Friday, March 30, 2012

high atop the parkes radio dish

during the routine maintenance period this week, we got to climb high up to the focus cabin of the parkes radio dish to see what the receivers that we are using to collect data actually look like!

to get to the focus cabin, first we have to go onto the dish (if only i had a cup of tea ;)

up there is where we're climbing!

the incoming signal from a distant source bounces off the dish and gets focused up where the receivers collect the signal. radio waves are electromagnetic radiation, just like light you see with your eye, but they have longer wavelengths and carry less energy. any electromagnetic signal with a wavelength over 1 millimeter is a radio wave.

since radio waves are much weaker than optical light, the signal needs to be amplified through a whole series of electronics that i honestly don't completely understand. but i'll show you some photos anyway ;)

happily up at the focus cabin!

the cabin has two stories - it doesnt look so big from way down on the ground!

the receiver you can see the top of in the photo above looks like this:

the engineer who is giving up our tour has a last name of armstrong, and in the true aussie fashion of shortening words and giving everyone nicknames, they call him "army" :)

the multi-beam receiver we are using this week is this beast, which is kept at a cool temperature of 18 Kelvin (-255 Celsius = -427 Fahrenheit!).

of course we climbed on top of the focus cabin to enjoy the view...

and then climbed back down.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

mystery "shelf"

so, i need a little help with this one. in the women's shower at the astronomers lodge of parkes observatory, there is an odd feature. see in the photo below, the little shelf down low? well, it's not flat at all. in fact, its at such a steep angle that you cannot rest anything on it.

the other little shelf was full, so i went to place my soap on that dish, but noticed it's steep angle and thought - huh? and then wondered why there would be a shelf so low anyway?

so my question is - what the heck is that thing for?

refreshing color

via scotch & jazz @ dusk

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"the dish"

this week i'm about 6 hours west of sydney near a town called parkes where the 64-meter parkes radio observatory lives.

parkes is featured in an australian film called the dish that was released in 2000. the movie didnt do very well in the US and i have to blame poor advertising, because it's a great movie! if you havent seen it, i highly recommend it! it's definitely one of my favorite science-y films and it fantastically highlights hilarious australian humour! here's a trailer:

they shot the film on location and used the original control room, which nowadays looks like this:

that room still houses the correlators and computer equipment, but is no longer where astronomers sit to control the telescope. instead, we sit one floor below. here we are in the current control room, watching the dish under the dish late on my first night of this observing run!

an interesting safety feature of operating this telescope these days is this device.

the counter goes up to 15 minutes and some time before that happens, you have to push the green button or else a very unpleasant alarm goes off and a whole series of automated safety precautions is activated! it's kind of a fun game on these long observing stretches, as radio observations do not require much work at all compared to using optical telescopes! and the whole process reminds me of the tv show lost.

and yes, when i visited the dish last year i got to go on a hayride!

(if you don't know what i mean by this... watch the movie! ;)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

sixty symbols does the LHC

brady and professor ed copeland recently visited the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near geneva for sixty symbols.

the main video in the series (click here) gives an overview of the entire project, but i wanted to share this video about the CMS experiment:

ed is absolutely adorable when he sees the detector for the very first time, as captured here ;)

Monday, March 26, 2012

jupiter, the moon, venus, and the dish

here's a lovely view just after tonight's sunset at the parkes radio dish. from left to right is jupiter, the moon, venus, and the dish.

i think the planets and the moon look like a little koala together ;)

all the stars

a nice moment from calvin and hobbes:

"Look at all the stars! The Universe just goes out forever and ever!"

brought to me by scipsy

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

an episode on the AstroPodcast

i made it off the mountain one afternoon earlier this week to join allison in the small town of coonabarabran and record an episode of the AstroPodcast!

"This week Dr. Amanda Bauer, Super Science Fellow of the AAO, joins us to talk about her life as an astronomer collecting images of galaxies and trying to find the reason for some of their seemingly strange behaviours."

listen: HERE

this was a lot of fun and i hope to join allison on the AstroPodcast again sometime soon. please let me know if there are any issues you'd like to hear discussed!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

high atop the telescope dome

last night we received the privilege of venturing to the tip top of the 4-meter anglo-australian telescope dome! excellent views and good, windy fun!

here is the telescope with us on top.


here are some of the views as the sun set on the march equinox.

here are some excited astronomers!

here is the blue shadow of the earth just after the sun set below the horizon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

march equinox

happy equinox, everyone!

right now our nights and our days are almost exactly 12 hours long - nearly the same length for everyone all over the world!

from now until june, the days in the southern hemisphere will grow shorter as earth's axis starts to tilt away from the sun and we sink into winter. folks in the northern hemisphere will start to feel more heat as earth's northern axis points towards the sun and summer begins.

Monday, March 19, 2012

titanium physicists: dark matter

i've recently joined a team of so-called titanium physicists, who come together in a podcast to discuss some of the more interesting concepts of modern physics and astronomy.

my inaugural episode has me discussing dark matter with host ben tippett, particle physicist ken clark, and guest kai nagata.

listen: HERE.

there are some interesting and funny tidbits at the very end, after the official outtro, so if you're listening, make sure to listen all the way through!
if you have any suggestions of topics for future shows, let us know!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

girl scout cookies

many folks from the US are currently digging into their stash of this year's girl scout cookies, or maybe they've already finished their thin mints or my personal favorite, peanut butter patties.

as far as i've seen so far in australia, there is not really an equivalent of the girl scouts, or their cookies. a little googling tells me otherwise, as the girl guides exist and they sell biscuits as a fund raiser, but i guess i dont know enough young people here to be exposed.

anyway, the other week at work someone was selling these caramel chocolate delights on behalf of her son:

despite the fact that i laugh every time i see them because of their sheer australia-ness, i bought several and stashed them in my desk for when i need a sweet overload of chocolate and caramel! yum!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the stars from earth's orbit

here's a fascinating timelapse video of the views from the international space station. the final shot with the milky way is incredible!

sit back and enjoy!

The Stars as Viewed from the International Space Station. from AJRCLIPS on Vimeo.

Friday, March 16, 2012

from here to infinity

I'm out at siding spring observatory for the next week.

never underestimate the power of duct ("gaffer") tape!

a stunningly bright planetary pair slowly peaks out of the darkening sky, as pale blue fades through sunset colors to deep black.

venus and jupiter are on show for an hour, then i have to retreat inside to work.

when i emerge again outside on the catwalk surrounding the telescope dome, the deep black darkness shocks my eyes. the moon has not yet risen and the current solar system show-offs have already set.

orion sits upside down while the southern cross reaches around the milky way. our galaxy begins to shoot across the sky and the two magellanic clouds shyly tag along for the ride.

i find mars quite easily in the eastern skies and notice my surprise at just how obviously red its reflected sunlight glows!

as my eyes dark-adapt, fainter dots begin to speckle the sky. i start to lose the three stars of orion's belt amidst the incredible number of stars. so many stars!

and these are just the stars i can see with my eyes, our solar neighborhood, a tiny fraction of all the stars that make up our milky way galaxy.

and there are billions and billions of galaxies in the universe! so. much. space.

and then it's that moment again, BAM! a swell of intensity, overwhelmed and slightly dizzy, as i realize just how big the universe is.


and just as quickly, i'm back on earth, looking at the solid black silhouette of our home planet stretching softly out to the horizon, where it touches the star-filled sky.

i love those moments.

for more of what's happening overhead right now at siding spring, check out show me stars!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

venus and jupiter set with the sun

i'm heading up to siding spring observatory tomorrow for a week of (hopefully) good galaxy gleaning!

make sure you get outside around sunset these days and look west to see an incredibly bright pair of planets: venus and jupiter. they are their closest in the sky tonight and will start separating again. the slightly brighter one is venus. enjoy!

Photo Credit: Shawn Malone

deep sky videos: sombrero galaxy (M104)

i've been enjoying watching the new deep sky videos project that brady haran and crew are working on these days.

brady visited sydney last year and we filmed material for some messier objects. this video highlights my favorite of them all: the sombrero galaxy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunday, March 11, 2012

trap that animal!

i'm a big fan of rube goldberg machines and kids having creative fun! audri is seven years old and shows an impressive understanding of science and exciting entertainment! :) i'm glad his mom filmed this to share with us all.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the most astounding fact

the most astounding fact, according to neil degrasse tyson...

nicely stated. nicely animated. nicely demonstrated.

via its ok to be smart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

american gothic: south austin style

one of my favorite little families to watch grow and explore the world is the enchanting heald-ingrams. i was lucky enough to cross the paths of these soulful artists when i was living in austin and have remained inspired by them ever since.

as jeri lynn and ian ingram started their journey as a family, they began a wonderful photo series with friend and photographer, shana berenzweig.

the series they call american gothic, south austin style, started while jeri lynn was pregnant with their daughter, koruna muse, and has continued as they've welcomed their son, marvel "mars" heron, to the world.

May 2009

August 2009

September 2010

June 2011

January 2012

they're just lovely.