On Operas and Stars, Aliens and Refugees
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I was recently in correspondence with Carl Pennypacker at Berkeley. To quote Wikipedia: “Dr. Pennypacker has spent much of his career as a research astrophysicist, receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1978. His principal research was the studying of supernovae and the building of techniques for their automated discovery. With Rich Muller, he co-founded the Berkeley Supernova Search, which later became the Supernova Cosmology Project. He shared the 2007 Gruber Prize in Cosmology and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the Supernova Cosmology Project’s discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.” All true. But in addition to that, he has a deep interest in science outreach… and music. When he shared with me a video he’d been involved with (see below) I asked if I could post it here, and if he would give me a few words of introduction. He graciously agreed to both. He writes (edited from a couple of emails): I was part of “The Global Skylight” opera, as part of the IAU’s … Continue reading

Beneath the Aurora Borealis
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I have seen the Northern Lights in Naperville, Illinois.  Sort of. Not long ago, at a meeting of the Naperville Astronomical Association, I attended a terrific talk by Dr. José Salgado of the Adler Planetarium.   He began by describing a series of astronomy films he and the Adler have made.  Each film has been set to music in a live summertime outdoor performance by an orchestra in downtown Chicago. For his next film in the “Science and Symphony” series, Dr. Salgado wanted to capture the Northern Lights.  The colorful glow of the Aurora Borealis is rarely seen in Chicago.  It’s much more common at higher latitudes, since the Earth’s northern “auroral oval” is a ring, thousands of kilometers across, approximately centered on the North Magnetic Pole.  (There’s another one in the south, but the Antarctic is much less convenient to visit.) So he packed up a lot of camera equipment and flew to Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  It’s a … Continue reading