Monday, October 17, 2016

Astronomy on Tap: Twinklin Stars and LIGO Detections

Tonight we helped kick off Pasadena Astronomy Week with our first of three consecutive Astronomy on Tap events.  Pasadena Astronomy Week is a series of events showcasing the ways in which Pasadena-based institutions have made important contributions to the field of astronomy and astrophysics.  And our Astronomy on Tap focused on many of these topics where scientists from Caltech, JPL, IPAC, Carnegie Observatories, and more have had a serious impact on our understanding of the heavens.  Tonight we had two Caltech astronomers, Dr. Ji Wang, and Dr. Astrid Lamberts talking about their relative fields of study.
All photographs were taken by Christophe Marcade.

Astrid talked about the recent LIGO announcement of a gravitational wave detection of two black holes colliding and merging.  She discussed her recent paper wherein she tries to determine the location of the two black holes and what sorts of galaxies these black holes resided.  Very interesting stuff!

Ji talked about his use of adaptive optics to remove the blurriness of images taken from earth-bound telescopes.  Turbulence in the atmosphere between us and distant astronomical objects causes stars to twinkle.  While this is a nice effect for the casual observer, for professional astronomers it introduces blurring in long-exposure images, which makes it difficult to image astronomical objects accurately.  Adaptive optics actually bends and warps a telescope's mirror hundreds of times a second in order to account for the turbulence in the atmosphere, enabling observers like Ji to detect planets around other stars.  Terrific talk, Ji!

Finally, we had a great quiz with lots of participants and some happy winners who got NASA Tshirts and mugs.  Thanks to all of the 130 attendees tonight!


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