Astronomer to talk about Galactic core


Ryan Lau will speak at 11 a.m. Sunday at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s planetarium about his work with NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which uses a 747SP flying at 45,000 feet to explore the universe. The topic of his talk will be “Revealing the Nature of the Galactic Center Aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.”

This event is free to members. Regular daily admission rates apply to non-members.

The nucleus of the Milky Way is a unique region containing the supermassive black hole that is 4 million times the mass of the sun, as well as some of the galaxy’s brightest and most massive stars. On the outskirts of the galaxy, the Earth is separated by 26,000 light-years from its center, which means observatories must deal with the vast quantities of gas and dust that compose the spiral arms obstructing the view. NASA’s SOFIA, a modified 747SP with a 2.5-meter telescope in the rear fuselage, allows astronomers to study the infrared radiation from the Galactic Center that — unlike shorter wavelength radiation — penetrates through the intervening gas and dust.

Lau will be presenting detailed infrared images of the extreme and unique environment of the Galactic Center taken by the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope aboard SOFIA. One of the images captures a bright ring of hot gas and dust orbiting the super-massive black hole with streamers of illuminated material falling towards the center. The other image captures the four-light-year-sized nebula of material ejected by one of the brightest stars in the Galaxy — over one million times the brightness of the sun.

Ryan Lau was born and raised in Honolulu. A graduate from ‘Iolani School in 2006, Lau attended Reed College in Oregon, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics in 2010. He is now working on his Doctorate in Astronomy at Cornell University.

“My Dad, who is an electric engineer, inspired my interests in science from a very young age—pointing out the constellations at my grandparent’s house in Wahiawa and tracking the motions of the Hale Bopp comet from our patio are some of the first memories I have that drove me to study astronomy,” Lau said.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. SOFIA is based and managed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo streets at the UH-Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to www.imiloahawaii.org, or call (808) 969-9700.

 

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