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Dr. Ingrid Stairs UBC Talks About a Pair of Neutron Stars

June 2016


Dr. Ingrid Stairs is an astronomer and professor at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Stairs specializes in neutron star research. In this interview, we talk about her research work on measuring the space-time warp created by a pair of binary neutron stars orbiting one another. 

JPL's Mission Scientist Trina Ray Discusses Cassini

July 6, 2017


Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.

Michelle Kunimoto Finds Some Planets

June 2, 2016


 Michelle Kunimoto, UBC Astronomy student, has now entered rarified air with her discovery of 4 new exo-planets. Also, more info on Black Holes and Dark Matter. In fact, we'll give a David Letterman type top 10 lists of things you might not have known about Black Holes (but were afraid to ask). 

Blankets for Space

December 22, 2016


Meet Liem Pham, a spacecraft dressmaker for NASA. Pham makes the blankets that cover every NASA vehicle before launch. Pham started at NASA 19 years ago, putting cables in the Cassini spacecraft. After 3 years, she was hired to make the blankets that cover every NASA vehicle. Pham is part of the Flight Technician Services group, a group that contributes to all stages of spacecraft assembly. Pham constructs blankets from different materials, for all kinds of different uses. Blankets can be made from a carbon type material called Kapton, which is used for a charged environment, to dissipate the charge on a space vehicle. She also makes blankets with materials such as Teflon, or Mylar netting with Dacron films. Interstellar space exploration is occupying the minds of many scientists. Voyager 1 is now in interstellar space, but it took 36 years to get there. Voyager 1 is so low on energy though, so it does not have the capacity to do much science in interstellar space. The faint signal scientists on Earth receive from Voyager has the power of a refrigerator light bulb (~  20 watts). Scientists hope to develop technology that gets probes to interstellar space in a 10 year time frame, and then have the probes "live" in interstellar space and do some science while there. Scientists also hope these probes can visit some Kuiper Belt objects, like dwarf planets, on their way to interstellar space. Scientists are also dreaming up ideas of sending humans to interstellar space, or even to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri (~ 4.3 light-years away). Hibernation experiments are being dreamt up, where humans would be put into a state of hibernation on long voyages. To do these things, humans would have to develop exotic technology, because present chemical-jet-fuel based propulsion systems can get us nowhere near to interstellar space or the next star system, because they cannot propel a spacecraft anywhere near a fraction of the speed of light. Exotic, futuristic telescope systems are also being thought up, that would use the gravitational lensing properties of the Sun to magnify a distant star or planet, to the point that we could make out surface features on these objects. Pretty heady stuff. 

Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt

February 12, 2018


Early women astronomers, like Annie Jump Cannon and Henrietta Swan  Leavitt, made extraordinary contributions to Astronomy, even though as  women, they were not permitted to operate telescopes in the great  observatories. Prior to the mass use of computers in astronomy, and in  the world at large, NASA required a whole host of calculations to be  carried out: trouble was, before the 1960s, computers, or even efficient computers, did not exist. Groups of women, called human calculators,  were tasked with doing the vital calculations NASA needed on  things like trajectories for rockets. One of these women, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, calculated a whole lot more. Her supervisor, Edward Charles Pickering, tasked her with studying stars whose luminosity varies over time. Pickering never expected Henrietta  Leavitt to come up with any discoveries, but she did just that. She calculated the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheid Variable stars. Edwin Hubble could not have made his fantastic discoveries  without this relationship. Hubble claimed that Leavitt deserved the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work. Gösta Mittag-Leffler of the Swedish  Academy of Sciences tried to nominate Leavitt for the Nobel Prize in 1924, but unfortunately she had passed away 3 years earlier. Ms. Leavitt  did much groundbreaking work in the field of Astronomy. Annie Jump Cannon was also a noted, early female Astronomer. She is credited with establishing the first star classification system. Cannon,  as with Leavitt, was lauded and acknowledged for her work many, many  times. She received 2 honorary doctorates, and had many honors bestowed  upon her. Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Annie Jump Cannon were 2 women that  made amazing contributions to the field of Astronomy. They did so at  times when women were underrepresented, and also were not  whole-heartedly accepted, in the field. 

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