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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…

Whipple’s Moonwatch: Amateur Astronomers in the Space Age

October 4, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellite “Sputnik,” in 1957. The world was astonished by the news that the Soviet Union had successfully put a satellite into Earth’s orbit for the first time in history. Sputnik had a profound impact on international…

Visual Astronomy Display: April 2018

Highlights… This month’s Physics Crash Course video looks at engines of all types; ESA’s Clean Space initiative is investigating technologies to help ensure that future satellites do not end up as space debris; Are brown dwarfs planets? are they stars? Minute Physics investigates these strange astronomical objects; SciShowSpace shares recent…

Visual Astronomy Display: March 2018

Highlights… This month’s Physics Crash Course videos look at kinetic energy and thermodynamics; Why can’t we see the Apollo lunar landers from Earth, even using using our most powerful telescopes or the Hubble Space Telescope?; NASA studies unusually warm Arctic water, with sea ice levels reaching record lows in several…

Cecilia and Sergei: American Astronomers

Many great minds and personalities have graced this Observatory, but few so illustrious as those of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and her husband Sergei. Together, and separately, they made great impacts on how astronomers see the universe. Cecilia began questioning the make-up of the stars, finding in her graduate research that hydrogen…