, and pulsing stars. Dr. Romani will describe the quest to discover the true nature of the most puzzling of these gamma-ray sources. Several turn out to be a star corpse called a ‘black widow’ pulsar.  When a massive star dies, it leaves a collapsed remnant called a neutron star. When a star corpse has a companion star, it can be reanimated by material from the companion.  The revived corpse then begins to vaporize its mate.

The lecture is free; however, there is a charge of $3 for parking and exact change is appreciated.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills 94022
(650) 949-7888

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
7:00–8:30 p.m.

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

Total Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010

There is good news and bad news; the good news – tonight a total lunar eclipse and the bad news – tonight overcast skies predicted.

Tonight, December 20, 2010 is the first total lunar eclipse in two years with the next total lunar eclipse appearing April 15, 2014.

The eclipse begins at 10:33 pm PST on December 20 and lasts until 2:01 am PST on December 21. The time when Earth’s shadow completely covers the moon will last 72 minutes.

The moon changes color as it moves into the Earth’s shadow, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red. Indirect sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere filters out most of the blue colored light, leaving the orange and red hues.

Live Video of the Lunar Eclipse from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Solar and Lunar Eclipses

Image Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

A Star Party

Jim Van Nuland telling David Pratt a fascinating space fact?

All philosophy is based on two things only: curiosity and poor eyesight … The trouble is we want to know more than we can see.
–Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (1686)

In “A Tear At The Edge of Creation”, the author, Marcelo Gleiser questions the limitations of the Big Bang model. Gleiser’s research of the early Universe leads him to believe that intelligent life is nothing more than an accident.

It’s a matter of chance that the Earth works as a home for life. It only happens that the Earth is the proper distance from the sun at the precise angle, with a magnetic field, the right chemicals, water, and a moon. Rather than Adam and Eve, Gleiser sees Frankenstein and his bride (whose DNA was born in a puddle which was hit by the electric charge of lightning). Nature is alive due to imperfect chance and mutation. There is no grand plan for us and therefore no answer to our “Why is there life?”

Reading “A Tear At The Edge of Creation”, pondering the beginning of life and the expansion of the universe, made me think of  a group called the San Jose Astronomical Association (SJAA). I hadn’t been to one of their ‘star parties’ in about 20 years. It was great to see familiar faces and the big telescopes set up ready for viewing. In speaking with Rich Neuschaefer, the president of the club, I found out that there are about 300 members, but the public is always welcome to the activities.

SJAA site
Public Star Party
Tonight – May 21
Houge Park – Directions
9:15 PM – 12 PM

See the Moon, Venus, Saturn and more for Free.

A must read – Star Party Etiquette

The Tech Museum: Space Shuttle & IMAX – Hubble

Carina Nebula

After nearly 30 years of service, the Space Shuttle will be retired.

The Tech is giving us a chance to say our goodbyes during Space Week: May 3 – 9, 2010

Explore displays, including two Space Shuttle tires. (hands-on activities) Now – May 9th

Meet NASA Scientists:
Monday – Friday
12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
1:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Now Playing – IMAX
See “Hubble” and experience the wonder of the universe we live in.

“Hubble” – Trailer

“I first thought about becoming an astronaut in my 20s after seeing the IMAX movie ‘The Dream is Alive’.”
– Susan Helms NASA Astronaut

IMAX “Hubble” Calendar

Yuri’s Night – Support Space Exploration!

NASA Ames Research Center

Yuri’s Night is an international event (30 countries) which celebrates Yuri Gagarin and the April 1961 shuttle flight.

Did you know that the celebration is held to support space exploration? If President Obama’s decision to kill the NASA’s Constellation program (to the moon) and to turn future exploration over to commercial companies bothers you, please let Congress know.

Houston Congressman Peter Olson continues to be skeptical of Obama NASA space plan.

Get Tickets Now!

YouTube – The Black Keys

Type: Music/Arts – Performance
Date: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Time: 12:00pm – 11:55pm
Location: NASA Ames Research Center – Hangar 211
Street: Moffett Field – Severyns Ave & King Rd
City/Town: Mountain View, CA

San Jose: Win a Wedding Contest !

enterprise

To boldly go where no man or woman, in San Jose, has gone before to get married – or renew their vows – The Tech Museum has an out of this world contest.

The ceremony will take place on the USS Enterprise (Starship) bridge from the original STAR TREK® series which is now part of the “Star Trek The Exhibition“.

Couples are eligible to win the ultimate wedding package, which includes exclusive use of the bridge during the ceremony, a private museum room for a reception, two-night’s stay at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, and a two-tier Star Trek-themed wedding cake, from Bijan Bakery.

To enter, couples simply submit a photo along with a few short paragraphs on why they should be picked to say “I do” – or renew their vows – on the bridge.

Deadline for entries is February 3rd. – The voting period February 4th thru February 10th.

Just before Valentine’s Day the couple receiving the highest tally of worldwide votes cast on the contest Facebook page will be announced.

The ceremony will take place sometime in March or early April.

The couple and their wedding guests will appear in various Star Trek ensembles.

To enter the contest see Tech Museum of Innovation on facebook click on the Contests tab.

Ames Research Center 70th Anniversary

NASA Ames 70
Ames Research Center founded on Dec. 20, 1939, as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), a federal agency established in 1915 to institutionalize aeronautical research. NACA became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958, but aeronautics continues to be a major focus at Ames.

Ames named after Joseph Sweetman Ames, one of the founding members of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and chaired NACA for 20 years.

Many years ago, I worked at Ames and enjoyed “touring” the world’s greatest collection of wind tunnels during lunch breaks. Once, I did have the opportunity to stand in the world’s largest wind tunnel. That was a very eerie experience.

Discover Ames’ 70-year history, current missions, and future vision here.

NASA Images Coming to SJ Library

IYA2009 logo
In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, the San Jose Public Library will be one of only two locations in the bay area, and 150 around the country, to display a new mural-sized image of the Milky Way’s galactic center.

2009 was declared an International Year of Astronomy by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, to promote understanding of the importance of astronomy and other basic science in daily life. IYA2009 commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first telescopic observations in 1609.

The mural display was developed by NASA to celebrate IYA2009. The images are created by combining images from three of NASA’s “Great Observatories”, each of which views the sky in a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The source images include a near-infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, infrared from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and X-ray images from the Chandra Deep Sky Observatory. The combined image shows “the unique science each observatory conducts, [and] also how far astronomy has come since Galileo.”

The mural will be unveiled in a ceremony at noon on Tuesday, November 17, in the Fourth Street lobby of the main library. On Saturday, November 21, the library will host a follow-up day of activities, including lectures, films, educational activities, and night sky viewing. The November 21 activities last from Noon until 7 pm. The mural will remain on display through the end of 2010.

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