Nemiroff Presents on Astronomy Highlights

News  /  by Linda Li '19  /  January 12, 2018

Courtesy of Astronomy Photo of the Day

Due to inclement weather, classes were cancelled on Thursday, January 4. However, Religion Master and School Rabbi Lauren Levy H ’97 ’01 P ’01 ’02 ’09 took advantage of the student body’s empty schedules to offer them the opportunity to hear Robert Nemiroff speak about his work in astronomy in 2017.

Nemiroff holds a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Pennsylvania, and currently works as a Physics Professor at Michigan Tech University. Prior to teaching at Michigan Tech, he also worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

While he was working at NASA, he partnered with colleague Jerry T. Bonnell to start a project in 1995 called Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). The two created a website where they posted an image of the universe every day with a caption describing it and have continued to do so to this day. Now, it is NASA’s most popular website, translated into twenty other languages, and used by many universities.

Nemiroff’s presentation was based on the work he has done with APOD. He began by sharing a set of miscellaneous highlights, including a picture of a star cluster bursting out; video simulations of flying over Pluto showing its terrain based on images taken by satellite New Horizons; a clip of Mercury passing in front of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory; a map of a portion of the galaxy obtained from Gaia, a European Space Agency (ESA) mission; a video of the take-off of rocket Atlas V carrying OSIRIS-REx, a spacecraft whose mission is to bring soil from an asteroid back to earth; evidence of other star systems; an aurora over Iceland; the “strawberry moon” over the Manhattan skyline; and satellite images of hurricane season.

Then, Nemiroff showed various photos and videos depicting five of this year’s most notable events in astronomy: the NASA space probe named Juno’s arrival at Jupiter towards the end of 2016, providing a better image of what the planet’s terrain looks like; the Great American Eclipse this past summer; the Cassini–Huygens probe, a combined effort by NASA, ESA, and Italian Space Agency to study Saturn and its rings, experiencing its final moments and eventual death dive into Saturn; the first simultaneous gravitational and electromagnetic wave detection, a groundbreaking discovery; and the spotting of the first interstellar asteroid, Oumuamua, travelling extremely close to our sun.

Hunter Korn ’19, who attended the presentation, said, “I enjoyed Nemiroff's presentation, especially his integration of photography and videography with information about each astronomical happening of the year.”

“I particularly enjoyed watching the videos created by astronomers that showed simulated paths through space and details on the specific planets or stars. The presentation was visually stunning yet compelling and engaging,” she added.