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Carl Sagan Day – Previews of the Distant Universe: Infant Galaxies at the Dawn of Time (Gr. Rapids)

October 26, 2016
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The Sweet House
254 E. Fulton
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 United States

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Organized by:
Jennifer Beahan
Phone: 616-698-2342 x801
Email: jbeahan@centerforinquiry.org


We all know the Hubble Space Telescope as perhaps the single most productive telescope in history. Megan Donahue joins us to describe the research program which took advantage of the fact that distant clusters of galaxies act as gigantic gravitational lenses in the sky.

When the Hubble Space Telescope peers through these giant space lenses, it can see galaxies—giant collections of stars like our own Milky Way galaxy—at world-record distances. Because light requires a finite time to travel, the large distances here mean that we are seeing the universe as it was less than few hundred million years after it was born. The travel time for light from these galaxies, seen as they were when they were “infants”, is over 13 billion years. Using this method, we get a preview of infant galaxies, inhabiting the universe when it was much younger, the universe that will be sampled by the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

Donahue will show what we have seen and learned in this preview of the early universe and talk about our hopes for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the heir apparent of the Hubble, and which is planned for launch in October of 2018.

Meetings are open to the Public

After the meeting, join us at Vitale’s Restaurant, 834 Leonard NE, Grand Rapids, MI to socialize. View Map

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About Megan Donahue, PhD

Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Michigan State University

Megan Donahue grew up on a family farm in Nebraska, and went on to get a bachelor of science in physics at MIT. She received a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she met her husband, Mark Voit, who is also an astrophysicist and frequent collaborator. She spent time as a Carnegie fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California and as an Institute Fellow at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. She then accepted a staff astronomer position at STScI, working with the Hubble Space Telescope archive and James Webb Space Telescope science planning. In 2003, she and Mark Voit moved to Michigan State University to join the physics and astronomy department where they are now both full professors. Megan spends significant time in service to the astronomical community through committee work at the national and international levels, including the National Academy of Science Committee for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the International Astronomical Union committee to advise the Office for Astronomy for Development, located in South Africa, and NASA, NSF, and AURA advisory committees. She is also the author of a best-selling introductory college astronomy textbook series, called the Cosmic Perspective, (co-authors Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider, and Mark Voit), published by Pearson.