astronomy

Top Astronomical Discoveries Of 2018

Dec 12, 2018
Milky-way-space-station
NASA

The past year has been marked by major collisions — both metaphorical and literal — that have changed the world and our view of the universe. Recent discoveries have confirmed scientific theories, brought more materials from space and brought to light how earthly elements came into existence.

Every month, Lake Effect’s Bonnie North speaks with our astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton, the director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UWM. This month, she gives us her list of the top astronomical discoveries of 2018. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are preparing to give extra thanks this holiday weekend when their latest mission to Mars — the InSight Mars Lander — touches down on the surface of the Red Planet on Monday afternoon.

Natalia80 / Fotolia

Most of us know at least a handful of constellations in the night sky. Constellations like the Big Dipper, or Orion, or Cassiopeia, light up the sky and map where we are in the world.

But there are many misconceptions about constellations, according to Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton. She joins Lake Effect's Bonnie North to give some context to constellations and dispel some myths:

helen_f / Fotolia

Last month, director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee and our regular astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton explained how the sun stays together, even though it is made of gasses and plasma.

READ: Here Comes The Sun, But What Holds It Together?

NASA/SDO / NASA.org

If, as the They Might Be Giants song goes, the sun a mass of incandescent gas, how does it all stay together? That's the question astronomer and Lake Effect contributor Jean Creighton answers for us this month. (Hint: gravity has something to do with it...)

Look Up, The Planets Are Aligned

Jul 27, 2018
Bill Dunford / NASA

When we talk about proper alignment, we’re often talking about our spines, or our priorities, or perhaps our metaphysical place in the universe.

Contributor Jean Creighton is all for those kinds of calibrations, but the kind of alignment she wants to talk about in this month’s astronomy chat is planetary.

"We have an unusual situation where we can see four planets, practically simultaneously, in the night sky," she notes.

NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office

These days, the word 'asteroid' usually only comes up when we're talking about the extinction of the dinosaurs. But astronomy contributor Jean Creighton notes that a near-Earth object,or NEO, is either a comet or asteroid that gets within 30 million miles from the Earth's surface. But what would we do if a massive object were hurtling toward Earth today?

Craig A. Mullenbach / Fotolia

There have been astronomers in Wisconsin for a long time. There’s the Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva. There are astronomy programs at places like UWM and UW-Madison. And even a private observatory up in the Northwoods.

But astronomy contributor Jean Creighton tells Lake Effect’s Bonnie North that well before European settlers landed in the area, Wisconsin's Native Americans were already studying the night sky.

trahko / Fotolia

Black holes have a bad reputation.  The line is that they’re so dense, not even light can escape, and many of us imagine being pulled inexorably toward an enormous vacuum cleaner or a drain with no hope of escape.

The truth is a little more nuanced than that.  And we know much more about them today because of the Hubble Space Telescope. 

"The Hubble Space Telescope gave us the first concrete evidence of the existence of a super massive black hole in another galaxy," notes astronomy contributor and director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee, Jean Creighton.

Dawn Erb / UWM Dept of Astronomy, Gravitation & Cosmology

Stargazers can take note. Soon, you may not be able to use the historic Yerkes Observatory on Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

The observatory, built in the 1890s, has in recent decades been used primarily for education and outreach. The University of Chicago, which runs the observatory, announced that it will be ceasing its operations at the facility on October 1, 2018.

NASA

One of the key pieces of technology that has enabled space exploration is the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton, who also leads UW-Milwaukee's Manfred Olson Planetarium, celebrates the telescope's four most important contributions in her current program: Hubble's Cosmic Quest.

What is a Shooting Star?

Jan 25, 2018
ikonacolor / Fotolia

A meteor shower is always a good excuse to get outside and look into the night sky. But it’s not the only time when you can see a streak of light overhead.

Astronomy contributor and Manfred Olson Planetarium director Jean Creighton says that while people generally know shooting stars have something to do with solar system debris, many don't know its origin.

"The shooting star is what we see in our atmosphere, but it starts earlier and farther away from either the chunk of an asteroid or comet - which are called meteoroids in the void of space," she explains.

NASA/JPL

As we just get started with 2018 we still take the time to look back on the not-so-distant 2017 and all of its “best of” lists. From best trends, to best foods, movies, events, and more – we often try to quantify a year into a compact bullet list.

One area that is often overlooked in your “best of” scrolling is the best of astronomy. 2017 was an incredibly exciting year for space – from the discovery of gravitational waves, to the solar eclipse, and capturing the most detailed photo of Earth ever taken from space.

The Colors of the Cosmos

Nov 22, 2017
NASA/ESA/Hubble / www.nasa.gov

Every month Jean Creighton comes down to the studio from her usual haunt in the Manfred Olson Planetarium to tell us stories about the cosmos. Today we talk about color, or lack of it, in the universe:

Global Initiative Documents Neutron Stars Collision

Oct 25, 2017
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab

It’s been a big couple of years for gravity and the people who study it. Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton joins Lake Effect each month to talk about space - near, far, and in between each month.

This month, the director of UWM's Manfred Olson Planetarium discusses the collision of two neutron stars and the global effort behind capturing the event. “There were seventy telescopes that were able to observe in all continents, including Antarctica, across all light ways from gamma rays all the way to radio. Everybody saw it."

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