UM Astronomy Public Lecture: “Lighting up the Universe: Witnessing Cosmic Dawn” (Feb 21st ~7pm)

martha haynesFriday, February 21, 2013 at 7:00pm
Dennison Building, Room 182
500 Church St
Ann Arbor

Thirteen and a half billion years ago, four hundred thousand years after the Big Bang, the universe had expanded and cooled enough for hydrogen atoms to form. All was darkness. It took another few hundred million years before stars and galaxies lit up the universe, ending the cosmic “dark age.”

Professor Haynes will talk about what we know about the first stars, galaxies, and supermassive black holes. She will also show how new and future telescopes will enable us to witness the epoch of “cosmic dawn.”

Visit for more information or download the poster (PDF). This event is free and open to the public.

Martha Haynes is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. Her research interests include galaxy formation, cosmology, and radio astronomy. She is the vice-president of the International Astronomical Union, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Sciences.

main-campus3map courtesy of Lowbrow Astronomers

Download Now “Origin of Organics in Solar System Formation”

RuudVisser6This is the audio recording of the 01/25 meet-up with Dr. Ruud Visser, postdoc at University of Michigan.  In this meet-up, Ruud discusses his research into the chemical aspects of star formation and its implications on seeding solar systems with organic material capable of becoming life.


I’ve provided a list of conversation highlights and time marks for easy reference:

  • 00:01 Introduction and overview of Visser’s education and experience
  • 28:20 On planets in the habitable zone of a solar system
  • 32:40 Searching for extra-terrestrial amino acids
  • 43:00 Europa and Titan
  • 45:45 Formation of Rocky Planets and Gas Giants
  • 50:15 Comets as delivery agents of water to Earth
  • 58:45 The abundance of Carbon in the solar system
  • 1:12:00 On intelligent life in the Galaxy
  • 1:30:08 What’s a typical day like for Ruud?
  • 1:36:05 On applying for grants and doing outreach

Meet-Up (01/25) – Origin of Organics in Solar System Formation

RuudVisser6The Ann Arbor Science & Skeptics is having a meet-up on Saturday, January 25th from 4:00 to 7:00pm at the Colonial Lanes/Cubs A.C. restaurant. We’ll be in the back room located down the short hallway past the bar.

Our special guest will be Ruud Visser.  His research focuses on the chemical aspects of low-mass star formation. Combining observations and computer simulations, he ultimately wants to understand how the Sun and the Earth were formed and how life emerged.

The first part of the event will be for general socializing and ordering refreshments. After which, there will be some announcements, and then we will start the conversation at approximately 4:30.

There is no cost to attend but donations to cover the guest speaker’s meal and beverages, as well as general group expenses, are appreciated.

You can RSVP here.

Comet Discovery Day at the Museum

Comet_ISON_(C-2012_S1)_by_TRAPPIST_on_2013-11-15Comet Discovery Day will have an emphasis on . . . comets!

The newly discovered comet ISON may have at least partially survived its close approach to the Sun.  If so, we might yet get a glimpse of it–pleasing the millions who had hoped to see a “comet of the century.” Regardless, there is much we can learn from it, and there will be more comets in the future.
Activities will include making craters and comets, and learning about telescopes (solar viewing, weather permitting), light, and waves. There will be comet talks at 11 am and 1 pm, and the Planetarium will show Impact Earth on the half-hour from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. The show is about objects that have, can, and do hit the Earth.  It also includes a short live talk about the current night sky. (Planetarium tickets are $5 per person; all other activities are free.)

UM Astronomy Public Lecture: “Cracking The Cosmic Code” (Dec 6th~7pm)

Stacy McGaughFriday, December 6, 2013 at 7:00pm
Founders Room, Alumni Center
200 Fletcher Street
Ann Arbor

For all of recorded history, and presumably well before that, people have been asking the Big Questions: What is the nature of the universe? How big is it? How old? What is our place in it?

For just as long, we’ve been making up answers. Every generation was convinced it got it right, and each in turn was proven wrong.

Stunning advances in modern cosmology finally appear to give definitive answers to some of the Big Questions. Professor Stacy McGaugh of Case Western Reserve University will explore the evidence supporting this picture, and ask whether we have finally got it right. History – and quite a lot of contradictory evidence – suggest we may still have a lot to learn.

Stacy McGaugh is a professor of astronomy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His research interests include cosmology, dark matter, and the evolution of galaxies. He obtained a PhD in astronomy from the University of Michigan in 1992, working with professor G.D. Bothun. This year, McGaugh returns to Ann Arbor to give the annual Distinguished Alumnus Colloquium as well as a public lecture on the nature of the universe.

Download Now – “Dark Energy and the Dark Energy Survey”

DavidGerdes-150x150This is the audio recording of the 9/21 meet-up with Dr. David Gerdes.  Dr. Gerdes discussed the evidence of dark energy by past experiments and observations, and then introduced us to the current project in Dark Energy research called “The Dark Energy Survey.”

(The beginning of the recording was cut off, and so it begins with Gerdes explaining the evidence for dark energy).