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How Astronomers Conduct Research

Bill_Jacobus_flickr.jpg
Bill Jacobus, flickr
/

When the whole universe is out there to explore, how do astronomers decide what questions they want to ask?

And when they have the whole universe's worth of answers, how do collect the data they need to answer those questions?

Contributor Jean Creighton, the director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, says the problem most researchers face is that more questions and surprises come up once you've gotten your data.

“You think you know what the data’s going to be,” Creighton says. “You think you know what’s going to come out of it, and sometimes you get a little bit of that. But often you get a surprise.”

While most data collection and analysis is painstaking work, sometimes the most unlikely of events offer the kind of eureka moment that later leads to a Nobel Prize.

Contributor Jean Creighton teaches astronomy and is the director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
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.