Distant “Hungry Twin” Shows How Galaxies Grow

galaxy

The Umbrella Galaxy takes its name from a mysterious feature seen on the left here, that is now found to be debris from a tiny galaxy, only a 50th its size, shredded apart by gravity. The image is a combination of data from the 0.5-meter BlackBird Remote Observatory Telescope and Suprime-Cam on the 8-meter Subaru Telescope. The inset shows a small cluster of stars embedded in the stream, which marks the center of the disrupted galaxy (image by R. Jay Gabany).

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII – Scientists studying a ‘twin’ of the Milky Way have used the W. M. Keck Observatory and Subaru Observatory to accurately model how it is swallowing another, smaller galaxy, according to newly published research co-authored by San Jose State University assistant professor of physics and astronomy Aaron Romanowsky.

This is important because our whole concept about what galaxies are and how they grow has not been fully verified,” Romanowsky said. “We think they are constantly swallowing up smaller galaxies as part of a cosmic food chain, all pulled together by a mysterious form of invisible dark matter. We sometimes get a glimpse of the hidden vista being lit up when a galaxy is torn apart. That’s what occurred here.”

The work, led by Caroline Foster of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, has used the Umbrella (NGC 4651) galaxy to reveal insights in galactic behavior.

An Umbrella Galaxy

The Umbrella lies 62 million light-years away, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices. Its faint parasol is composed of a stellar stream, thought to be the remnants of a smaller galaxy being pulled apart by the large galaxy’s intense gravitational field. The Umbrella will eventually absorb this small galaxy completely.

The merging of small galaxies into larger ones is common throughout the universe, but because the shredded galaxies are so faint it has been hard to extract details in three-dimensions about how such mergers proceed. Using the most powerful optical facilities in the world, the twin, 10-meter Keck Observatory and the 8-meter Subaru Telescope, near the summit of Mauna Kea, Foster and her collaborators have determined enough about the character of the merger to provide a detailed model of how and when it occurred.

“Through new techniques we have been able to measure the movements of the stars in the very distant, very faint, stellar stream in the Umbrella,” Foster said. “This allows us, for the first time, to reconstruct the history of the system.”

Being able to study streams this far away means that we can reconstruct the assembly histories of many more galaxies,” Romanowsky said. “In turn that means we can get a handle on how often these ‘minor mergers’ — thought to be an important way that galaxies grow — actually occur. We can also map out the orbits of the stellar streams to test the pull of gravity for exotic effects, much like the Moon going around the Earth but without having to wait 300 million years for the orbit to complete.”

The present work is a follow-up to a 2010 study, led by Dr. David Martínez-Delgado (University of Heidelberg), which used small robotic telescopes to image eight isolated spiral galaxies, and found the signs of mergers — shells, clouds and arcs of tidal debris — in six of them.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Speedy Tracers

DEIMOS (the DEep Imaging and Multi-Object Spectrograph) boasts the largest field of view (16.7 arcmin by 5 arcmin) of any of the Keck instruments, and the largest number of pixels (64 Mpix). It is used primarily in its multi-object mode, obtaining simultaneous spectra of up to 130 galaxies or stars. Astronomers study fields of distant galaxies with DEIMOS, efficiently probing the most distant corners of the universe with high sensitivity.

Keck Observatory is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

After taking panoramic images of the Umbrella with Suprime-Cam on Subaru, the scientists used the DEIMOS instrument, installed on the Keck II telescope, to map out the motions of the stream and hence determine how the galaxy is being shredded.

The stars in the stream are incredibly faint, so it was necessary to use a proxy technique to measure the speeds of brighter tracer objects moving along with the stream stars. These bright tracers include globular star clusters, planetary nebulae (dying stars that glow like neon lights), and patches of glowing hydrogen gas.

Outstanding Lecturer Award: Olenka Hubickyj

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

The Outstanding Lecturer Award recognizes a lecturer for excellence in teaching effectiveness and service to the San Jose State campus community. This year’s winner comes from the College of Science.

She will be honored at the 15th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11, 2014. Tickets are available for purchase.

In 2008, Olenka Hubickyj had been a researcher at NASA for 25 years, studying the formation of giant planets, when she got wind that San Jose State was looking for a science professor. She had never taught before, but “the idea kept haunting me,” says Hubickyj. “So I said, ‘why not?’”

Now a lecturer in physics and astronomy, Hubickyj is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Lecturer Award. She continues her research and serves as director of Systems Teaching Institute at NASA Ames’ University Affiliated Research Center, where she helps place students into internship research positions.

Hubickyj, who wanted to be an astronomer at age nine, knows that her zeal for science is powerful. “My kids tell me to tone down the geek,” she says, laughing. “But when I tell my students something and see their eyes … I just love it. I always tell them I want to change the course name to ‘All Things Fantastic.’”

“Dr. Hubickyj’s enthusiasm is truly contagious,” writes one of her students. “I believe that had I taken her course as an incoming freshman I would have been inspired to pursue astronomy as my major.”

Department Chair Michael Kaufman echoes this sentiment in Hubickyj’s nomination: “What is immediately evident when one walks by one of Olenka’s classrooms is the energy flowing from it.”

The child of Ukrainian immigrants who had come to New York City via a refugee camp in post-war Germany, Hubickyj can relate to many SJSU students in a way that transcends science. “I spoke a different language at home and had to straddle two cultures. I understand what it’s like for these kids who have family, cultural and academic obligations,” she says. Though accepted into a prestigious private school, she attended the City College of New York for financial reasons. “I came from a school like SJSU. If it hadn’t been for CCNY, I wouldn’t be here. Going there did not mean I was less intelligent than students at elite schools. Now it’s my turn to reinforce that message here.”

One of Hubickyj’s approaches is to allow students to express their understanding of astronomy on their own terms. A requirement of her Descriptive Astronomy course is a semester-long research project where students can present their research through any medium: she has received a symphonic poem about a mission to Mars written and performed by a music composition major, a full press packet about the Big Bang from a hospitality student, and more space art than she can fit in her office.

“To help students find their power you must respect them,” says Hubickyj. “You must give second chances and make it safe to learn.”

Astronomy and Science Literacy

Astronomy and Science Literacy

Natalie Batalha photo

Associate Professor Natalie Batalha

What exactly is so important about Mars rovers? What are the origins of our universe? What can we learn from the surface of the moon?

This July, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) will host a free series of lectures about diverse astronomy and space science topics at SJSU. Preeminent and engaging astronomy researchers and professors from NASA Ames Research Center, UC Davis and UC Berkeley will discuss their work and answer questions about the latest in astronomy news and research.

The public is welcome to attend lectures to be held 12:30-4:30 p.m. July 21 and 7:30 p.m. July 22. The series will run concurrently with the ASP’s 2013 Annual Meeting, “Ensuring STEM Literacy.”

Plenary keyonte speakers include SJSU Associate Professor Natalie Batalha, who will discuss the NASA Kepler MissionDepartment of Physics and Astronomy Chair Michael Kaufman is a member of the event’s organizing committee. Assistant Professor Cassandra Paul and Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky will also serve as speakers.

The ASP is a nonprofit astronomy education organization whose goal is to increase science literacy by providing tools and materials to science educators, researchers, and the public. Every year, the ASP organizes a five-day conference during which several hundred K-12 teachers, university professors, researches, and public outreach professionals gather improve their crafts, network, and explore trends and best practices in astronomy and science education.

Conference Press Release

San Francisco – June 24, 2013 – The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), one of the most innovative and respected astronomy education organizations in the U.S., will host a series of public science talks in July by preeminent astronomers from NASA Ames, U.C. Davis and U.C. Berkeley. The talks are free and open to the public, and will take place on Sunday afternoon, July 21 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., and Monday evening, July 22 at 7:30 p.m., on the campus of San Jose State University, site of the ASP’s 125th Annual Conference, “Ensuring STEM Literacy.”

Covering topics from the latest NASA missions – including Planck and Mars – to cosmology to lunar science to infrared astronomy to asteroids, speakers come from the front lines of the latest in astronomy and space science:

Dr. Lloyd Knox has served as a professor of physics at UC Davis since 2001, and is an active researcher in the area of cosmology. Dr. Knox is currently a member of the Planck collaboration and South Pole collaboration, the former of which is arguably the most important experiment in cosmology today. The data from the Planck research is teaching cosmologists about the origin of all structure in the universe, in addition to answering numerous other cosmic questions. His impact on the field is evidenced by almost 4,000 citations of his 72 publications.

Dr. Pamela Marcum currently serves as the project scientist for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at Ames Research Center. After receiving her doctorate in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Marcum joined the Department of Physics faculty at Texas Christian University (TCU) as the first tenure-track astronomer — and the first woman to be hired in that department. After nearly a decade there, she took temporary leave to become a visiting scientist at NASA Headquarters, serving for three years as program scientist for the WISE and Kepler missions. Following a one-year return to TCU, she left academia to work with the SOFIA team on achieving several major milestones, including the execution of SOFIA’s first science observations, installation of the first flight instruments, and an international deployment.

Brian Day, director of communication and outreach at the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), is responsible for connecting students and the public to lunar science and exploration. He has worked on diverse NASA lunar projects as the Education/Public Outreach Lead, in addition to working on E/PO sections for numerous NASA mission proposals. He is a member of NASA’s Speakers Bureau, giving popular talks at local high schools and community organizations. Additionally, he served as Chair of the Foothill College Observatory for 16 years, and is active in the amateur astronomy community.

Dr. Christopher McKay, from the Space Science and Astrobiology branch of NASA Ames, is currently involved in researching the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He is also helping to plan future Mars missions, including the possibility of human exploration. Dr. McKay has been involved in numerous field research projects concerning the surface of Mars, including polar and desert studies in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the Atacama Desert, the Arctic and Namib Desert.

Dr. Alex Filippenko, professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, is currently involved in research surrounding progenitor starts and details of the explosions of supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. His research also concerns the physical properties of quasars and active galaxies, in addition to the search for black holes in various celestial bodies. His is perhaps best known as being a part of the team that discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe, which is thought to be driven by “dark energy.” This discovery garnered a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 for team leaders.

The ASP is a nonprofit astronomy education organization that every year organizes one of the country’s most well-attended professional development meetings for science educators and public outreach professionals. This year marks the ASP’s 125th Annual Meeting, co-hosted by San Jose State University. Over five days, K-12 teachers, university professors, and leaders from planetariums, science centers, and research institutions gather to explore best practices and trends in science education and outreach.

Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, the ASP fosters science literacy through astronomy by serving professionals, educators and amateurs around the world, and engaging and inspiring current and future generations. The ASP publishes both scholarly and educational materials, conducts professional development programs for formal and informal educators, and holds conferences, symposia and workshops for astronomers and educators specializing in education and public outreach. The ASP’s programs are funded by corporations, private foundations, private donors, and its own members.

Six Hundred People View Transit of Venus From Tower Lawn

Six Hundred People View Transit of Venus From Tower Lawn

Six Hundred People View Transit of Venus From Tower Lawn

The next time this event will take place is 2117, so many took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (Michael Kaufman photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Around 600 people turned out on Tower Lawn to view the Transit of Venue across the face of the sun June 5. The next time this event will take place is 2117, so many took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to commune with our solar system through telescopes and other viewing apparatus provided by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The department seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge in physics and astronomy with top quality research by faculty members in collaboration with graduate and undergraduate students, and help students to become proficient in physics, especially in optical science, condensed matter, computational physics, and astrophysics. Check out more photos on SJSU’s official Facebook page.

Physics Prof Uses Smartphones to Engage Students

Peter Beyersdorf

Peter Beyersdorf

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Cell phones are usually discouraged in the classroom. But you won’t find Department of Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Peter Beyersdorf asking his students to put their phones away.

“Students have always liked being engaged in interactive classes,” Beyersdorf said. “Anytime you can make class fun, it has benefits to learning,”

At the end of every class, Beyersdorf asks his Physics 51 students to turn on their smartphones to take a quiz.

“The students can either go to a URL or take a picture of a QR code to get to the webpage,” Beyersdorf said.

According to Beyersdorf, hardware devices that allow students to electronically answer multiple-choice questions, known as multiple-choice clickers, have been around for sometime.

However, questions about who buys them, who brings them to class, and what to do with the students who forget theirs or have a dead battery remained.

Once services that allowed interactive learning became available on cell phones a few years back, Beyersdorf started to implement cell phones as learning devices. This has paid off for sophomore aerospace engineering student Chao Lao.

“After seven years, watching professors lecturing and writing on the black board gets kind of boring, but when technology is put into use, it makes it a bit more enjoyable,” he said.

According to Beyersdorf, the results of the quizzes give him an overall assessment of the class and keep him interested in developing new material.

“For the most part, technology isn’t changing the way people teach and learn, it’s giving them more avenues and opportunity to tap into learning in less traditional environments,” Beyersdorf said.

In addition to using cell phones, Beyersdorf records all of his lectures and publishes them as podcasts on iTunes U.

Beyersdorf serves as a faculty-in-residence for technology innovations for the Center for Faculty Development. Once a month, Beyersdorf teaches faculty about new technology being adopted at SJSU.

“Most of the faculty that come to these workshops are quite interested in engaging their students, but often times are not comfortable using these new technologies,” Beyersdorf said. “I try to encourage them to use technology to deliver the material they are already using and to try new things out.”

Physics Professor Uses Smartphones to Engage Students

Physics Professor Uses Smartphones to Engage Students

Peter Beyersdorf

Peter Beyersdorf

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Cell phones are usually discouraged in the classroom. But you won’t find Department of Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Peter Beyersdorf asking his students to put their phones away.

“Students have always liked being engaged in interactive classes,” Beyersdorf said. “Anytime you can make class fun, it has benefits to learning,”

At the end of every class, Beyersdorf asks his Physics 51 students to turn on their smartphones to take a quiz.

“The students can either go to a URL or take a picture of a QR code to get to the webpage,” Beyersdorf said.

According to Beyersdorf, hardware devices that allow students to electronically answer multiple-choice questions, known as multiple-choice clickers, have been around for sometime.

However, questions about who buys them, who brings them to class, and what to do with the students who forget theirs or have a dead battery remained.

Once services that allowed interactive learning became available on cell phones a few years back, Beyersdorf started to implement cell phones as learning devices. This has paid off for sophomore aerospace engineering student Chao Lao.

“After seven years, watching professors lecturing and writing on the black board gets kind of boring, but when technology is put into use, it makes it a bit more enjoyable,” he said.

According to Beyersdorf, the results of the quizzes give him an overall assessment of the class and keep him interested in developing new material.

“For the most part, technology isn’t changing the way people teach and learn, it’s giving them more avenues and opportunity to tap into learning in less traditional environments,” Beyersdorf said.

In addition to using cell phones, Beyersdorf records all of his lectures and publishes them as podcasts on iTunes U.

Beyersdorf serves as a faculty-in-residence for technology innovations for the Center for Faculty Development. Once a month, Beyersdorf teaches faculty about new technology being adopted at SJSU.

“Most of the faculty that come to these workshops are quite interested in engaging their students, but often times are not comfortable using these new technologies,” Beyersdorf said. “I try to encourage them to use technology to deliver the material they are already using and to try new things out.”

This new view of the Orion nebula highlights fledgling stars hidden in the gas and clouds. It shows infrared observations taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Herschel mission, in which NASA plays an important role.

Physics Department Conducts Interstellar Cloud Research

Two researchers studying the chemistry of interstellar cloud formation sit in front of a computer screen that has a picture of the emission research

Graduate student Michael Turner is working with Dr. Kaufman on a detailed model of shock waves in interstellar gas (Dillon Adams photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Have you ever taken a look at the night sky and wondered how stars and planets are born?

Department of Physics and Astronomy Chair Michael Kaufman does research that guides astronomical observation of nascent stars, recently leading to a major discovery.

“Interstellar space is important because not only is it the material out of which stars form, but it is also the regions into which stars deposit material back once they die,” he said.

Kaufman studies newly-formed stars and their natal clouds, particularly the chemical components of the clouds, including abundant oxygen and carbon atoms.

Last year, he worked with a team of international astronomers on the Herschel Oxygen Project. They used the Herschel Space Observatory to find evidence of molecular oxygen in the Orion Nebula. Previous searches for oxygen molecules came up empty. Kaufman’s physics explained why the oxygen seemed to be missing.

“It’s frozen in many environments,” Kaufman explained. “When it’s stuck to the little dust grains in interstellar clouds, it doesn’t act like a gas, it produces a different spectrum which is extremely difficult to detect. We picked the Orion region since we guessed it might have the conditions to keep oxygen off the dust. And we were right.”

According to Kaufman, molecular oxygen cannot be observed from Earth because its atmosphere block the incoming light.

Instead, astronomers peer into interstellar clouds using telescopes in space like Herschel, which detect infrared and radio light unhindered by the Earth’s atmosphere.

Graduate student Michael Turner is working on a detailed model of shock waves in interstellar gas, one way to produce abundant molecular oxygen molecules, according to Kaufman’s research.

“I’ve been taking the computed physical conditions from our calculations, including the temperature and abundance of oxygen, and use these to compute the predicted intensity of emission from oxygen molecules,” Turner said.

Such work is beneficial for students planning to enter any technical field, not just physics, according to Kaufman.

“Physics and astronomy are unique in that they tackle problems from the subatomic to the scale of the universe,” Kaufman said. “You learn how to think from multiple directions and how to analyze problems. These are skills that are useful in many careers.”

Kaufman and Turner hope to have a paper published on their work. Meanwhile, Kaufman continues work with his colleagues on new Herschel observatory projects to study water and carbon chemistry in interstellar clouds.

SJSU in the News: Physics Professor Describes Discovery of Two Earth-Size Exoplanets

SJSU in the News: Physics Professor Announces Discovery of Two Earth-Size Exoplanets

SJSU in the News: Physics Professor Describes Discovery of Two Earth-Size Exoplanets

“In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead and professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University (NASA image).

NASA: Earth-size planets, Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, discovered

Originally published by The State Column Dec. 20. 2011.

NASA’s Kepler mission trumpeted the discovery of several Earth-size planets circling a sun-like star outside our solar system Tuesday. While Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f (the newly discovered, Earth-size planets) are too close to the sun-like star to be in the “habitable zone,” where the formation of liquid water is possible on a planet’s surface, they are the smallest exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) ever validated around a sun-like star.

For NASA, the monumental discovery is the next milestone in the ongoing search for Earth-like planets. According to a NASA press release, the two Earth-like planets are believe to be rocky. Kepler-20e is a bit smaller than Venus or 0.87 times the radius of Earth. However, Kepler-2of is slightly larger than Earth or 1.03 times the radius of Earth. The Earth-size plants are part of a five-planet system named Kepler-20. Kepler-2o is roughly 1,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

NASA reports that Kepler-20e circles a sun-like star every 6.1 days, while Kepler 20f orbits the same star every 19.6 days. Both of the Earth-size planets are similar to Earth in size only. The short orbits of the Earth-size planets corresponds to extremely hot and uninhabitable conditions on the planet. For example, Kepler-2of (8000 degree Fahrenheit) is similar to the planet Mercury as far as temperature is concerned. However, Kepler-2oe is even hotter (1,400 degrees Fahrenheit). Kepler-20e would melt glass.

“The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone,” Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, lead author of a new study published in the journal Nature, said in a NASA press release.

“This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them,” Mr. Fressin added.

The Kepler-20 system has other planets that are not Earth-like in size. Three of the other planets are bigger than Earth, but tinier than Neptune. NASA reports that Kepler-2ob, Kepler-20c and Kepler-2od, circle a sun-like star every 3.7 days, 10.9 days and 77.6 days. Additionally, all five planets in the Kepler-20 system have orbits that are similar to Mercury’s orbit. The planets of the Kepler-20 system orbit a star that is a bit smaller and cooler than the sun.

NASA also reports that the Kepler-20 system has a strange arrangement. In our solar system, rocky planets circle close to the sun, while large, gaseous planets circle farther out. However, in the Kepler-20 system, the planets are positioned in alternating size.

“The Kepler data are showing us some planetary systems have arrangements of planets very different from that seen in our solar system,” Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist and Kepler science team member at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said in a NASA press release.

“The analysis of Kepler data continue to reveal new insights about the diversity of planets and planetary systems within our galaxy,” Mr. Lissauer added.

While scientists are not sure why the Kepler-20 system is arranged the way it is, they do not believe that the planets originated from the locations they are in now. According to NASA, scientists believe that the planets were constructed a greater distance from the sun-like star than they are now and eventually moved closer.

The Kepler space telescope looks for planets and possible planets by looking at “dips” in the brightness of more than 150,00o stars to reveal planets that are “crossing in front, or transiting, their stars.” After three transits, the Kepler science team knows that a planet has been discovered.

The Kepler science team deploys ground-based telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope to examine discoveries on possible planets that are located by the spacecraft. However, the star field that Kepler examines in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra can only be seen from ground-based observatories in the spring, summer and early fall. The data from the ground-based telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope help scientists confirm the discovery of planets.

Astronomer utilized a computer program called Blender to confirm the discovery of the Earth-size planets, Kepler-20e and Kepler-2of. Blender used simulations to determine whether other “astrophysical phenomena” were disguised as planets.

Back on December 5th, the Kepler team announced the discovery of Kepler-22b. Kepler-22b was found in the habitable zone of its parent star.

“In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead and professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University, said in a NASA press release.

“We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler’s most anticipated discoveries are still to come,” Ms. Batalha said.

image of blue and green planet in space

Physics Professor Announces Discovery of Potentially Habitable Planet

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

As Kepler deputy science team lead, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Natalie Batalha joined NASA to announce today the mission has discovered its first planet in the habitable zone of another star. The habitable zone is the region around a star where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count.

“The tremendous growth in the number of Earth-size candidates tells us that we’re honing in on the planets Kepler was designed to detect: those that are not only Earth-size, but also are potentially habitable,” Batalha said. “The more data we collect, the keener our eye for finding the smallest planets out at longer orbital periods.”

The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.

Read more.

Bay Area Science Festival: Star Party

moon

View the moon, planets, star clusters and more through telescopes set up on Tower Lawn.

Date: November 5, 2011

Time: 6-10 p.m.

Location: Tower Lawn

Summary: As part of the Bay Area Science Festival, astronomy enthusiasts are throwing a Bay Area wide “star party” at over 20 different sites on Nov. 5. Colleges, schools, observatories and science centers around the region will be open in the evening, and both professional and amateur astronomers will be on hand to offer free telescope viewing and observing tips.

SJSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will offer telescope viewing of the moon, planets, star clusters and more, as well as hands-on astronomy activities, hosted by faculty and students. Telescopes will be set up from 6-10 p.m. on Tower Lawn between Tower Hall, King Library, and the Science Building (see grid location B-1 on the SJSU campus map). In case of cloudy weather, SJSU faculty and students will present illustrated talks along with hands-on activities in Room 142 of the Science Building. For SJSU event inquiries, call (408) 924-5210.

View an SJSU campus map.

View SJSU campus parking information.

View more information on all 2011 Bay Area Star Party event sites.

More on the Bay Area Science Festival

SJSU is a partner for this inaugural event. From October 29 to November 6, the Bay Area will come alive with over 100 science & technology activities – lectures, debates, exhibitions, concerts, plays, workshops, and more. This ambitious collaborative public education initiative brings together our leading academic, scientific, corporate, and non-profit institutions to showcase the region as an international leader in innovation. For more information, visit the festival’s official website.

— Submitted by Physics and Astronomy Chair Michael Kaufman