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Chile, Here I Come!

 

https://public.nrao.edu/aceap/

https://public.nrao.edu/aceap/

I will be traveling to Chile with the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program in June! Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a group of educator are chosen to travel to Chile, visit several major research observatories, learn about what they do and bring back what they learned to share with their communities. I am deeply honored to be chosen to go. Continuing to learn is such an integral part of being an educator. Seeing the Southern Hemisphere stars is a major one on my bucket list. I can’t wait to share what I learned with everyone! Seeing the Southern Hemisphere stars is a major one on my bucket list.

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What Stars Do I See Tonight? The Pleiades Cluster

https://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/fitsimages/davidedemartin_5/

https://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/fitsimages/davidedemartin_5/

The Pleiades Cluster is seen from fall to spring. Most people see 6 to 7 bright stars in a tight bunch. Some think they look like a little dipper, and so it gets mistaken for Ursa Minor, our little dipper, often. The Pleiades are a group of over 2,000 stars, all born from the same cloud of gas. They are called an open cluster.

Many cultures all over the world found them important. Some cultures watched the Pleiades to know when to plant and harvest.  When they were setting in the western sky in the spring, it was time to plant. When they started to rise in the easter sky in the fall, it was time to harvest.

The Japanese call them “Subaru”, just like the car. They see them as a group of doves. They are also known as “The 7 Sisters” according to Greek mythology or, “The Onion Women” from the Mono Tribe of central California. The Polynesians call them “Mata-Riki” or “Little Eyes”. According to the Polynesians, they used to be one star and made the brightest star in the sky. They were tricked by Sirius and Aldebaran who were jealous of the brightest star in the sky. Tane, a sky god, hurled Aldebaran at the bright star and broke it into six pieces.  Sirius now reigns over the winter sky as the brightest star with Aldebaran close behind.

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What Stars Do I See Tonight? Orion, the Hunter

https://cdn.spacetelescope.org/archives/images/screen/opo0205b.jpg

https://cdn.spacetelescope.org/archives/images/screen/opo0205b.jpg


Imagine yourself living many, many years ago in a time when there was no electricity. When night fell, you did not have 
electrical power to light up your home like we do today. Imagine yourself cooking on an open fire outside, and when the fire went out, you looked up to the sky, and saw bright shining stars. Cultures throughout history have looked up at the night sky and wondered about its origins. They made up stories to explain the shapes the stars make in the sky. We call these shapes, constellations. Each constellation is made up of a multitude of stars, each with their own unique story.

Orion begins to rise east in mid-evening from late November to early December. You can see it start to set in the west in mid-spring. Many cultures throughout the ages see this constellation as a hunter, but the Chinook tribe of the Pacific Northwest see it as two canoes chasing after a fish in the river. What some see as Orion’s belt is the big canoe, made up of the three brightest stars closest together. What some see as his sword is the small canoe, just below his belt. The brightest star in Orion is the fish they are chasing after.

The bright red star in the upper righthand corner of the picture is named Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is a red giant star that is 700 times bigger than our Sun! It will end its life after burning all its fuel of Hydrogen and Helium and explode in a supernova. When it explodes, it will be so bright that we can see it during the day!

The bright blue star in the lower left of the picture is Rigel. It is the brightest star you can see in Orion. Rigel is blue-white in color and is about 75 times bigger than the Sun. The red glow you see in the lower middle of the picture is where you find the famous Orion Nebula. A nebula is a place where stars are born from giant clouds of gas and dust. You can see the nebula with binoculars or a small telescope.

Now that you know all about Orion, go outside on a clear night, look up at the sky and practice finding the constellation and its brightest stars. 

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Texas Night Sky Festival

Come to the Texas Night Sky Festival Saturday, March 18th. Entry is free! Come experience the educational booths with hands-on activities, two inflatable planetariums, speakers, music, food, a silent auction and displays of poetry contest and art contest winners from around the area. When night fall, observe the stars with the Austin Astronomical Society.

 

It is a great event for all ages. Support keeping our night sky dark!

 

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We Reached Our Goal in 7 Days!

My mother and I are overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who backed our kickstarter campaign for “Cassandra and the Night Sky”. We reached our goal in 7 days! We are still getting backers and are discussing ideas for using extra funds. We will most likely buy some beginner scopes and donate them to underserved schools. More information on that to come! If you haven’t seen the video and read about our new take on star stories click here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1701952376/cassandra-and-the-night-sky-a-new-star-story

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Mother and Daughter Team Write and Illustrate New Star Story

One of the illustrations from the book

One of the illustrations from the book

I have written a children’s book about the night sky. Please read on to hear about the book and how you can help bring this story to the world!

“Cassandra and the Night Sky” is about a brave girl who grows up in a land without stars. She stumbles upon the night sky, thought to be stolen by an evil king and courageously brings it back for all to enjoy.

Being an astronomy educator, I tell star stories quite often. My favorite stories aren’t the Greek and Roman stories you often hear. I get inspired by star stories from different cultures.  In one of my classes I gave the students a blank star field and asked them to make their own constellations and star stories.

It was such a hit that I decided to create my own and asked my mother, a wonderful artist, to illustrate it.  Little did I know that it would bring this mother and daughter team closer together.

At first we were thinking of self-publishing and so found Bright Sky Pressa publishing company out of Houston, TX where my mother lives and where I grew up. Bright Sky Press was so impressed with the drawings and story that they decided to partner with us in publishing it. We are raising funds to pay for our end of the publishing, editing and layout costs of the book so we can put it out to the public.

We hope that “Cassandra and the Night Sky” inspires others to make up their own star stories to tell, but most importantly, to look up at the night sky and wonder. 

Thank you for supporting this idea and being a part of bringing it to the world!

Click here to see our video and support our Kickstarter campaign!

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Transit of Mercury May 9th, 2016

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

We will be able to see Mercury pass across the face of the Sun between 4am and noon on Monday, May 9th. There are about 13 transits of Mercury every 100 years. Mercury is one of the two planets we can see transits of, the other being Venus. Whey can’t we see transits of the other planets? Mercury and Venus are inferior planets. This means they are located between the Earth and the Sun. All the rest of the objects in our solar system except for our Moon, Venus, comets and some asteroids won’t pass between us and the Sun. The picture above  is a scale model of the Sun and Mercury.

 

 

the beginning of the eclipse through the sun funnel

the beginning of the eclipse through the sun funnel

The picture to the left is the Sun safely projected by using a “Sun Funnel“. In order to see the transit you will want a telescope with a solar filter, a sun funnel or a pair of solar viewing glasses, but if you don’t have one you may be able to see it by making a very simple pinhole projector to project the sun. Let’s hope for clear skies! Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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