The Middle Ages: Globular Clusters

The Middle Ages: Globular Clusters

As an undergrad and even for most of my graduate school years, astronomy had this problem: Globular Clusters seemed to be older than the universe. We all knew this was a matter of someone calculating something wrong, but no one knew what. Cosmologists, looking at the still being explored expansion of the universe, kept getting an age of 12-13 billion years for the universe. Stellar evolution experts thought the globular clusters might be as old as 15 billion years. Thus… well… there were issues. In the intervening years we’ve realized that both the stars are younger (9-13 billion years old), and the universe is older (13.7 billion years old). (image credit: NASA /Ron Gilliland, Space Telescope Science Institute) But this is just the physical age...

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Tomorrow’s Interactive Toys

Earlier this evening a friend sent me a link to this blog post. Having only recently been introduced to a gin that didn’t feel like fire, I was highly amused by the title and the image from the text of all of the US and UK simultaneously drunk on gin and overpopulation, well, it kept me reading (really – go read it). And at the end, my brain was recognizing that I can no longer handle non-interactive content without getting bored unless it is nuanced or artistic. For instance, Moulin Rouge sucked me in, as did Across the Universe. I require either nuance/artistry, interactivity, or multiple inputs. My personal bandwidth is high and demands to be fully sated with every bite. I am not a “Let’s watch Friends and eat chessy fries” kind...

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End of the Semester

It’s T-6 class days and counting until final exams start at SIUE. Spring is in the air, and students have cast away their winter cloths to frolic in the sun in shorts and T-shirts as they try to cram in as much of college life as they can before disappearing for summer. Yesterday, while walking from the science building to our student union for lunch, I was taken by this sudden “this is a movie set” feeling. There was hip hop music playing and students dancing in one direction, the blood mobile doing its vampire thing in another direction, and everywhere else my eyes wandered, their were students at booths promoting outreach and inreach. The ROTC students were trying to recruit. One of the frats had done a “These Hands Do Not Hurt”...

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Summer Nights Drifting In: Summer Observing Challenge

Summer Nights Drifting In: Summer Observing Challenge

As odd as this may seem, I’ve never been big on the summer sky. It’s not the fault of the sky – summer brings a wealth of stunning objects, and I keep trying to convince myself to learn them. It’s just, somehow, a season I keep missing. I have countless memories of frozen nights spent trying not to freeze my eyes to the eyepiece, or of sitting shivering in the control room praying for dawn or a space heater (or both). Looking back over the years, spring has always been the last rush of observing before settling in for a summer of data reduction. May (sometimes June) was the Texas Star Party, and taking the undergraduates to McDonald. It was the season when the disk came up, and the galaxies and globular clusters I care for went down. In...

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See you in St Louis?

See you in St Louis?

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to the nearest city to my own small town: St. Louis. This May 31 – June 4 the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the American Astronomical Society and the US International Year of Astronomy team are all converging on the Gateway City and you are invited! Seriously – this special meeting is being made open to the public with many workshops and activities specifically geared at amateur astronomers and school teachers (and I’m part of a team giving one of them on Sunday). From here: Saturday, May 31 & Sunday, June 1: The ASP is sponsoring two days of hands-on astronomy workshops for teachers, amateur astronomers doing outreach, museum and planetarium educators, and everyone who wants...

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