Eyes to the Skies | City&Robe

2022 August T&G 29 As well as, each Friday in the course of the fall and spring semesters, the Penn State Astronomy Membership, a scholar group, hosts free stargazing occasions on the roof of Davey Lab on campus. College students and most of the people are given entry to highly effective telescopes below the steerage of school members and graduate college students. This spring, the astronomy division labored with the Division of Anthropology to develop Tales Below the Sky, held on the primary Friday of every month (climate allowing) within the Childhood’s Gate part of the Arboretum at Penn State. This system is free to the general public and contains storytelling of myths concerning the stars from completely different cultures, adopted by astronomy classes and stargazing alternatives. After a two-year hiatus as a consequence of COVID, this summer time the division introduced again the favored AstroFest, held in the course of the Central Pennsylvania Competition of the Arts in July and hosted at Davey Lab. Feigelson says AstroFest has been round since one other division professor, Jane Charlton, got here up with the concept in 1999. The occasion attracts as much as 2,000 individuals who study the whole lot from cosmic rays to black holes to quantum mechanics, and, after all, have the chance to look at the evening sky by telescopes. Skywatches and Star Events Penn State outreach applications will not be the one approach for native stargazers to get their repair. Central Pennsylvania Observers hosts free month-to-month public viewing occasions, which they name Skywatches, from April by October. Membership President Steve Taylor explains, “I typically try to schedule the Skywatches close to the brand new moon, as a result of it is best when you possibly can solely see a sliver of it. You’d assume a full moon can be nice, however when it is shining straight down, you get no shadows and David Silber (5) The Central Pennsylvania Observers arrange telescopes at Tudek Park each month so anybody considering astronomy can look to the celebs . (Photograph by David Silber)

When Galileo noticed Jupiter, Venus, and our personal moon clearly for the primary time by an early model of the telescope in 1609, his observations modified our view of the world … and past.

4 centuries later, stargazers are nonetheless being modified by the exact same views, in accordance with Eric Feigelson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics in Penn State’s Eberly Faculty of Science.

“I name it ‘transformative.’ I believe it’s personally transformative for somebody who has by no means seen Saturn and even one thing so simple as the moon with a telescope. … You see it for the primary time and also you go, ‘Aah, it is stunning, the way it simply hangs there,’ and perhaps you see the three moons of Jupiter, similar to Galileo did. It is simply great,” he says.

This outlook-altering expertise is out there to simply about anybody domestically all year long, because of stargazing alternatives offered by each Penn State and Central Pennsylvania Observers, a membership made up of astronomy and house fanatics.

Offering these sorts of alternatives is a vital a part of Feigelson’s place as chair of the outreach committee in Penn State’s Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“Public outreach is significant, in my view. It is this glorious synergy of scientists, the attractiveness of astronomy, and the general public thirst—they often prefer it. Astronomy is enormously engaging to everybody,” he says. “Science is usually considered as this inherently boring factor, and that is simply not true. … I have been in different universities the place the general public outreach program is kind of a bit of boring. Right here, it is vibrant.”

Seeking to the evening sky from the roof of Davey Lab (Photograph by Eberly Faculty of Science)

For that, hey credit Christopher Palma, present affiliate dean of Eberly Faculty of Science, previously the division’s first outreach officer, whom Feigelson says added greater than 10 public applications to the division’s choices throughout his tenure.

Whereas the pandemic put a brief halt to most in-person programming, Feigelson says in “regular” instances the division’s outreach choices embody workshops and applications for academics; camps and area journeys for Okay-12 college students; public lectures; and a week-long summer time Street Scholar program for retirees.

As well as, each Friday in the course of the fall and spring semesters, the Penn State Astronomy Membership, a scholar group, hosts free stargazing occasions on the roof of Davey Lab on campus. College students and most of the people are given entry to highly effective telescopes below the steerage of school members and graduate college students.

This spring, the astronomy division labored with the Division of Anthropology to develop Tales Below the Sky, held on the primary Friday of every month (climate allowing) within the Childhood’s Gate part of the Arboretum at Penn State. This system is free to the general public and contains storytelling of myths concerning the stars from completely different cultures, adopted by astronomy classes and stargazing alternatives.

After a two-year hiatus as a consequence of COVID, this summer time the division introduced again the favored AstroFest, held in the course of the Central Pennsylvania Competition of the Arts in July and hosted at Davey Lab. Feigelson says AstroFest has been round since one other division professor, Jane Charlton, got here up with the concept in 1999. The occasion attracts as much as 2,000 individuals who study the whole lot from cosmic rays to black holes to quantum mechanics, and, after all, have the chance to look at the evening sky by telescopes.

Skywatches and Star Events

Penn State outreach applications will not be the one approach for native stargazers to get their repair.

Central Pennsylvania Observers hosts free month-to-month public viewing occasions, which they name Skywatches, from April by October.

Membership President Steve Taylor explains, “I typically try to schedule the Skywatches close to the brand new moon, as a result of it is best when you possibly can solely see a sliver of it. You’d assume a full moon can be nice, however when it is shining straight down, you get no shadows and it is blindingly brilliant—it is like midday on the moon. However if you see it in crescent, when the solar is shining throughout it, now you possibly can see the crevices and the mountains.”

Summer season climate is nice for stargazing, however the watch for darkness is longer for these gathered at Tudek Park. (Photograph by David Silber)

Skywatches are continuously held at Tudek Park in Ferguson Township, the place the membership units up telescopes belonging to particular person members and invitations the general public to look by them. Membership members are available to assist guests use the gear and perceive what they’re seeing by the telescopes. Whereas households are welcome, the occasions are aimed extra in the direction of adults, says Taylor. Skywatches are canceled if the skies will not be clear as a consequence of climate.

Sadly, Taylor says, inclement climate is just not the one impediment to clear viewing of the evening sky. With continued growth in State Faculty bringing extra avenue lights and constructing lights, Taylor says the celebs have gotten more and more troublesome to see at evening. To flee the lights, Ridge Hovering Gliderport in Julian was as soon as a favourite viewing spot for CPO members, however since its latest closure, the membership has been looking out for a brand new observing web site to create or purchase, Taylor says.

In the meantime, actually darkish skies and nice viewing circumstances can virtually all the time be discovered at CPO’s signature occasion, its annual Black Forest Star Occasion at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County.

“It is one of many greatest star events on the Japanese seaboard, and one of many darkest skies on the Japanese seaboard,” Taylor says.

The occasion, which serves because the membership’s main fundraiser, can be held September 23-25 ​​this 12 months and is predicted to attract newbie astronomers from throughout the nation, most of whom will camp out within the park for the weekend, Taylor says. Tickets are $40 and he says the occasion, which is restricted to 600 members, sells out shortly.

Exoplanets and extraterrestrial life

CPO holds month-to-month conferences at South Hills Enterprise Faculty for its members, who be part of the membership for $20 per 12 months. The conferences are held on the primary Thursday of every month and infrequently characteristic lectures by Penn State researchers about necessary information in astronomy.

Exoplanets, that are planets exterior of our photo voltaic system, are notably of curiosity proper now, in accordance with each Taylor and Feigelson.

“Exoplanets are scorching matters as a result of the variety of these is rising exponentially. Thirty years in the past, we weren’t certain there have been any. Now we all know there are lots of hundreds,” Taylor says.

Feigelson goes even additional, saying, “It is solely been recognized in our lifetime—the primary discovery was in 1995—that each star you see up within the evening sky has its personal planetary system. Carl Sagan speculated, however he did not know. The traditional Greeks speculated, however they did not know. No one knew, till our era. We have discovered an infinite quantity of issues, and persons are .”

Different favourite matters proper now embody black holes and the opportunity of life on different planets.

Penn State is a frontrunner in analysis in these and plenty of different areas of astronomy and astrophysics. With over 20 tenure-track professors and 60 graduate college students, in addition to 15 undergraduate college students graduating every year, Penn State has one of many largest and best-funded astronomy departments within the nation.

The Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Heart, run by Jason Wright of the Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics, is devoted to the seek for proof of life on different planets by communicative alerts and different indications.

In different departments similar to aerospace engineering, Penn State scientists are concerned within the seek for life in different methods, together with collaborating with rocket scientists from Johns Hopkins College to construct a drone to discover Titan, Saturn’s greatest moon, for indicators of life.

“We’re a part of the centuries-long debate over, to make use of American trendy phrases, ‘Are we alone? Are there aliens on the market?’ … There are a whole lot of planets like earth, with a whole lot of water, a whole lot of chemistry, a whole lot of substances for all times,” Feigelson says. “With the invention of exoplanets, there’s extra acceptance about the opportunity of life than there was just a few years in the past. The substances are there. It is an instance of why astronomy is so fascinating.”

Feigelson says making the science of astronomy interesting and accessible to the general public, and particularly to younger folks, is so necessary to the federal authorities and what he calls their “STEM employment pipeline” that businesses like NASA and the Nationwide Science Basis present funding to Penn State’s division for outreach in addition to for analysis.

However the division is now in search of extra funding from main donors, Feigelson says, because it plans to construct a brand new planetarium that higher displays the excellence of the division than the tiny, virtually 40-year-old planetarium in Davey Lab. The brand new, state-of-the-art planetarium is being deliberate for the Arboretum Training Heart advanced on the Arboretum at Penn State, close to the brand new Palmer Museum of Artwork.

“We’re ready for a multi-million-dollar reward to Penn State so we will construct the largest and finest planetarium between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” Feigelson says. “[Buhl Planetarium and Franklin Institute] are full of youngsters. It will be the identical right here. It will appeal to lots of people from different counties.”

For details about all of Penn State’s astronomy and astrophysics outreach applications, go to science.psu.edu/astro/public-outreach. For details about Central Pennsylvania Observers public occasions and membership, go to cpoclub.org.

Free Stargazing

All actions are free and climate allowing.

  • Penn State Astronomy Membership: Stargazing on Friday evenings throughout fall and spring semesters on the roof of Davey Lab. science.psu.edu/astro/public-outreach
  • Central Pennsylvania Observers: Month-to-month skywatches at Tudek Park, together with August 5 at 9:30 pm and September 2 at 8:30 pm cpoclub.org
  • Tales Below the Sky: Storytelling of myths concerning the stars adopted by astronomy classes and stargazing. First Fridays, together with August 5 at 8:15 pm and September 2 at 7:45 pm [email protected]

T&G

Karen Walker is a contract author in State Faculty.