The Hi-Desert Nature Museum is delivering a new way to learn about the Mojave Desert. Join the museum twice a year for an all-encompassing micro-event called “Museum Spotlight,” which delves into relevant topics for the High Desert Community. On October 8, 2022 we will celebrate “Desert Astronomy.”
Participation for any of the Museum Spotlight programs will be offered on a pay-what-you-can basis.
The museum will kick off the event with the opening of a micro exhibit featuring the work and research of local astronomer, Steve Caron, as well as a small display of astronomy-themed items from the Museum’s permanent collection. The display will open on Wednesday, October 5, 2022. Those who wish to view the display are welcome to come during the museum’s regular business hours.
On Saturday, October 8, 2022, the museum will host a 2-lecture/demonstration series, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. Hi-Desert Nature Museum
Light Pollution and the Night Skies
Over the past 150 years, the effects of light pollution have had a grave impact on the night skies around the world. We once lived on a planet in which the stars came alive and spoke to us after the sun dipped below the horizon. Now, even from isolated and secluded locations around the globe, the glow of artificial lights grows nearer at an ever alarming rate. Awareness and education are paramount in preserving the darkness of our night sky. Fortunately, many simple adjustments can be done to protect our beautiful starry nights from light pollution so that future generations may enjoy them.
5:00 p.m. Hi-Desert Nature Museum
How to see a Planet
The age old question of if there is life out there in the universe is the driving curiosity behind much of today’s astronomical ambitions. Since their discovery only thirty years ago, thousands of new exoplanets have been detected through various techniques, and many more are expected to be found in the next decade. Today, over 5,000 exoplanets have been detected and yet only a few dozen have ever been directly imaged! The major problem astronomers face is that the stars they orbit are millions of times brighter than the planets themselves. Any light from the planet is drowned out by the brightness of its host star. It’s like trying to see a firefly next to a lighthouse from far out at sea. Scientists first invented a device called a coronagraph in 1931, which blocked out the Sun’s light to image its corona. Since then, coronagraph technology has come a long way and is now being pushed to achieve new levels of contrasts between planet and star light. Upcoming space telescope missions will require the ability to image planets that are on the order of 100 billion times dimmer than their stars! In this talk I will discuss the newest coronagraph technologies being designed, simulated, and experimentally tested at Caltech’s Exoplanet Technology Lab and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Niyati Desai is a 4th year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Caltech working in the Exoplanet Technology Lab. She completed her masters at Caltech and has bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering and in Physics from MIT. She is originally from New York where she learned her love for the stars and far away worlds through Star Trek, which she is still a regular fan of. When not in the lab, she is often found at the soccer field or volleyball court and also takes an active role in women’s groups on Caltech’s campus.