The Sky Crew Takes on Gravitational Waves

microphone with nhpr logoHey all! It’s already late October, which means midterms and student advising in my world. Yesterday, I was once again invited to join NHPR‘s radio program The Exchange to discuss astronomy with host Laura Knoy and astronomers John Gianforte and Mal Cameron. We had a lovely time talking about a number of subjects and spent the first 20 minutes covering the recent gravitational wave discovery of colliding neutron stars, though we easily could have devoted the whole hour to it.

Listen below or find it on Apple Podcasts.



DragonCon 2017 is Almost Here!

On the Science Track in 2016 with Kishore Hari, Raychelle Burks, Eric Spana, and Mohamed Noor.

As a new academic school year is about to begin, I’m also looking forward to the yearly celebration of geek culture that happens every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta… DragonCon! I’ll be an attending pro and appearing on the Science and Space tracks once again, as well as on panels for a few other tracks, talking science and sci-fi. From Star Trek to the Expanse, and exoplanets to scientific slap-fights, it is sure to be a super fun time.

I’m limiting my cosplay this time around, as I realized that prepping for classes always manages to make that impossible, but I will be reprising my eclipse Ms. Frizzle and wearing my Battlestar Galactica greens. SSWA!

Here’s where you can find me and say HI at the Con:

If you’ve been following me on social media, you have already heard about my, eh, mishap in Illinois. Yes, I did trip and fall and sprain my ankle pretty badly. And, all things considered, it was TOTALLY worth it to see the total solar eclipse! But I’m not going to let it keep me away from DragonCon, just as I haven’t let it stop me at work. To make it more feasible, I did manage to get a knee scooter on loan. So I’ll actually be ROLLING around the Con! Too bad I don’t have more time/skill, because the scooter itself could have a kicking cosplay… see the resemblance?

Are you ready for the Great American Eclipse?

UPDATE (8/17/17): As the date gets closer, please check out my “Procrastinator’s Guide to the Solar Eclipse” on Skepchick! 

I’m pretty darn excited. I’ve never seen a total solar eclipse, and I’m getting my first chance to do so, along with many, many residents of North America, on August 21st. I’m heading back to the St. Louis area to see my friends from my post-doc days, visit an elementary school with some cool activities, and chase away the clouds (I hope!) and see my first total solar eclipse. If you’re in the North and Central America, and even parts of South America, you’ll be able to see at least part of an eclipse, so get ready!

map of Aug 21, 2017 eclipse path
Credit: NASA

There are lots of LOTS of people who have been working hard to make sure that folks get to see the event safely. No, you should NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN without proper equipment. That said, looking at the Sun during an eclipse is no more dangerous than looking at the Sun any other day. It’s just a concern because so many people want to look up! You don’t need expensive equipment, but solar viewers are highly recommended for looking up. The American Astronomical Society has a good primer on eye safety PLUS a page full of reputable vendors that will actually keep your eyes safe from the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light from the Sun while you view. Obviously, there has been a rush on these things, but you can call your local library, since many have been stocked with cheap and free glasses just for this.

Don’t have time to get solar viewers? That’s okay! Indirect methods work as well. Science Friday has FIVE DIY ways to view the eclipse with little to no cost.

Going to the path of totality? Great! It’s going to be PACKED. I’m already a little nervous about it, as towns are expecting gridlock as people swarm to be in the path of totality. Take the advice of Angela Speck, astronomer at the University of Missouri who lives right on the path, and pack water, food, and emergency supplies when you head out on the 21st. Also? Make sure to gas up your vehicle the day before.

You all know how I love citizen science, where everyone can take part in data collection an analysis. This eclipse is providing many such opportunities for doing citizen science, including tracking atmospheric conditions, logging animal behavior, and investigating the ionosphere with radio waves.

As for me? I’m just going to watch and enjoy since it’s my first. I’ve been advised by several experienced eclipse watchers to just enjoy the experience. I took that advice to heart when I saw my first space shuttle launch, and I’m so glad that I did. Totality is super quick, just under two minutes depending on your location, so I plan to soak it all in!

If you’re not on the path of totality, you never really get full darkness, and the Moon will take its time to cross the solar disk. So, you can view at your leisure. I really love this visual by Vox where you can put in your zip code and see when the eclipse will take place, and at what percentage, wherever you are. So plan your day around it if you can!

Here are some great online resources for all your eclipse needs:

See you at totality!

Total Solar Eclipse
CC BY-SA 3.0 Luc Viatour/

Noisy Astronomer joins the Sky Guys!

Greetings from overwhelmed-professor-land! Heh, yeah, I’m alive and even occasionally on social media these days. But life as a tenure track professor keeps me pretty busy, even during the summer months.

I have some exciting science outreach stuff happening starting this month, starting off with my first appearance on NHPR’s The Exchange on Wednesday, August 9th! I’ll be joining host Laura Knoy and “the Sky Guys” John Gianforte and Mal Cameron to round up all the exciting astronomy news of the last few months. We’ll get you ready for the Great American Eclipse, discuss some important NASA milestones and missions, and a whole bunch of other astronomical stuff. Miss the Weekly Space Hangout during it’s summer hiatus? Get your fix with us! Listen on your radio in New Hampshire or online at 9am Eastern. It’s an hour-long call-in show, so join the fun.

Speaking of the eclipse, I’ll be back in the St. Louis area to see my very first total solar eclipse! I’m taking the advice of many experienced folks and enjoying this one all for myself, so no outreach the day of the big event. But I will be sure to post some links here in a future post.

After that, the semester starts in earnest, but I’ll also be at DragonCon and GeekGirlCon doing panels and hands-on science activities. I’ll post more on that later as well. Until then, I’ll see you on Twitter!

Summer Travel

Summer as a full-time professor means I get the opportunity to travel. Actually, I have the opportunity to do a lot of things, and I’m currently trying to do them ALL. Because why not?

But, I am using my precious faculty development funds for a couple of conferences as well as a little bit of my own savings for some outreach. Let me know if you’ll be at any of these, and we can get a cup of coffee! Or three. Caffeine is good.

June 12 to June 14 – Cambridge, Massachusetts – International Public Science Events Conference

My buddy Stephen Granade tipped me off to a great conference practically in my backyard. Stephen is the director of the Science Track and DragonCon. I’ll be enjoying the sessions and facilitating one with another astronomy person on running star parties. There is also a fun public event related to the conference on Sunday night called “Solve for X Variety Show,” a “a quirky, irreverent, and sometimes informative science-themed variety show,” so check that out if you’re in the area.

June 20 to 23 – College Park, MD – AAPT New Faculty Workshop

I’ve been looking forward to this all year, the physics and astronomy workshop for us little newbies! It’s a closed workshop, but I’m hoping to get around and see some mid-Atlantic sights and people while I’m there.

June 30 to July 3 – Minneapolis, MN – SkepchickCon at CONvergence

I’m so excited to be going to CONvergence again this year! Though technically a personal trip, I’ll be doing lots of science outreach at the con. (And you can help us with our fundraiser to make it happen, and even win cool prizes!) I’ll be there with the rest of the Skepchick Network putting on some great programming, and my friend Amy Shira Teitel is even a special guest of the Con! The schedule of events is now posted, and here’s my schedule both for my own reference and if you want to come say hello (all times CDT):

  • Panspermia! Meteorites as Transportation – Thursday, 12:30pm, Double Tree Plaza 3
  • Skepchick Party room activity (comets or rockets?) – Thursday, 2pm, location TBA
  • Skepchick Party room activity (comets or rockets?) – Friday, 1pm, location TBA
  • Our Place in Space – Friday, 2pm, DoubleTree Atrium 4
  • Nature of Science – Friday, 5pm, DoubleTree Atrium 6
  • Mercury 13 – Friday, 7pm, DoubleTree Atrium 7
  • Play with Rockets (Safely) Sandbox Activity – Saturday, 9:30am, DoubleTree Plaza 2
  • Humans vs. Robots: Who Will Travel the Solar System? – Saturday, 11am, DoubleTree Plaza 3
  • Gasoline is SO Last Century – Saturday, 2pm, DoubleTree Plaza 1
  • The Tim Hunt Honorable “Women In Science” Presentations – Saturday, 5pm, DoubleTree Bloomington
  • Make a Comet Sandbox Activity – Saturday, 7pm, DoubleTree Plaza 2
  • Mega Space Structures – Sunday, 11am, Crowne Plaza U

Fun stuff.

SCIENCE! Photo by fizzixrat on Flickr

SCIENCE! Photo by fizzixrat on Flickr

Eventually I’ll be getting ready for DragonCon and GeekGirlCon as well, but that’s way off in the fall.

The hardest part of all this will be leaving Macey behind. I wish I could take her everywhere! But, I’m sure she’ll enjoy doggie daycare. Almost as much as she enjoys naps.

#FirstYearProf Comes to an End!

Tomorrow, I’ll be walking at graduation, but not my own. Nevertheless, it’s a momentous occasion for me. My first year as a professor has come to a close! It really felt over last week when I submitted all my final grades. But, it’s still nice to do the fancy dress up and, sadly, say goodbye to our departing seniors as they embark on their careers.

A couple of weeks ago, to celebrate, I posted a fun little gif-ful post on School of Doubt, “A First Year as a Professor, in GIFs.” Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing.

For now, I’m re-shifting my focus to deal with summer tasks, which is very different from my semester-long race to make my astronomy classes as cool as possible. I’ll check in soon!