Cosmic Diary Logo

Meet the astronomers. See where they work. Know what they know.

The Project:

The Cosmic Diary is not just about astronomy. It's more about what it is like to be an astronomer.

The Cosmic Diary aims to put a human face on astronomy: professional scientists will blog in text and images about their lives, families, friends, hobbies and interests, as well as their work, their latest research findings and the challenges that face them. The bloggers represent a vibrant cross-section of female and male working astronomers from around the world, coming from five different continents. Outside the observatories, labs and offices they are musicians, mothers, photographers, athletes, amateur astronomers. At work, they are managers, observers, graduate students, grant proposers, instrument builders and data analysts.

Throughout this project, all the bloggers will be asked to explain one particular aspect of their work to the public. In a true exercise of science communication, these scientists will use easy-to-understand language to translate the nuts and bolts of their scientific research into a popular science article. This will be their challenge.

Task Group:

Mariana Barrosa (Portugal, ESO ePOD)
Nuno Marques (Portugal, Web Developer)
Lee Pullen (UK, Freelance Science Communicator)
André Roquette (Portugal, ESO ePOD)

Jack Oughton (UK, Freelance Science Communicator)
Alice Enevoldsen (USA, Pacific Science Center)
Alberto Krone Martins (Brazil, Uni. S. Paulo / Uni. Bordeaux)
Kevin Govender (South Africa, S. A. A. O.)
Avivah Yamani (Indonesia, Rigel Kentaurus)
Henri Boffin (Belgium, ESO ePOD)

Inflation is Real!

Why is the universe so homogenous? It should be a lot more clumpy.

Right after the Big Bang, the universe was still quite small and all the matter was compressed in this small volume. So gravity should have played a big role, causing all the matter to clump together with large areas of empty space in between.

Decades ago, some theorists developed the “inflation” theory to explain this fact. They said that right after the big bang, the universe expanded super incredibly fast. So fast that gravity didn’t have time to clump the matter together. This is why matter is spread so evenly, like a thin layer of peanut butter over a slice of bread, throughout the visible universe.

Lots of scientists didn’t believe it. I was among them. This didn’t make any sense because the expansion rate would be so fast, in a way, faster than the speed of light. Couldn’t happen.

Well, now we have physical proof that inflation really did happen.

This is really amazing. I’m glad I was wrong — it is so much more interesting this way!

April 22nd, 2014 | posted by gharp in Uncategorized

can’t hug orphans

Today I have a social issue on my mind.

Did you know that in California it is illegal for workers at orphanages to hug the children? I was shocked to hear this. I’m no expert, but conventional wisdom is that children need love, hugs and caring touches (like being carried). Isn’t it obvious  that children without  any “parental” contact will encounter major obstacles to having healthy relationships when they grow up? Its as if you were to cut off their arm to save a finger.

A cute picture of kids with their caretaker.

Warning: Inappropriate touching according to California law.

May 8th, 2012 | posted by gharp in Uncategorized

What are the flavors of light?

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Electromagnetic Spectrum

There are good reasons that almost everything we know about the distant universe came to us through measurements of light (electromagnetic radiation). Since light was present even at the birth of the universe, the field of astronomy predates just about everything. From another perspective, astronomy began when the first creatures looked up from the surface of their planet and asked, where does that light come from?

May 3rd, 2012 | posted by gharp in Uncategorized

Panorama of ATA site

Sometime back, professional photographer Ron Barrett spent the day at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory (site of the Allen Telescope Array) and worked up a beautiful panorama of the site:
I love how much detail is available in this image (you can zoom in a long way). BTW, we were tracking the sun during this time which you  can tell because the secondary dishes cast no visible shadow on the primary dish or on the ground.


April 30th, 2012 | posted by gharp in Uncategorized

Hi Friends!

It has been almost a week, but I’m still high on my trip to AbSciCon (Astrobiology Science Conference), in Atlanta, GA. Funded by NASA, AbSciCon is held only bi-yearly, and brings together all sorts of people in astrobiology, like biologists, chemists, geologists, psychologists, and even astrophysicists.

I presented two papers, one on recent observations using the ATA to search for repeating ETI signals using an autocorrelation method. (All the signals we found appeared to originate from Earth.)

The second was in a cross-disciplinary session with marine biologists (dophins), chemists (understanding the message contained in our DNA), SETI theory and observations, layers (international law regarding transmitting our own signal for others to find), etc.

I was fascinated by recent studies of dolphin language. Can we use our current SETI algorithms to help understand the dolphin language? Or could we develop new methods to study dolphins, and then apply them in SETI? If you’re interested in dolphin language, a starting place is:
set up by my new friend, Denise Herzing.

April 16th, 2012 | posted by gharp in Uncategorized