astronomy

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

detailblick-foto / stock.adobe.com

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.

Ryan / stock.adobe.com

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.

Tryfonov / stock.adobe.com

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." 

Mark / stock.adobe.com

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:

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.

peshkova / stock.adobe.com

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:

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company's Phantom Works.

Rawpixel.com / stock.adobe.com

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
sdecoret / stock.adobe.com

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." 

Does The Full Moon Really Affect Us?

Aug 22, 2019
NASA

2019 has been the summer of the moon. Man first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, and over the past few months we've been looking at back at the history of the space race and ahead at what future missions might look like.

READ: 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11 Moon Landing Has Wisconsin Scientists Looking Back, Forward

The Journey To Mars: Former NASA Astronaut Discusses Progress & The Unknown

Aug 8, 2019
NASA Image and Video Library / NASA

Humans first left Earth 59 years ago, landing on the moon nine years later. Since then, we’ve orbited the Earth, sent rovers to Mars, and sent people to live on the international space station. And it won’t be too long before we make the journey to Mars to begin our extraterrestrial colonization.

One of NASA's first employees, key to creating the U.S. space program, has died at 95. Chris Kraft was the agency's first flight director and managed all of the Mercury missions, as well some of the Gemini flights. He was a senior planner during the Apollo lunar program. Later he led the Johnson Space Center in Houston and oversaw development of the space shuttle.

NASA

Every month, Lake Effect contributor and astronomer Jean Creighton joins us to talk about the universe and our solar system within it. This time, she talks about the resources, effort, and partnerships that made sending Apollo 11 to the moon possible.

LISTEN: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11

Creighton says NASA had to work with 20,000 companies to make the mission possible.

NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center / NASA

The 50th anniversary of the first astronaut moon landing comes as NASA is talking of another trip to the moon within five years, and of taking people to Mars by the mid-2030s.

Astronomers, engineers, and human health experts across Wisconsin have been tracking the discussion. And some are working on projects potentially tied to more space travel.

Pages