Astronomy For Equity: Building Hope Through the Night Sky

Roaya Astronomical Clubs in Libyan Schools is a project of Roaya for Astronomy and Space Applications, a Libyan youth group created in 2012 that became a government-recognized Non-Governmental Foundation in 2021. The project is supported through partnerships with the Libya Ministry of Education. Image courtesy of A4E.

Have you ever attended a star party, where amateur astronomers set up telescopes and invite the public to take a look at the night sky? If so, then you understand and appreciate how much these part-time but incredibly enthusiastic stargazers love to share the wonders of our Universe with others.  

That type of passion and generosity of heart is the basis of a new organization that hopes to harness the proven capability of astronomy to bring hope, wonder and science to marginalized and isolated students and communities around the world.

Astronomy For Equity (A4E) looks to bring together existing resources within communities in war-torn or developing countries, and provide the tools and resources to support experienced volunteers and teachers for public education programs that are already in place. Their first initiative will help get telescopes to astronomy students in Libya.

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Alien Artifacts Could Be Hidden Across the Solar System. Here’s how we Could Search for Them.

Galileo Project members (from left: Carson Ezell, Ezra Kelderman, Abby White, Alex and Lily Delacroix) with the audio tower (left), radar spectrum tower (middle) and radar imaging tower (right) behind them on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory.
Galileo Project members (from left: Carson Ezell, Ezra Kelderman, Abby White, Alex and Lily Delacroix) with the audio tower (left), radar spectrum tower (middle) and radar imaging tower (right) behind them on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory. Image credit: The Galileo Project

Do aliens exist? Almost certainly. The universe is vast and ancient, and our corner of it is not particularly special. If life emerged here, it probably did elsewhere. Keep in mind this is a super broad assumption. A single instance of fossilized archaebacteria-like organisms five superclusters away would be all it takes to say, “Yes, there are aliens!” …if we could find them somehow.

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Galactic Photobombing

These two spiral galaxies appear to be colliding, but are only overlapping from our vantage point at Earth. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Keel/Galaxy Zoo.

This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, appears to show two spiral galaxies colliding. In fact, they are just overlapping from our vantage point and are likely quite distant from each other. The galaxies are named SDSS J115331 and LEDA 2073461, and they lie more than a billion light-years from Earth. This ‘photobombing’ of one galaxy getting in the same picture as another was originally found by volunteers from the Galaxy Zoo project, which uses the power of crowdsourcing to find unusual galaxies in our Universe.

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Even Citizen Scientists are Getting Time on JWST

This artist’s illustration shows a dim, cold brown dwarf in space. Brown dwarfs form like stars, but do not have enough mass to ignite nuclear fusion in their cores – the process that causes stars to burn. As a result they share some physical characteristics with massive planets, like Jupiter. Credits: IPAC/Caltech

Over the years, members of the public have regularly made exciting discoveries and meaningful contributions to the scientific process through citizen science projects. These citizen scientists sometimes mine large datasets for cosmic treasures, uncovering unknown objects such as Hanny’s Voorwerp, or other times bring an unusual phenomenon to scientists’ attention, such as the discovery of the new aurora-like spectacle called STEVE.  Whatever the project, the advent of citizen science projects has changed the nature of scientific engagement between the public and the scientific community.  

Now, unusual brown dwarf stars discovered by citizen scientists will be observed by the James Webb Space Telescope, with the hopes of learning more about these rare objects. Excitingly, one of the citizen scientists has been named as a co-investigator on a winning Webb proposal.

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Juno’s Entire 42nd Flight Past Jupiter in One Amazing Mosaic

Jupiter - Perijove 42, with images taken by the Juno spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

On May 23, 2022, the Juno spacecraft made another close pass of Jupiter, with its suite of scientific instruments collecting data and its JunoCam visible light camera snapping photos all the while. This close pass, called a perijove, is the 42nd time the spacecraft has swung past Jupiter since Juno’s arrival in 2016.

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Ganymede Casts a Long Shadow Across the Surface of Jupiter

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of Jupiter during the mission’s 40th close pass by the giant planet on Feb. 25, 2022. The large, dark shadow on the left side of the image was cast by Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Thomas Thomopoulos

What is that large dark smudge on Jupiter’s side? It may remind you of a certain scene from the sci-fi film “2010: The Year We Make Contact,” where a growing black spot appears in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

But this is a real photo, and the dark spot is just an elongated shadow of Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. Just like when Earth’s Moon crosses between our planet and the Sun creating an eclipse for lucky Earthlings, when Jupiter’s moons cross between the gas giant and the Sun, they create shadows too.  

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This Incredible Photo of the Sun is Made up of 150,000 Individual Photographs

A 300 megapixel photo of our Sun, taken by using a specially modified telescope, compiling over 150,000 individual images. Credit and copyright: Andrew McCarthy.

You’re looking at a 300-megapixel photo of our Sun. Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy used a specially modified telescope, taking over 150,000 individual photos and combing them into this magnificent image.

“It took about 10 hours to stack all the data, and another 3-4 hours to get it from a raw stack to the final image,” McCarthy said via email.

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Stare Straight Down Into a Giant Storm on Jupiter

A view from the Juno spacecraft of a giant storm on Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

A new batch of images recently arrived at Earth from JunoCam, the visible light camera on board the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. The camera has provided stunning views of the gas giant world since the spacecraft’s arrival in 2016. Citizen scientists and imaging enthusiasts act as the camera’s virtual imaging team, participating in key steps of the process by making suggestions of areas on Jupiter to take pictures and doing the image editing work.

This lead image, edited by Kevin Gill, is another stunner: a look straight down into a giant storm.

And we like Kevin’s attitude about this whole process:

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Astronomers find 100 brown dwarfs in our neighborhood

An artist's conception of a brown dwarf. A new study identifies CK Vulpeculae as the remnant of a collison between a brown dwarf and a white dwarf. Image: By NASA/JPL-Caltech (http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/image/114) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
An artist's conception of a brown dwarf. A new study identifies CK Vulpeculae as the remnant of a collison between a brown dwarf and a white dwarf. Image: By NASA/JPL-Caltech (http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/image/114) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Brown dwarfs are smallish objects sitting somewhere between stars and planets, making them notoriously hard to find. But a recent citizen science project aimed at finding the elusive Planet 9 has instead revealed a treasure trove of these oddities, right next door.

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