MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

IAP 2014 Activities

The Universe is Beautiful: The Art of Astrophysics

Astrophysicists try to share the mysteries of the Universe around us in a clear and understandable fashion, but we don't always succeed. It's a hard challenge - the wonders of the Solar System, the Galaxy, and the ever expanding Cosmos demand more of our imaginations than can be captured by numbers in a table or terms in an equation. However, a work of art can uniquely inspire us to look closely, to dream freely, to understand openly - anything from the smallest curiosity to the biggest discovery.

So, we're asking members of the MIT community to create works of art that help us visualize our Universe and how we observe it. Whether you're a photographer or a poet, a crafter or a coder, a musician or a moviemaker, we want you to use your talents and creativity to illuminate the beauty of astrophysical results. Please consider participating in this year's Art of Astrophysics competition during MIT's 2014 Independent Activities Period.

Contact:     Dr. Bryce Croll and Dr. Zach Berta-Thompson
37-667 and 37-673
croll_ta_space.mit.edu and zkbt_ta_mit.edu
(replace "_ta_" with '@')

Lecture and Lab Tour Series: Frontiers of Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Space Science

A series of lectures aimed at freshmen non-physics majors highlighting the latest discoveries about the nature of our universe and the potential for dramatic advances in the coming decade. Also tour the MIT labs where the next generation of cutting-edge telescopes and instruments are being developed, and get a sneak preview of tomorrow's headlines in astronomy, astrophysics, and space science.

Lectures:
No enrollment limit, no advance sign-up for the lectures. Participants can attend individual lectures.
Prerequisites: None

Lab Tours:
Limited enrollment, first-come first-serve sign-up starting 5 minutes before preceding lecture -- see individual descriptions below.
For Chandra Operations Control Center tour, RSVP required to Dr. Kevin Schlaufman by 11:59 pm on 1/12/2014.
Prerequisites: Attendance of talk(s) preceding the tour.

All lectures will be held in 37-252 in Building 37 (campus map); tours of the labs will depart from 37-252 following the lectures.

Contact:     Dr. Kevin Schlaufman and Dr. Bryce Croll
37-685 and 37-667
kschlauf_ta_mit.edu and croll_ta_space.mit.edu
(replace "_ta_" with '@')

Solar Observing

Weather permitting on January 22nd, 24th, and 31st from 10:30 am - 11:45 am there will be solar observing in Memorial Lobby (campus map). We will have a series of telescopes set up so to safely view the Sun, so please come join us astronomers to take a safe look at the closest star in the sky and get a better appreciation of our Solar System's own thermonuclear reactor.

Contact:     Dr. Kevin Schlaufman and Dr. Bryce Croll
37-685 and 37-667
kschlauf_ta_mit.edu and croll_ta_space.mit.edu
(replace "_ta_" with '@')


Session 1: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - Detecting Gravitational Waves
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
Searching for Gravitational Waves with LIGO
Dr. Adam Libson (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Adam Libson
Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts the existence of gravitational radiation. Since gravity is a weak force, it takes extreme masses and energies to produce a detectable gravitational wave signature. Indirect evidence for the existence of this radiation has been collected using pulsar measurements. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is an experiment designed to directly detect this radiation, and use it to study exotic astrophysical phenomena. To do this, LIGO must measure length changes with a precision of 10-19 meters, less than a thousandth of a proton diameter. In this talk, I will briefly discuss gravitational radiation and its sources, and I will also describe the LIGO detectors and the physics involved in their operation. Finally, I will discuss some of the quantum limits on making this type of precision measurement, and the ways in which LIGO hopes to beat these limits.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:45-4:00 pm

Room
37-252
Tour of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Lab
Dr. Adam Libson (MIT Kavli Institute)

Visitors will be taken on a tour of the LIGO prototyping facilities at MIT. These include a full-scale prototype of the LIGO vacuum chambers, laser, isolation and suspension systems, and laboratories for thermal and optical noise measurements.

Max 10 people, advance sign-up required starting at 1:55 pm in 37-252
Prerequisites: Attendance of talks preceding the tour



Session 2: Thursday, January 9, 2014 - The Chandra Space Telescope, One of NASA's Great Observatories
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
Exploring the Universe from Near to Far with the Chandra X-ray Observatory
Dr. Michael Nowak (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Michael Nowak
In the summer of 1999, NASA launched the third of its great observatories -- the Chandra X-ray telescope. Like the Hubble Space telescope which preceded it, Chandra is designed to have an unprecedented ability to create images and spectra of astrophysical objects, except working with high energy X-rays instead of optical light. This means that Chandra views some of the universe's most exotic and energetic phenomena: supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, jets traveling at nearly the speed of light emanating from near the center of clusters of galaxies. In this talk, we'll take a tour of the discoveries made by the Chandra X-ray telescope, starting with studies of our own solar system, moving outward to nearby stars, to the center of our own Galaxy where a black hole 40 millions times the mass of our Sun lurks, to distant clusters of Galaxies where the most massive black holes, billions of times the mass of our Sun, reside.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:45-3:45 pm

Room
37-252
Tour of the Chandra Space Telescope ACIS CCD Lab
Dr. Steve Kissel (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Steve Kissel
In this tour, we will introduce the participant to the CCD detector development at MIT.

Max 15 people, advance sign-up required starting at 1:55 pm in 37-252
Prerequisites: Attendance of talks preceding the tour



Session 3: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - Galaxy Clusters and Dark Matter
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
The Cost of Cosmic Real Estate: Galaxy Evolution in Dense Environments
Dr. Steven Ehlert (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Steven Ehlert
One of the largest and most important questions regarding galaxy evolution is the role of the local environment, primarily other nearby galaxies and diffuse gas. Observations of galaxies using the full ensemble of modern telescopes have demonstrated that galaxies are inextricably linked to their neighborhoods through a number of processes that span from star formation and black hole accretion to dark matter and dark energy. In this talk, I will discuss the myriad ways in which we observe galaxies coupling to their environments with a particular emphasis on galaxies in the densest real estate in the Universe: galaxy clusters.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:30-3:00 pm

Room
37-252
Hunting Dark Matter
Mr. Adam Anderson (MIT Kavli Institute)


Mr. Adam Anderson
Understanding the composition and properties of the matter in the universe is one of the most basic goals of physics, yet we know scandalously little about most of the matter. A concordance of diverse evidence from astrophysics and cosmology suggests that 85% of the matter in the universe is "dark": it is non-electromagnetically interacting and fundamentally different than the familiar matter of atoms that we experience in our day-to-day life. Though the existence and astrophysical properties of dark matter are established, its particle properties are unknown. I will describe the different pieces of evidence that have led to our current understanding of dark matter, culminating in the state-of-the-art direct searches that are probing its particle properties.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

3:15-4:15 pm

Room
37-252
Tour of the Operations Control Center for the Chandra Space Telescope, One of NASA's Great Observatories
Dr. Norbert Schulz (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Norbert Schulz
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope, allowing scientists to study the origin, structure and evolution of our universe in greater detail than ever before. The spacecraft and science instruments are controlled from the Operations Control Center (OCC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We will take our visitors on a tour of the OCC and show where scientists and engineers direct the flight and execute the observing plan of Chandra, and where they receive the scientific data from the observatory. during the tour the visitors will learn about the basics of X-ray astronomy and about the latest, exciting discoveries made by MIT scientists with data acquired with Chandra.

Max 20 people, advance sign-up required by email to Dr. Kevin Schlaufman by 11:59 pm on 1/12/2014.
Prerequisites: Attendance of talks preceding the tour



Session 4: Thursday, January 16, 2014 - The Early Universe and Galaxy Formation
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
It's Always Darkest Before the Cosmic Dawn
Mr. Josh Dillon (MIT Kavli Institute)


Mr. Josh Dillon
We know quite a lot about the very early universe from observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background and about the later universe from observations of distant galaxies and supernovae. But the period between--and therefore a huge volume of the observable universe--remains unexplored. We know that during that time the universe went from dark to bright as the first stars and black holes formed and helped ionize the hydrogen between galaxies. By studying the state and distribution of that hydrogen with novel radio telescopes, we hope to soon shed light on the so-called "Cosmic Dawn" in order to test our astrophysical and cosmological theories that describe history of the universe from the Big Bang to today.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:30-3:00 pm

Room
37-252
The Universe in a Box: Simulating Galaxy Formation
Mr. Alex Ji (MIT Kavli Institute)


Mr. Alex Ji
In the 1920s, astronomers discovered that some of the spiral-shaped smudges seen in their telescopes were too distant to be part of our own Milky Way. These "island universes," now known as galaxies, have proved to be a critical component connecting cosmology to astrophysics. In this talk, we will follow the formation history of galaxies similar to our own Milky Way. Aided by computer visualizations, we will see how these galaxies grow from tiny density perturbations into the majestic gas disks we see today.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.



Session 5: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - Solar Observing CANCELED
CANCELED
10:30-11:45 am

Memorial
Lobby
Building 10
Safely See the Sun! CANCELED


Not You!
The Sun is source of energy for (nearly) all life on the planet. Come take a safe look at the closest star in the sky and get a better appreciation of our Solar System's own thermonuclear reactor.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.



Session 6: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - Exoplanets
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
In Search of Sunset on Alien Worlds
Dr. Zach Berta-Thompson (Torres Fellow, MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Zach Berta-Thompson
We now know of thousands of planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way, but what do we really know about each one of them individually? For a particular subset of known extrasolar planets, we can measure their sizes, their densities, and even the composition and structure of their atmospheres. This talk will take you on a tour through the methods astronomers use to observe the weird and wonderful worlds that populate our Galaxy, particularly focusing on what we can learn from current and upcoming space telescopes. Come prepared to explore strange new planets!

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:30-3:00 pm

Room
37-252
Extreme Solar Systems
Ms. Katherine Deck (MIT Kavli Institute)


Ms. Katherine Deck
What does a typical planetary system look like? Thanks to an enormous amount of observational work, we know now that planet formation can be considered efficient: most stars like the Sun host an exoplanet. Furthermore, systems of multiple planets are also par for the course. However, the systems we are finding don't always resemble our own Solar System. I'll discuss how we measure the shapes and orientations of planetary orbits when we cannot directly see the planets themselves, and then describe a few of the most intriguing multi-planet systems we've found.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.



Session 7: Friday, January 24, 2014 - Solar Observing
10:30-11:45 am

Memorial
Lobby
Building 10
Safely See the Sun!


You!
The Sun is source of energy for (nearly) all life on the planet. Come take a safe look at the closest star in the sky and get a better appreciation of our Solar System's own thermonuclear reactor.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.



Session 8: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - Techniques and Instruments That Enable the Exploration of the Universe
2:00-2:30 pm

Room
37-252
Weak Gravitational Lensing: Because We're Stuck With Photons
Ms. Rebecca Sobel Levinson (MIT Kavli Institute)


Ms. Rebecca Sobel Levinson
Most of the universe does not emit light. Dark matter outweighs baryonic matter in the universe approx. 5:1. So how do we learn about this dark universe when our primary tools for observing it require light?

Come learn about gravitational lensing, one of the tricks of astronomy that allows us to peer into the darkness of our universe. I will review the basics of gravitational lensing, and some of the neat things we can learn from it. I will then focus on weak lensing in clusters, the science behind some of the most beautiful Hubble images ever taken.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

2:30-3:00 pm

Room
37-252
High-resolution x-ray optics at the Space Nanotechnology Laboratory: From nanometers to gigaparsecs
Dr. Ralf Heilmann (MIT Kavli Institute)


Dr. Ralf Heilmann
The Space Nanotechnology Laboratory (SNL) develops advanced lithography and nano-fabrication technology for high performance space instrumentation, as well as nanometer-accuracy metrology and assembly technology. Two current efforts are the development of nanofabricated soft x-ray gratings, the so-called critical-angle transmission (CAT) gratings, and the development of high-precision focusing X-ray mirrors. CAT gratings require the fabrication of sub-micron structures with extreme geometries and sub-nanometer precision, while x-ray mirrors are formed at 600 deg C while floating on porous air bearings. These efforts are aimed at instruments that can help find the missing baryons in the Cosmic Web and reveal the secrets of dark matter.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.

3:15-4:15 pm

Room
37-252
Tour of the Space Nanotechnology Lab
Dr. Ralf Heilmann (MIT Kavli Institute)

During the tour of the SNL's three clean rooms visitors will see sophisticated optical (interference lithography stations for the fabrication of submicron period gratings, high power UV laser, metrology station for optics shape measurements, sub-nanometer resolution interferometers, etc.), reactive-ion etching (Plasmtherm RIE, new STPS Pegasus DRIE) and mechanical systems (XY-air-bearing stage, environmental enclosure, active vibration isolation, etc.) as well as a scanning electron microscope, all of which support the development of thin-foil x-ray optics and gratings.

Max 6 people, advance sign-up required starting at 1:55 pm in 37-252
Prerequisites: Attendance of talks preceding the tour



Session 9: Friday, January 31, 2014 - Solar Observing CANCELED
CANCELED
10:30-11:45 am

Memorial
Lobby
Building 10
Safely See the Sun! CANCELED


Not You!
The Sun is source of energy for (nearly) all life on the planet. Come take a safe look at the closest star in the sky and get a better appreciation of our Solar System's own thermonuclear reactor.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.



Session 10: Friday, January 31, 2014 - Art of Astrophysics
4:00-5:30 pm

Memorial
Lobby
Building 10
Public Gallery Showing


All submitted works for our Art of Astrophysics art/multimedia contest will be publicly displayed in a brief gallery exhibit in Lobby 10. Please join us, and bring your friends to vote on the best pieces. Refreshments will be served!

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up.


MKI
MIT
Last updated: Fri Jan 31 08:00:51 EST 2014