For the first time ever, on August 17, 2017, astronomers detected the collision of two neutron stars. Not satisfied with that, they caught the cosmic smashup using both gravitational waves and light – another breakthrough.
Here we are, less than one week until a total solar eclipse crosses the United States. For the past three years, my excitement has been building, and all of my eclipse-chaser friends have been saying, “You HAVE to go see totality!” The path of totality (the narrow region where the Sun will appear totally blocked) is relatively convenient for North Americans, but many people won’t be able to travel and witness the total phase of the eclipse.
On Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse is sweeping the nation. All of North America will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, but 14 states across the U.S. will have the unique opportunity to see a total solar eclipse, called the path of totality. There are approximately 12.5 million people living in the path of totality—an occurrence that happens only once where you live every 375 years!
On the day of the eclipse, STEM in 30, a TV show we produce at the National Air and Space Museum for middle school students, will be broadcasting live from the path of totality in Liberty, Missouri, starting at 1:30 pm EST.
As a volunteer at the National Air and Space Museum, I’ve been talking to visitors about astronomy for 28 years. Right now is an exciting time to be volunteering here thanks to the total solar eclipse that will happen this summer. As an astronomy enthusiast and an eclipse chaser, I have some great advice to share on how best to view the 2017 eclipse.
Hunting for exoplanets is an exciting field as more and more worlds are discovered. Many of these newly discovered planets are in the "Goldilocks Zone" where conditions may be right to support life. Dr. Hannah Wakeford is on the cutting edge of this research.
At the Observatory, we often get the question “What telescope should I buy?” But once you have one, what do you do with it? Maybe it’s still in the box, perhaps you found it frustrating to use, or maybe you’re ready to hunt for more advanced targets. If that sounds like you, it’s time to go to a telescope clinic!
Long before your laptop computer and the computers that took us to the Moon, there was another type of computer. In the early 20th century, women who made calculations and reduced astronomical data were known as “computers.” The hours were long and the pay was minimal. Their calculations, however, laid important groundwork for future astronomers and led to some of the most important astronomical discoveries.
I’m snatching moments to write this from Chile, sitting on the floor of the airport, or bouncing up winding mountain roads in a van. I’m here as an Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador, with eight other ambassadors.
On February 11 of this year, when scientists announced that they had detected gravitational waves, I was among the thousands of people who were so excited we couldn’t sit still. This news was literally Earth-shaking! Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time, and they’re created by events like the collision of massive objects, such as black holes. So of course, being an astronomy educator, I took the first opportunity to talk about this news with visitors at the Museum. The day after the announcement, I set up our black holes Discovery Station, which uses a rubber sheet to demonstrate how space-time gets warped by massive objects. I created my own “gravitational waves” by tapping on the rubber sheet to make it vibrate, like ripples on a pond.