Learn about the hot and cold universe


Take a temperature reading of the universe with Glen Petitpas of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Submillimeter Array (SMA). “The Hot and Cold Universe” is the topic for the program at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on Friday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m.

The universe contains objects of such extremes it can boggle the imagination. Temperatures range from just above absolute zero in the centers of dark dust clouds to hundreds of billions of degrees at the cores of supernovae. But did you ever wonder how astronomers can tell you the temperature of the surface of the sun so precisely without ever having been there?

In this talk, Petitpas will describe the exotic objects which cover a wide range of temperatures in outer space. Observations of these extreme objects require special tools, and throughout the talk he will also describe the instruments (past, present, and future) used to make these extraordinary measurements.

Petitpas, originally from Canada, has been working as an astronomer at the SMA on Hawaii Island for nine years. He received his Ph.D. from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and held post-doctoral positions at the University of Maryland and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Using submillimeter interferometers, he has studied the molecular gas content and dynamics of nearby galaxies.

Since stars are born in molecular gas clouds, examining their composition and motion teaches us about the conditions under which large scale star formation is triggered. By studying gas dynamics in galaxies, we can learn about the feeding mechanism for the black holes responsible for the extreme energy output observed in many active galaxies.

Host Shawn Laatsch, ‘Imiloa’s planetarium manager, will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawaii, pointing out prominent constellations and stars one can see during this time of year.

The monthly planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. Cost is $10.

 

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