On this page is a summary of some of the astronomy and physics outreach I do at James Madison University. This includes primarily the James Madison University Astronomy Park, the John C. Wells Planetarium, and NASA's Ask an Astrophysicist. Also detailed is the James Madison Radio Telescope which I use in conjunction with the advanced lab for upper level undergraduate physics majors. I am hoping in the near future to add a second dish to create an interferometer.
JMU Telescopes Planetarium NASA's Ask an Astrophysicist
In the Fall semester of 2006, the JMU Physics & Astronomy Department debuted its Astronomy Park adjacent to the Physics & Chemistry building. JMU has constructed a platform with permanently mounted telescope piers for six 10" equatorially mounted Meade telescopes and one free-standing 14" Celestron telescope. All of these telescopes are outfitted with SBIG CCD cameras and a spectrometer. JMU will be offering public access or star parties utilizing these telescopes roughly 2 Friday evenings per month during the school year. A schedule for Spring semester 2009 is posted below. In case of unfavorable weather for viewing on the night of observing, the following phone number can be called roughly an hour ahead of viewing to hear a message as to whether that night's session is cancelled.
|March 20||8:00 - 9:30|
|April 10||8:30 - 10:00|
|April 24||8:00 - 9:30|
|May 8||9:00 - 10:30|
James Madison university has purchased a small radio telescope of a type originally developed at Haystack Observatory. The small radio telescope (SRT) is capable of continuum and spectral line observations in the L-band (1.42 GHz) or 21 cm. The SRT is a standard seven-foot diameter satellite television dish mounted on top of a fully motorized Az-El mount. Given the wavelength and the size of the dish, the telescope is limited to an angular resolution of approximately 7o. JMU has constructed a permanent steel platform and mast on the roof of the Physics and Chemistry building at the west end. The goal is to add another dish on the opposite end of the building to improve the angular resolution.
The Wells Planetarium offers free shows for the public on Saturdays through April. The shows are held at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. While the shows are free, tickets are required due to limited seating. Tickets may be obtained by calling the Warren Hall Box Office at (540) 568-7960 until 4 p.m. the day before the show. Tickets may be picked up at the Warren Hall Box Office. Tickets may also be reserved and picked up at the planetarium door at the time of the show. Any tickets not reserved by 4 p.m. the day before a show will be handed out on a first come, first served basis at the planetarium door 10 minutes before show time.
The first show is more "kid friendly" while the second is targeted more towards adults. Each show is followed by a 25-minute "star talk" that provides visitors with updates about the night sky, inlcuding constellations, planets and any comets that might be visible.
The first show is playing Molecularium. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Molecularium is an exciting new animation, in a planetarium setting, created to spark interest in the atoms and molecules that constitute our world. Via pioneering digital dome technology, viewers are completely immersed in a captivating virtual world. Try riding a snowflake for yourself. (20 minutes)
For the second show, the planetarium is playing Secrets of the Sun . This is an intimate look at the role the sun plays in the life of our Solar System. From the nuclear forces churning at the heart of the sun to the mass ejections of solar material into the surrounding space, we will experience the power of the sun and its impact on the planets and ultimately life on Earth. We will trace the life cycle of the sun itself, going back to its beginnings and moving forward in time to its eventual death. (20 minutes)
Ask an Astrophysicist is part of NASA's Imagine the Universe! website. Through my association with NASA, I contribue to this project. The site is intended for students age 14 and up, and for anyone interested in learning about our universe. The Ask an Astrophysicist service specializes in answering questions in cosmic-ray, gamma-ray, and X-ray astrophysics, and other satellite based astronomical observations. The research subjects are often exotic, including black holes, quasars dark matter and dark energy. If you are interested in these topics, check the Ask an Astrophysicist webpage where there is an archive of questions and answers from the past 15 years - or, submit a question yourself!