Tag astronomy

Ep. 24 – The Science and Mystery of Solar Eclipses

Solar eclipses have fascinated us since the beginning of human existence. Astronomer and anthropologist Anthony Aveni discusses the cultural history of eclipses, the science behind them, and gives some tips for watching two upcoming US total solar eclipses.

Ep. 31 – The Mystery of Gravity Waves and Black Holes

Scientists have finally measured gravitational waves from the collision of black holes. Marcia Bartusiak explains why this matters and talks about some of the universe’s most mysterious objects.

Credit and Collaboration in Cutting-Edge Cosmology

Priyamvada Natarajan— Rather unusually, the team leaders who led the observational efforts that discovered dark energy were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009 for a discovery from 1998, a rather swift reward by normal standards in physics. According to Alfred Nobel’s wishes, this annual physics prize can be awarded to

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The Enigma of Gravitational Energy

Marcia Bartusiak— To the practiced eye, Einstein’s equations stand as the quintessence of mathematical beauty. When it was introduced in 1915, general relativity was hailed as a momentous conceptual achievement. But for a long time the theory had little practical importance. Although the scientific community embraced general relativity—and recognized Einstein

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Eclipses and the Lessons of History

Anthony Aveni— “Celestial source of life and light on earth! What envious rival intercepts thy rays? Dares thy own satellite intercepts thy blaze, Or stay thy stream of empyrean birth?…”   The first four lines of a sonnet “tweeted out” by the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy

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Finding Solace in the Cosmos

David Bercovici— I was born in 1960, and by the time I decided I wanted to be a scientist at the young age of 12, the Vietnam War had been going on for my entire life. As far as any of us of that generation were concerned, the war had

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Vera Rubin and the Discovery of Dark Matter

James Owen Weatherall— When Vera Rubin was first invited to use the telescope at the Palomar Observatory, in the mountains outside San Diego, the form she was asked to fill out included the following notice: “Due to limited Facilities, it is not possible to accept application from women.” In pencil, someone

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Swimming With Stromatolites: An Astrobiologist Down Under

Jon Willis— “So you want to fly to an iron ore mining town in the NW of Australia, drive 200 km into the desert to the Outback’s hottest town, then follow a 4WD track to a rock outcrop in the middle of nowhere, all to look at some wavy lines

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The Realm of the Nebulae: Edwin Hubble on the Importance of Science

In 1936, Edwin Hubble compiled a book based on his lectures on nebulae and astronomical observation. Hubble’s landmark contributions to astronomy include his conclusion that there are galaxies beyond the Milky Way and his demonstration that the universe is expanding. The following is an excerpt from his introduction, on the

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From Calcutta to the Cosmos: Mapping the Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy

Priyamvada Natarajan— Predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, black holes are the most enigmatic objects in the universe. They are so compact and their gravitational pull is so intense that not even light can escape from them. Well before physicists co-opted the term “black hole” to describe these dark,

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