Tag Archives: science

Open House Nights at the College Observatory – Spring 2016

The Physics Department at Middlebury College will again host Open House nights at the College Observatory this spring. The Observatory, located atop McCardell Bicentennial Hall, will be open to the public for viewing the heavens on Friday evenings, April 29 and May 6, from 9:00 PM until 10:30 PM, provided the skies are mostly clear.

Jupiter will be in the evening sky on both of these dates. Also visible through our telescopes will be a number of interesting stars, star clusters, and nebulae. There is no set program for the Open House nights; the public is invited at any time between 9:00 PM and 10:30 PM.

The Observatory dome houses a 24-inch computer-controlled telescope. Additional, smaller telescopes will also be available on the roof deck for observing the night sky.

All Observatory public nights are free and open to the public, but will take place only if the sky is at least mostly clear. If the weather appears uncertain, visitors may call the Observatory at 443-2266 or visit the Observatory web site after 7:00 PM on the evening of the Open House for a status report. More information can also be found at go/observatory .

Also, please consider visiting the Observatory web site to sign up for our e-mail list with event announcements and status updates as well as to enjoy a wide variety of resources about astronomy at Middlebury and the night sky. The web site includes stunning images taken at the Observatory, information about what is currently visible in the night sky, history of the Observatory, and a summary of last year’s extensive Observatory upgrades.

The Observatory would like to acknowledge support from the Michele and David Mittelman (’76) Family Foundation for enabling substantial renovations and modernizations that represent a fundamental commitment to the long-term future of the Observatory, both for curricular and research uses, as well as for outreach. These improvements to the Observatory are helping ensure that Middlebury students, College community members, schoolchildren, and the public will continue to be able to explore the universe on the Middlebury campus under dark Vermont skies.

Pat Manley receives award from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation

Pat Manley (Geology) has been awarded a fellowship from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation for a project titled Reading the Rocks: A History of Modern Geology. The grant will fund travel in England and Scotland this summer to geologic locations that are key to understanding the history of modern geology and to museums and historic sites that will bring to life the geologists who founded this field. Pat’s goal is to enhance her teaching of introductory and advanced geology by adding sections on the history of geologic thought.

Tom Manley receives grant from the Lintilhac Foundation for work on Lake Champlain

Tom Manley (Geology) has received a grant from the Lintilhac Foundation for the second year of a project titled High-Resolution Bottom Mapping of Lake Champlain. This long term effort will update the 2005 bottom bathymetric map of Lake Champlain and provide a significant increase in the resolution of the map of the lake bottom that is important to the recreation, research, and management communities.

Eilat Glikman receives grant from NASA to study quasars

Eilat Glikman (Physics) has been awarded a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to lead a research project titled Probing Accretion and Obscuration in Luminous Red Quasars. This one year project, involving collaborators from Yale University, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Astronomical Observatory of Rome, and the Leibniz Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam, Germany, is based on observations of two luminous quasars with the XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory. These quasars are hypothesized to be growing at their maximally allowed rate, giving off tremendous luminosity. However, because of dust in their immediate environments, their visible light is extinguished. These X-ray observations will measure the amount of gas that is blocking visible light and probe the growth of the quasars independently for comparison with other existing estimates. The result of this work will complete the multi-wavelength study of this key population of quasars.

Frank Winkler receives two grants from NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute for collaborative research

Frank Winkler (Emeritus Professor, Physics) has been awarded funding from the NASA-funded Space Telescope Science Institute for his role in two collaborative research projects, both of which entail new observations using the Hubble Space Telescope. One project, entitled Thermal Equilibration and Cosmic-Ray Acceleration in Astrophysical Shocks: UV Spectra of the SN1006 Remnant, will combine forthcoming Hubble ultraviolet spectra with new data Winkler hopes to gather at the 6.5 meter Magellan telescope in Chile in April, to explore the fundamental physics of shock waves in a cosmic environment. The other project, entitled State Transitions of the Ultra-luminous X-ray Source in M83, is intended as a follow-up to better understand a highly unusual object in the “nearby” (15 million light years away) galaxy M83, where matter falling into a black hole produces so much radiation that fundamental laws of physics are close to being violated. The projects involve collaboration with colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, and Curtin University in Australia.

Jill Mikucki receives NSF grant for collaborative research in Antarctica

Jill Mikucki (Biology) has received funding from the National Science Foundation for her expenses in a collaborative research project titled Minimally Invasive Drilling Glacial Exploration (MIDGE). Originally awarded to Jill when she was at the University of Tennessee, the grant has now been transferred to Middlebury and will support the design and testing of a minimally invasive thermoelectric probe for sample retrieval from subglacial environments in Antarctica. These dark environments provide an excellent opportunity for researching survivability and adaptability of microbial life, and they represent potential terrestrial analogues for life habitats on icy planetary bodies. This grant will support the efforts of a Ph.D.-level technician and at least one undergraduate student.

Priscilla Bremser and colleagues awarded NSF grant for Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates

Priscilla Bremser (Mathematics) is Middlebury’s representative in a network of 61 liberal arts institutions that will benefit from a Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates (TEU) grant awarded to Vassar College by the National Science Foundation. Entitled Summer STEM Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates from Liberal Arts Institutions, this grant will provide opportunities in each of the next five summers for 24 students from the network to participate in programs that involve a pedagogy course (math or science) and a teaching practicum  with urban high school students. Co-investigators are faculty at Barnard College, Brown University,  Bryn Mawr College,  and Trinity College. Although no funds come directly to Middlebury, this grant provides an exciting opportunity for which our students are eligible to apply.