Jean Creighton

Astronomy Contributor

Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five. She studied physics at the University of Athens and went on to earn a Master’s degree from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Waterloo. She began teaching astronomy at UW-Milwaukee in 1999 and in 2007, she took over as director of UWM's Manfred Olson Planetarium.

In 2014, Creighton was selected by NASA to be an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador and spent 20 hours in the stratosphere on SOFIA, the largest moving observatory in the world. She's very proud to have shared the cosmos with over 150,000 members of the community.

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This month four astronauts arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) thanks to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It was a milestone for both NASA and SpaceX as the Crew Dragon’s first fully operational mission, and marks its second crewed flight. The U.S. government and private agencies have been working together for about a decade to get more people into space.

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Every year in October, Nobel Prizes are awarded to people throughout the world. This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astrophysicists for their work in advancing black hole discoveries.

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As the weather shifts to fall, there’s also a shift in the sky. While it’s now technically autumn, the fall sky offers us the best of both summer and winter stargazing.

Lake Effect astronomy contributor Jean Creighton shares how to find the best constellations and planets the fall sky has to offer:

1. Summer Triangle

NASA

The primary pieces of the International Space Station (ISS) were delivered over 42 assembly flights more than 20 years ago. Independent elements were constructed around the globe and assembled for the first time in space, starting the groundwork of nearly continuous human presence in space. 

The ISS has grown into an impressive research complex that continues to model not just international cooperation, but research that can help solve problems in space and on Earth.

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Every year the Perseid meteor shower is one of the highlights of summer stargazing. It started about a week ago and will peak Aug. 11-13.

These shooting stars are debris left by the passing Swift-Tuttle comet burning in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are known for bright, frequent meteor sightings.

JPL-Caltech / NASA

It seems like the world has been fascinated by Mars for decades. Since unmanned missions began in 1960, there have been 56 missions to Mars from countries around the world. While less than half of these missions have been successful, the problems haven’t stopped us.

Photograph by L Calçada / European Southern Observatory

While 1,000 light-years may seem like a vast distance away from Earth, it’s practically in our backyard because of the scale of the universe. And it’s just 1,000 light-years away from Earth where astronomers found the closest black hole to the Earth in the double-star system HR 6819

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While Wisconsin is having a hard time keeping consistent spring weather, one thing we do notice this time of year is more daylight.

But how does the positioning of the sun change course over the year? And how does it affect us? Our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says that now is a great time for us to ask these questions. As we all spend more time in the same place, we can be more purposeful in observing the sun’s patterns.

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Spring has arrived and we’re starting to enjoy more pleasant weather. And as we practice social distancing, people are still encouraged to go outside for exercise, walking pets, and to maintain their sanity.

While the meteorological spring starts earlier in the month with the first signs of warmer weather, the astronomical spring starts when the day is longer than the night, Jean Creighton explains. With the March equinox comes a chance of scenery in the sky — making it a perfect opportunity to go outside by yourself or people you live with and simply look up.

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The process of making new scientific discoveries can be unclear. Sometimes, it seems like these scientists are possessed by divine spirits, translating the unimaginable to the unwashed masses. Astrophysicst Jean Creighton believes that's a misperception that can alienate the scientific process from so-called "non-scientists." 

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It’s no secret that the universe is vast. The distances between us and our closest astronomical neighbors are huge and the numbers only get bigger the farther away those stars and galaxies are from us. So, how do astronomers grapple with it to make the size of the universe understandable to the rest of us?

Jean Creighton, Lake Effect's astronomy contributor, says one way we do it is by using orders of magnitude. Another way is by using time as a measure. That seems odd until you realize we do it all the time:

What Cool Things Happened In Astronomy In 2019

Dec 19, 2019
Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al. / NASA

Any number of scientific discoveries or events make the "best of" lists every year. Well, our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton is no different, and she shares her picks for 2019:

First all-female spacewalk

The first all-female spacewalk took place on Oct. 18. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made the historic excursion.

The initial all-female spacewalk was planned in March, but it was canceled.

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We talk with our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton regularly about the latest discoveries in astrophysics, but we've never really talked about how those discoveries are paid for. So, for November's astro chat, Creighton explains the process of writing a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation:

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When people think of astronomers, several names come to mind: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, or Carl Sagan — all white men. But throughout history, women and other people of color have made huge contributions to our understanding of the cosmos.

Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says that highlighting that diversity in the field is necessary for both kids and adults. 

"It's so important to break those barriers, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, so that the stereotypes that people put in their heads are set aside," says Creighton.

The Autumnal Equinox Is More Than Just A Day — Here's Why

Sep 26, 2019
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Our astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton, says it’s a special time of year. Earlier this week, we officially slid into fall and experienced the autumnal equinox (or we did if we were up at 2:50 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 23). While our calendars mark the first official day of fall, the autumnal equinox is more than just a day. 

"The definition of an equinox is when the path of the sun, which is called the ecliptic, crosses the equator of the Earth, projected on the sky," Creighton explains. "It's a time and a place in the sky." 

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