Month: February 2015

UW Planetarium Open Nights – Mar 2015

Next week’s planetarium shows are live! We’ll have some special guests as well, so get your seats here:

7pm: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/uw-planetarium-open-nights-march-2015-tickets-15917600973

8:30pm: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/uw-planetarium-open-nights-830-show-march-2015-tickets-15917642096

Advertisements

Profiles of Astronomers: Vaishali Bhardwaj

Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Vaishali Bhardwaj and I’m a graduate student from California. After college at UC Berkeley, I took a year off before coming here and completed certification in Pastry School at the Cordon Bleu in London and Paris.
How did you become interested in Astronomy?
My dad always has had an interest in Astronomy and always told me facts about the Universe, but I remember distinctly the idea of “Time Dilation” in Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity was particularly mind-boggling. I could not fathom how time could possibly slow down and honestly, cannot quite fathom it to this day!
If you’re an astronomer (grad/post-doc/faculty), what do you study?
I study cosmology, the study of the formation and evolution of the Universe. We know our universe consists of approximately 5% ordinary matter, 25% dark matter, and 70% dark energy. Although we don’t know what dark matter (or dark energy) is, astronomers attempt to map where the dark matter is, to better understand it. My research focuses on understanding the distribution of material (neutral hydrogen) in between galaxies. The majority of ordinary and dark matter in the Universe lies in galaxies, but there is a lot of material outside of the galaxies as well. I am studying how that material, the intergalactic medium, is distributed — whether its evenly permeated through the Universe, or clumps up in dense clouds. Studying this will give us a better map of how the Universe looks, and help us understand how it formed and evolved.
What’s the coolest thing (not literal) in the Universe?
The idea that the same rules, only a handful of physics laws, govern the evolution of the Universe. Whether it’s the formation of a planet or a galaxy, the same rules apply and our task is to fully understand how all those elements interact to create all the amazing objects in the Universe.
What’s the coolest thing outside of your field?
The fact that somehow organic matter converted itself to a self-sustaining replicating being that ultimately became intelligent enough to wonder about how this transformation occurred!
What is your favorite non-astronomy hobby?
I love cooking! As they say, “Baking is science for hungry people”. I find that cooking is a great way to create small projects for oneself in which the end result will ultimately nourish you. So, you’re able to enjoy the success of creating something while providing yourself with sustenance.

Profiles of Astronomers: John Lurie

lurie
Who are you and where are you from?
I’m John Lurie, a second-year astronomy graduate student at the University of Washington. I grew up and went to college in Atlanta, GA.

How did you become interested in Astronomy?
I was actually a public policy major in college until I took an introductory astronomy class. As part of the class, we had to venture out to the university observatory in the boondocks. It was my first time looking though a real telescope, and the first thing I saw was a beautiful globular cluster. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on astronomy.

If you’re an astronomer (grad/post-doc/faculty), what do you study?
My research so far has focused on characterizing the lowest mass stars (so-called red dwarfs), such as measuring their distances, masses, and magnetic activity. Recently, I’ve transitioned into studying how stars are distributed in the Milky Way, and am looking for sub-structures and populations of stars that give us clues about how our galaxy formed and evolved.
What’s the coolest thing (not literal) in the Universe?
Brown dwarfs, which coincidentally are literally rather cool by astronomical standards. They’re not quite stars, but not quite planets, either. As we learn more about them, we also learn more about how stellar and planetary systems form, and about the processes that underlie their behavior.

What’s the coolest thing outside of your field?
Archeology. I’ll watch pretty much any documentary where someone is digging up something from an ancient civilization. It’s fascinating to see how similar the human experience has been throughout history, but also kind of distressing to see us repeating many of the mistakes that lead to the collapse of previous civilizations.
What is your favorite non-astronomy hobby?
I studied a fair amount of Spanish in high school and college. I try to keep it fresh by reading, listening to, and watching things in Spanish, and by chatting with other Spanish speakers.