Monday, March 13, 2017

Astronomy on Tap: Gravitational Lensing, Galaxy Evolution, and Social Justice

Our March Astronomy on Tap, on the day before Pi Day, was one for the ages! Dr. Rachael Livermore, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, happened to be visiting the area, so she began by explaining the fundamentals of gravitational lensing and showing how galaxy clusters can bend light on cosmological scales. Rachael founded the Astronomy on Tap chapter in Austin, and her experience showed as she wielded science and the stage in a masterful and informative way!

The intermission featured a surprise musical interlude, led by Dr. Gary Blackwood, the manager of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program. In what was the Galactic Premier of his song 'The Exoplaneteers,' Gary sang about the basics of the primary exoplanet detection techniques and introduced his new verse about the fascinating TRAPPIST-1 exoplanet system --- all in rhyming meter, no less! With everyone in a singing mood, we subsequently sang happy birthday to Cameron Hummels, who is the founder of the Pasadena Astronomy on Tap chapter and who was in attendance!

Our final speaker was Dr. Jorge Moreno, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona who will soon make the exciting transition to a professor position at Pomona College. In his Astronomy on Tap debut, Jorge taught the crowd about how galaxies collide and merge and the computer simulations he and other astronomers write to help understand the underlying physics. To conclude, Jorge gave a second talk regarding diversity and social justice within astronomy specifically and the United States more generally. Jorge is Chair of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy, and gave a riveting speech about the under-representation of several demographics within astronomy, and what individuals can to do promote awareness and change the culture from within.

Thanks to Rachael, Gary, and Jorge for a wonderful program, and to the packed crowd of astronomers and non-astronomers alike. We look forward to seeing y'all again at the next 
Astronomy on Tap event on Monday, April 17th! Tell all your friends and family!


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