December 30, 2015, Hubble Day! Look to the stars for our future

December 30, 2015

[Today is actually the day!  You may fly your flag if you choose.  This is the traditional Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub Hubble Day post.]

Lift a glass of champagne today in tribute to Edwin Hubble and his great discovery. Not sure what to call it — Hubble Day, Looking Up Day, Endless Possibilities Day — whatever, this is the anniversary of Edwin Hubble’s announcement that he had discovered the universe is much, much larger than anyone had imagined, containing far more stars than anyone had dared guess.

It’s a big universe out there.

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy. Wired caption: Photo: Edwin Hubble’s 1920s observations of Andromeda (whose ultraviolet spectrum is rendered here) expanded our notions of the size and nature of a universe that is itself expanding. Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA.

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy. Wired caption: “Photo: Edwin Hubble’s 1920s observations of Andromeda (whose ultraviolet spectrum is rendered here) expanded our notions of the size and nature of a universe that is itself expanding. Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA.”

So, today is a good day to celebrate the universe in all it’s glory – December 30.

On December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced he’d discovered other galaxies in distant space. Though it may not have been so clear at the time, it meant that, as a galaxy, we are not alone in the universe (whether we are alone as intelligent life is a separate question). It also meant that the universe is much, much bigger than most people had dared to imagine.

91 years ago today.

I keep trying to get people to celebrate.

In 2008 for Hubble Day, Wired picked up on the story (with a gracious link to 2007’s post here at the Bathtub). Wired includes several links to even more information, a good source of information. See Wired’s 2009 post here.

Hubble was the guy who showed us the universe is not only bigger than we imagined, it’s probably much bigger and much more fantastic than we can imagine. (See J. B. S. Haldane’s “queerer” quote.) Hubble is the guy who opened our imaginations to the vastness of all creation.

Hubble’s work would have been impossible without the earlier work of one of the great, unsung women of science, Henrietta Leavitt, as Wired explained:

He trained the powerful new 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson in Southern California on spiral nebulae. These fuzzy patches of light in the sky were generally thought to be clouds of gas or dust within our galaxy, which was presumed to include everything in the universe except the Magellanic Clouds. Some nebulae seemed to contain a few stars, but nothing like the multitudes of the Milky Way.

Hubble not only found a number of stars in Andromeda, he found Cepheid variable stars. These stars vary from bright to dim, and a very smart Harvard computationist named Henrietta Leavitt had discovered in 1912 that you could measure distance with them. Given the brightness of the star and its period — the length of time it takes to go from bright to dim and back again — you could determine how far away it is.

Hubble used Leavitt’s formula to calculate that Andromeda was approximately 860,000 light years away. That’s more than eight times the distance to the farthest stars in the Milky Way. This conclusively proved that the nebulae are separate star systems and that our galaxy is not the universe.

How does one celebrate Hubble Day? Here are some suggestions:

  • Easier than Christmas cards: Send a thank-you note to your junior high school science teacher, or whoever it was who inspired your interest in science. Mrs. Hedburg, Mrs. Andrews, Elizabeth K. Driggs, Herbert Gilbert, Mr. Willis, and Stephen McNeal, thank you.
  • Rearrange your Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid/KWANZAA lights in the shape of the Andromeda Galaxy — or in the shape of any of the great photos from the Hubble Telescope (Andromeda Galaxy pictured above; Hubble images here)

    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

  • Go visit your local science museum; take your kids along – borrow somebody else’s kids if you have to (take them along, too); this year, in Dallas, you can visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science — it’s a doozy
  • Spend two hours in your local library, just looking through the books on astronomy and the universe
  • Write a letter to your senators and congressman; tell them space exploration takes a minuscule portion of our federal budget, but it makes us dream big; tell them we need to dream big, and so they’d better make sure NASA is funded well.  While you’re at it, put in a plug for funding Big Bird and the rest of public broadcasting, too.  Science education in this nation more and more becomes the science shows on NPR and PBS, watched by kids who learned to read and think by watching Big Bird.
  • Anybody got a good recipe for a cocktail called “The Hubble?” “The Andromeda?” Put it in the comments, please.  “The Hubble” should have bubbles in it, don’t you think?  What was it the good monk said?  He was working to make great wine, but goofed somewhere, and charged the wine with another dose of yeast.  When he uncorked the very first bottle of what would come to be called champagne, Benedictine Monk Dom Pierre Perignon said “I am drinking stars!”  Except, he said it in French.  In any case, a Hubble cocktail should have bubbles, some of Perignon’s stars.

The encore post, from 2007:

December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced the results of his observations of distant objects in space.

PBS

Edwin Hubble

In 1924, he announced the discovery of a Cepheid, or variable star, in the Andromeda Nebulae. Since the work of Henrietta Leavitt had made it possible to calculate the distance to Cepheids, he calculated that this Cepheid was much further away than anyone had thought and that therefore the nebulae was not a gaseous cloud inside our galaxy, like so many nebulae, but in fact, a galaxy of stars just like the Milky Way. Only much further away. Until now, people believed that the only thing existing outside the Milky Way were the Magellanic Clouds. The Universe was much bigger than had been previously presumed.

Later Hubble noted that the universe demonstrates a “red-shift phenomenon.” The universe is expanding. This led to the idea of an initial expansion event, and the theory eventually known as Big Bang.

Hubble’s life offered several surprises, and firsts:

Hubble was a tall, elegant, athletic, man who at age 30 had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and mathematics, a legal degree as a Rhodes scholar, followed by a PhD in astronomy. He was an attorney in Kentucky (joined its bar in 1913), and had served in WWI, rising to the rank of major. He was bored with law and decided to go back to his studies in astronomy.

In 1919 he began to work at Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where he would work for the rest of his life. . . .
Hubble wanted to classify the galaxies according to their content, distance, shape, and brightness patterns, and in his observations he made another momentous discovery: By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by the galaxies, he saw that galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them (Hubble’s Law). The further away they were, the faster they receded. This led to the calculation of the point where the expansion began, and confirmation of the big bang theory. Hubble calculated it to be about 2 billion years ago, but more recent estimates have revised that to 20 billion years ago.

An active anti-fascist, Hubble wanted to joined the armed forces again during World War II, but was convinced he could contribute more as a scientist on the homefront. When the 200-inch telescope was completed on Mt. Palomar, Hubble was given the honor of first use. He died in 1953.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

That news on December 30, 1924, didn’t make the first page of the New York Times. The Times carried a small note on February 25, 1925, that Hubble won a $1,000 prize from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

(Does anyone have a suitable citation for that video? Where did it come from? Who produced it? Is there more somewhere?)

Happy Hubble Day! Look up!

Resources:

Hubble Space Telescope - NASA image

Hubble Space Telescope, working homage to Edwin Hubble – NASA image

Even More Resources:

Andromeda as we can see it today. Wikimedia image: The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. The image also shows Messier Objects 32 and 110, as well as NGC 206 (a bright star cloud in the Andromeda Galaxy) and the star Nu Andromedae. This image was taken using a hydrogen-alpha filter.

Andromeda as we can see it today. Wikimedia image: The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. The image also shows Messier Objects 32 and 110, as well as NGC 206 (a bright star cloud in the Andromeda Galaxy) and the star Nu Andromedae. This image was taken using a hydrogen-alpha filter.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


December 30 is Hubble Day; are you ready to celebrate?

December 29, 2015

Get ready to look up!

Edwin Hubble.

Edwin Hubble. (Photo credit: snaphappygeek)

At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, for several years we’ve celebrated Hubble Day on December 30.

On December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced he’d discovered other galaxies in distant space. Though it may not have been so clear at the time, it meant that, as a galaxy, we are not alone in the universe (whether we are alone as intelligent life is a separate question). It also meant that the universe is much, much bigger than most people had dared to imagine.

December 30, 2015 is the 91st anniversary of the announcement.  When dealing with general science illiteracy, it’s difficult to believe we’ve been so well informed for more than nine decades.  In some quarters, news travels more slowly than sound in the vacuum of space.

I find hope in many places.  Just three years ago the Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened in downtown Dallas.  It’s the old Dallas Museum of Science and Natural History, once cramped into a bursting building in historic Fair Park, now expanded into a beautiful new building downtown, and keeping the Fair Park building, too.  Considering the strength of creationism in Texas, it’s great news that private parties would put up $185 million for a museum dedicated to hard science.

Displays in the Perot border on brilliance at almost every stop.  Stuffy museum this is not — it’s designed to spark interest in science and engineering in kids, and I judge that it succeeds, though we need to wait 20 years or so to see just exactly what and who it inspires.

We visited the Perot regularly through 2014.  On one visit in 2012, as I was admiring a large map of the Moon, a family strolled by, and a little girl I estimated to be 8 or 9 pointed to the Moon and asked her maybe-30-something father where humans landed.  I had been working to see whether the very large photo showed any signs of activity — but the father didn’t hesitate, and pointed to the Sea of Tranquility.  “There,” he said.  The man was not old enough to have been alive at the time; I’d wager most of my contemporaries would hesitate, and maybe have to look it up.  Not that guy.

Visitors to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas

On 32 flat-panel video displays hooked together to make one massive display, visitors to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science view Mars as our new Mars Rover’s friend might see it, in a section of the museum devoted to astronomy, physics, astronomy and planetary exploration. Photo by Ed Darrell; use encouraged with attribution.

Still, kids today need this museum and the knowledge and excitement it imparts.  One recent July I accompanied a group of Scouts from Troop 355 to summer camp in Colorado, to Camp Chris Dobbins in the foothills just east of Colorado Springs.  Near lights out one night I hiked the half-mile to our campsite admiring the Milky Way and other bright displays of stars that we simply do not get in light-polluted Dallas County.  I expected that our older Scouts would have already started on the Astronomy merit badge, but the younger ones may not have been introduced.  So I asked how many of them could find the Milky Way.  Not a hand went up.

“Dowse the lights, let’s have a five minute star lesson,” I said.  we trekked out to a slight opening in the trees, and started looking up.  I had just enough time to point out the milky fog of stars we see of our own galaxy, when one of the Scouts asked how to tell the difference between an airplane and a satellite.  Sure enough, he’d spotted a satellite quietly passing overhead — and just to put emphasis on the difference, a transcontinental jet passed over flying west towards Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Then, when we were all looking up, a meteoroid streaked from the south across almost the whole length of the visible Milky Way.  Teenage kids don’t often go quiet all at once, but after the oohs and aahs we had a few moments of silence.  They were hooked already.  Less than five minutes in, they’d seen the Milky Way, found the Big Dipper, seen a satellite, a jet, and a shooting star.

Perfection!

Edwin Hubble’s discovery can now be the stuff of elementary school science, that the blobs in the sky astronomers had pondered for a century were really galaxies like our own, which we see only through a faint fuzz we call the Milky Way.

Do kids get that kind of stuff in elementary school?  Not enough, I fear.

We named a great telescope after the guy; shouldn’t we do a bit more to celebrate his discovery?

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Milky Way over Argentina observatory

September 22, 2015

From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Milky Way over Bosque Alegre Station in Argentina Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastián D' Alessandro. To see the picture in its unadorned glory without the explanatory overlay, click on the image to get to NASA's APOD site.

Milky Way over Bosque Alegre Station in Argentina Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastián D’ Alessandro. To see the picture in its unadorned glory without the explanatory overlay, click on the image to get to NASA’s APOD site.

Stars in the Southern Hemisphere differ a lot from what we see in the North, most famously with the Southern Cross (Crux, in the image above).

Glorious anyway; more glory to go around.

If you click over to the APOD site, you can also see this photo without the overlay, which is another whole world of wonderfulness.

APOD said:

Explanation: What are those streaks of light in the sky? First and foremost, the arching structure is the central band of our Milky Way galaxy. Visible in this galactic band are millions of distant stars mixed with numerous lanes of dark dust. Harder to discern is a nearly vertical beam of light rising from the horizon, just to the right of the image center. This beam is zodiacal light, sunlight scattered by dust in our Solar System that may be surprisingly prominent just after sunset or just before sunrise. In the foreground are several telescopes of the Bosque Alegre Astrophysical Station of the National University of Cordoba in Argentina. The station schedules weekend tours and conducts research into the nature of many astronomical objects including comets, active galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The featured image was taken early this month.


Milky Way over New Zealand

August 3, 2015

Screen capture of one frame of Mark Gee's short film, "After Dark."

Screen capture of one frame of Mark Gee’s short film, “After Dark.”

Great little .gif, of the night sky in New Zealand.

From a Tweet by BBC Earth.  It’s taken from a slightly longer film put together by Mark Gee.

1440 individual photographs captured over 13 hours cut together into one incredible time-lapse video.

Photographer and videographer Mark Gee shot this breath-taking footage of the southern skies around his hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. The stunning one-minute clip is a collection of Mark’s most memorable night sky moments over the past year.

The majority of the video was shot on Wellington’s South Coast (watch out for air traffic) while the campfire and the camping scenes were filmed in Cape Palliser and the Tararua Ranges.

From Gee’s Youtube site, the longer film (1 minute!):


National Parks timelapse movie, “The Untouched”

July 27, 2015

Title shot from "The Untouched," a movie of time-lapse shots of U.S. National Parks.

Title shot from “The Untouched,” a movie of time-lapse shots of U.S. National Parks.

The Wilderness Society said:

This filmmaker traveled to 30 states and national parks to capture this gorgeous time-lapse video showcasing the beauty of untouched nature and our dark skies

Watch the video and read the account of all that goes into making a film like this. Amazing work!

From .  Details at Vimeo, where Manievannan discusses what the Parks showed of destructive climate change during the filming.

How many places can you identify? How many of them have you visited?

More:


Milky Way at Joshua Tree National Park

July 10, 2015

Milky Way viewed from Joshua Tree National Park, via Department of Interior Twitter feed: There is some spectacular stargazing to be had @JoshuaTreeNP in #California. #MilkyWay

Milky Way viewed from Joshua Tree National Park, via Department of Interior Twitter feed: There is some spectacular stargazing to be had @JoshuaTreeNP in #California. #MilkyWay

The bucket list of places to watch stars just keeps growing.  Interior’s photo from Joshua Tree National Park should make you salivate, too.

Who is the photographer?

When you go, look up Chris Clarke and buy him a drink.

More:


Top 15 places to stargaze in California’s BLM lands

June 16, 2015

I’m stealing this wholesale from the Tumblr site of the U.S. Department of Interior, America’s Great Outdoors.

The site features great Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites often, and this week will highlight places on BLM lands in California that are great for stargazing.  They call it a “social media takeover” of the feed by California BLM.

How good is the star watching? Look at these photographs.  (I’ve added a few comments of my own.)

Piper Mountains Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Piper Mountains Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Another great place to see the Milky Way.

King Range National Conservation Area, California, by Bob Wick

King Range National Conservation Area, California, by Bob Wick

These photos are stunning. These .gifs also demonstrate how the atmosphere really is a fluid, flowing over mountains — “the curvaceous hills of California,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called them in a travelogue he delivered from the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.  Teachers, not just great geography illustrations, but also illustrations for environmental science and physics.

Amargosa Wild and Scenic River, California, by Bob Wick

Amargosa Wild and Scenic River, California, by Bob Wick

 

San Gorgonio Wilderness, California, by Dan Maus

San Gorgonio Wilderness, California, by Dan Maus

 

Slinkard Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Slinkard Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Slinkard Wilderness? I admit I do not know of some of these places.  I’m willing to learn, first hand . . .

Kingston Range Wilderness, BLM California, by Bob Wick, BLM

Kingston Range Wilderness, BLM California, by Bob Wick, BLM

 

California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

California Coastal National Monument reminds me that Republicans in Congress push a proposal to prevent future presidents from protecting such lands with National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act. Critics say these BLM lands are not special enough to merit protection.

Do the photos say otherwise?

North Maricopa Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

North Maricopa Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

 

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

Cadiz Dunes Wilderness, California, by Bob Wick

 

Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument, California, by Bob Wick

 

A printer-friendly, and search engine-friendly list of the sites above, if you’re putting them into your GPS or search feature to plan your vacation:

mypubliclands:

June #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover: Top 15 Places to Stargaze on the #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM California

1. Amargosa Wild and Scenic River
2. Cadiz Dunes Wilderness
3. California Coastal National Monument
4. Carrizo Plain National Monument
5. Fort Ord National Monument
6. Kingston Range Wilderness
7. Little Black Sands Beach in King Range National Conservation Area
8. Lost Coast Trail at King Range National Conservation Area
9. North Maricopa Wilderness
10. Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area
11. Piper Mountains Wilderness
12. Point Arena-Stornetta in California Coastal National Monument
13. San Gorgonio Wilderness
14. Slinkard Wilderness
15. Whipple Mountains Wilderness

Thanks for following the June #conservationlands15 features on My Public Lands Tumblr, and our takeover of americasgreatoutdoors Instagram account (https://instagram.com/usinterior/). Stay tuned all week as the #mypubliclandsroadtrip visits these top 15 California spots for stargazing and much more.

Bob Wick and Dan Maus may have the best jobs in U.S. government service, judging by their photos.  Nice of them to share.

What do your shots from those places look like?  Show us in comments, maybe?


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