Sunday, December 29, 2013

have a great day being a scientist!

i have visited a few classrooms of 7-10 year old students this holiday season to talk about the solar system and what it's like being a scientist.  so many fantastic things happened during and since those visits that i think i will post several stories about them.

a little of the crazy eye, but look at all the enthusiastically raised hands! (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
i'm constantly impressed by the eagerness of the kids to answer questions, ask questions, and share stories.  they want to tell me how something in their life relates to something i've said about the universe.   and they're so sharp!

the 8 year olds are still sympathetic towards pluto not being a planet any more, despite the fact that it was reclassified to "dwarf planet" status before they were born!   it shows how strongly families and society influence what these kids know and how they behave.

Talking with my hands again.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
the 10 year old classes listened to the solar system news with interest, felt satisfied learning why pluto isnt a planet anymore, and then got really excited about the existence of planets around stars other than our sun!  then they asked questions about dark matter and black holes and the expanding universe!?!  certainly keeping me on my toes!  :)

some of my favourite questions are about planetary moons.  one that i do not have a good answer for is "why is ours just called "the moon" when all the other moons in the solar system have interesting names like mimas or titan?"  i mentioned that ours has a name in different languages, Luna, for example but in english it just received the definite article distinction (no, i didnt actually say the "definite article" bit).

the students also loved the idea that one of saturn's moons, mimas, looks like the death star from star wars!

Death star moon! (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
i felt a bit like a rock star after the talk as kids swarmed me with more questions and stories.   the girl in this photo is looking a bit skeptical, which means i've either done my job right or she's just annoyed that it's not her turn to ask a question yet!

Endless questions and stories :)  (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)

the wonderful teachers from each class i talked to had students write thank you letters and draw pictures for me.  i have read over these adorable stacks of letters so many times since receiving them.  absolutely the best present i received this year!    here are a few favorites :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

eggnog and cookies

hope everyone had a nice solstice and relishes in some pleasant down time with friends and family for a few days during the holiday season.   i'm enjoying games and laughs, memories and food, and cold fun in the snow with my family in the US.

here is a multiwavelength sun for you to enjoy.

and greetings from the hubble team :)

Friday, December 20, 2013

dirty space news goes live!

if you are in chicago, head over to the adler planetarium TONIGHT for Adler After Dark (get tickets here) for a very special event.  i'll be narrating a live dirty space news show inside the massive 360 degree dome!   

here's a sneak peek of the 40 ft view ;)

finally - some DSN of the female persuasion!
i have been laughing almost to the point of tears while rehearsing for the show.   it's going to be so much fun!  

but i've been enjoying the cold, windy city!  yesterday i decided to walk from where this photo was taken to that circular building perched out on the edge of the lake (adler planetarium).   it was a good idea in principle, but WOW was it COLD!  i've lost all my winter weather tolerance.   oh well, the snow is lovely.  

chicago's museum campus

ps. sorry for the late notice on this show - have been running around like crazy since moving, starting my new job and during my prep for travel.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the power of empathy

this short animated video about the difference between sympathy and empathy taught me an interesting lesson about connection and communication.  watch right up to the end.

"rarely does an empathic response begin with 'at least'."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

year in review

xkcd hits it exactly right in the year in review comic.  i still have not managed to see an aurora!

with hidden comment "all in all, i give this year a C-.  there were no aurora visible from my house and that comet evaporated.  they'd better not cancel the 2017 eclipse."  amen to that.  

but for myself, i'd say it has been a fairly good year.   lost the super, but gained an official "science communicator" role.  moved to a new flat that has a garden to play in.  visiting family for a second time. siding spring observatory survived the bush fires.   explored the great barrier reed with my mom.  talked to my nephew's class about astronomy and being a scientist. probably more that i cant recall right now.  

thanks everybody for hanging around :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

school space gallery

a few weeks ago i visited a primary/elementary school in sydney to talk about being a girl in science.   lots of students and their parents came around to the evening session and it was a great experience.

a favourite part of the evening was the tour of the school's "space gallery" which has been developed over the last several years through collaborations between the science teacher, students and their parents.  the halls are filled with art about space!

the rocket corner marks the entrance to the space gallery.

the staircase is painted with tiny tiny astronaut footprints!

the top of the staircase is loaded with planetary art and hanging models of different types of stars!

and not just space!   another wing shows where dinosaurs meet the cosmos.

 realistic murals on all the walls are incredible.

this school building houses an inspiring space for the students to walk around and provides activities and discussions and projects for families to work on together. they have successfully created community by combining art and science.

the students were SO PROUD to show off their school.  great stuff!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

turkey on the barbie

i celebrated a fun thanksgiving this year.   the day brought together a canadian friend and a few aussies and we decided to mix a few standard cultural food items into the meal.

turkey on the barbie happened!  i was skeptical at first, i admit, but it turned out to be delicious!

and in true aussie form, a redback spider crawled right up on the BBQ minutes after the bird went in.

we enjoyed a few drinks in the warm sunshine between preparing dishes and playing bocce ball in the yard

and then the feast really began!

my biggest task this year was convincing the aussies that pumpkin pie is a sweet dessert and not like a savoury veggie pie you would eat for dinner.   it was a success, as we ate it without any photos!   but i admit, it was hard to top the sweet yumminess of the pavlova!

happy thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

8 seconds in ethiopia

fellow astronomer and sydneysider, geoff sims, ventured to southern ethiopia for the total solar eclipse last month.  as you know, i'm a big fan of total solar eclipses, which i feel are the most amazing astronomical phenomena you can see from earth.

unfortunately, the clouds did not part over geoff during the eclipse, but he still captured some incredible footage of ethiopia and the clouds as they went through their 8 seconds of eclipsed darkness.  

8 seconds in Ethiopia from Geoff Sims on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wild weather

i know, a post about weather?  but seriously, the greater sydney area has been providing some crazy events in recent months.

the bush fires have started well before the normal fire hazard season usually becomes worrisome.  recall the fires that swept through siding spring observatory in january (the middle of summer).   but this spring, the big fires started west of sydney!

on the day the big fires began, i could see this huge red smoke cloud moving quickly east over the city.

surreal smoke cloud over sydney

i checked the radar and those thin diagonal features are not storm clouds, they are smoke clouds being blown right over central sydney!

the thickest smoke cloud kept flowing east and this formation flew past near the edge.

the resulting sunset that night was as spectacular as it was eerie.  i have not digitally manipulated any of these photos!

pink and purple sunset through bushfire smoke clouds

a few days later, the fires were still burning in the west and we woke up every morning to air that smelled like fire smoke and a hazy sky.   the sun reflect a striking red off the waters near manly beach.

red sun through bushfire smoke
the fires raged for a couple weeks, destroying hundreds of homes along the path.   then almost two weeks ago, rains have covered the area.   over the past week and a half, the rains have fallen powerfully, causing water damage and flooding and bringing strong winds.   in fact, this week, water spouts were spotted off the new south wales coast.  water spouts, australia?!?!

Water Spouts near Port Macquarie (Photo Credit: link)
this is not normal weather, y'all.

Friday, November 15, 2013

the day the earth smiled

these images from the cassini space craft are just amazing.  many images taken in july this year were combined to create these fantastic panoramas.

the image below shows where planets and moons of saturn are located.

to understand all the details in this image, i share this video of emily lakdawalla describing all the fascinating subtleties.  very much worth the 10 minutes of your time.  enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

so late so soon

every year this happens, dr seuss.  how does it seem to happen every year?!

spotted at this isnt happiness.

Monday, November 11, 2013

beauty of mathematics

mathematics is everywhere, the language of science describing the motions of everything and the reactions between things.  i find it beautiful to recognize in the world, knowing there is so much more detail underlying the simple visible surface.  some can claim it takes away the romance, but it adds to my satisfaction.   i think this video shows the beauty of mathematics nicely.


(best to watch full size though!)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

outreach officer

this week i officially start my new job with the AAO, splitting my time as a research astronomer and head of our new outreach office!

i'm very excited to begin this new position and to have a new office!

although i'm sad to lose my official title as a super science fellow :(   in honor of my time as a super, here are some interesting modifications of classic art pieces to include superheroes!

and from an entertaining, but slightly sad series of oil paintings about an aging superhero, by andreas englund:

but seriously, once super, always super.   i'm keeping the cape!  

and i'm really thrilled about the new office!   it has a big window with views of trees and sky and birds and weather!  it has been too long since i've had a nice view of the outside world from my indoor office.

ps. i've been sharing photos on here recently that i've previously posted on instagram.