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Drive and Joy: Annie Jump Cannon at HCO

Annie Jump Cannon’s astronomy translated the dense skies into a scientific form, and her mere presence made the observatory halls most welcoming and accessible. She could not classify the stars without her colleagues’ help, but they were helpless without her energy and strategy. At the observatory for forty-five years, she…

The Center for Astrophysics and the Libre Space Foundation team up on open metadata for small satellite missions

Image: NASA. 2016. ELaNa IX STMSat ISS Deployment. 2016. The Center for Astrophysics and the Libre Space Foundation have been awarded funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop and prototype an open metadata schema to link data, software, and hardware from small satellite missions. The project will help…

Visual Astronomy Display: March 2019

Highlights… The world said good-bye to Mar’s rover Opportunity last month when NASA declared mission end on February 13, 2019; Could the multiple universes of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse be real? Fermilab dives into the science!; The Space Telescope Science Institute shows how the Webb Space Telescopes’ integral field unit…

Visual Astronomy Display: January 2019

Happy New Year! Highlights… Emily Lakdawalla from the Planetary Society takes us on a tour of the spacecraft currently exploring our solar system; Revisiting the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 that were discovered nearly two years ago; Take a look at the complexity and precision that goes into building the James…

OOPs!: Trials and travails in the Observatory’s Optics Projects

The first issue of optics is sight. What do you see? How clear is the image? Is it accurate? For astronomers and telescope makers, these questions define the limits of observation, analysis, and conclusion. Through the history of Harvard College Observatory (HCO), the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), and the Harvard…

Visual Astronomy Display: December 2018

After an unexpected four month hiatus, we’re back! Highlights… NASA bids a fond farewell to Kepler, the telescope that proved over it’s nine year mission that there are more planets than stars in the universe; SciShow Space explains how stellar occultations can be used to hunt for exoplanet rings; Late…

Computers at Work: Astronomical labor at the HCO at the turn of the century

The women whose assistance, administration, and computing supported astronomy are now great subjects in the history of science. Far from serving an auxiliary role, these computers standardized the skies, and laid the foundation for modern astrophysics. While we know big names who pioneered new theories through their calculations, many of these…

Visual Astronomy Display: July 2018

Highlights… This month’s Physics Crash Course video looks at resistors, batteries, and circuits; James Christy and Robert Harrington talk about how they discovered Charon, 40 years ago; A global dust storm swirling across Mars is threatening the Opportunity rover, will it survive?; As scientists noticed that ‘Oumuamua gained an extra…

Visual Astronomy Display: June 2018

Highlights… New magnetic events discovered in the near-Earth environment by using an innovative technique to squeeze extra information out of the data; Is it a pulsar? Is it a magnatar? Do dense stars evolve from one state to another over time?; Learn how TESS searches the skies for exoplanets over…

Visual Astronomy Display: May 2018

Highlights… This month’s Physics Crash Course video looks at electric charge and electric fields; Watch TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launch successfully from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida; In preparation for sending the first people into space, NASA learned a lot about the ear’s role in motion…