Gardens of the Galaxy: Art of Science Learning Play Day!

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The Cool Star Lab and volunteers from the Physics Dept. created its second public installation of a Pop-Up Galaxy Garden during the July 24th Art of Science Learning (AoSL) Play Day in Balboa Park. We were granted a prime site for this event, right in the middle of the historic Plaza de Panama in front of the San Diego Museum of Art. The event, organized by AoSL’s Nan Renner and funded by the Museum of Art and Panama 66, aimed to bring together educators and education enthusiasts from around the region to learn about and play with each other’s projects, and make connections.

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Orbital Artwork Earns Award

We normally think of orbits as the paths of satellites going around the Earth, or planets going around their host star, in both cases caused by the gravitational attraction between the two bodies. But the stars themselves also orbit within and around our collective systems of stars, the Milky Way Galaxy. In this case, the gravitational force is a cumulative attraction distributed among other stars, gas, dust and dark matter in the Galaxy, the last making up about 95% of the mass of our Galaxy. While we don’t have the longevity to observe the roughly quarter-million-year orbits of stars like the Sun, we can predict them using basic laws of physics.

In 2009, Adam was investigating the kinematics and Galactic orbits of several dozen low-temperature subdwarfs (metal-poor stars that likely formed early in our Galaxy’s history), and generated a visualization of these orbits for a press release at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena.  Here’s one of the images from this release:

And here’s a movie generated for the press conference, tracing the path of one of the “diving” stars LST 1610-0040 (note that slow down as the star passes the region of the Sun and the radio broadcast sphere around Earth, inspired by the opening sequence in the movie Contact):

 

A few years later, Adam decided to look a larger sample, over 500 L-type dwarfs discovered by colleague Sarah Schmidt in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Schmidt had measured tangential (proper) and radial motions, and combining these with distance estimates it is possible to predict the orbits of these stars. Adam mapped the million-year motions of these stars as they travelled around the Galaxy to produce the following pictures:

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 L dwarfs as viewed from above the Galactic plane.

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 nearby L dwarfs as viewed from above the Galactic plane. Most are confined to the same annulus that the Sun occupies in its orbit, although there are some far flung stars that happen to be local today.

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 L dwarfs as viewed from along the mid-plane of the Galaxy.

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 L dwarfs as viewed from along the mid-plane of the Galaxy. Again, most are confined to this mid-plane, with a rare set of stars on highly inclined orbits taking them hundreds to thousands of light-years above and below the plane.

 

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 L dwarfs mapped into cylindrical coordinates (radius from the Galactic center and vertically through the Galactic poles).  The Sun resides at the densest concentration of orbit lines.

Computed Galactic orbits of 500 L dwarfs mapped into cylindrical coordinates (radius from the Galactic center and vertically through the Galactic poles). Here we discern distinct patterns of orbits, from “box-type” (constrained to a narrow range of radii and heights) to “comet-type” (almost purely radial) to “halo” (large deflections away from the plane. The Sun resides at the densest concentration of orbit lines.

 

These images earned 2nd prize in the 2011 Art in Science competition at UCSD, and was used as cover artwork for the 6th Annual Artfest 55.

Project Planetaria reviews its first 2 years

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 11.01.34 PMThe Project Planetaria collaboration between Cool Star Lab PI Adam Burgasser, Theatre Arts faculty Tara Knight, and Visual Arts faculty Michael Trigilio, recently gave a talk at the Center for the Humanities describing their first two years. This included a description of two major installations, Solar Variations and Our Star Will Die Alone, and the TDDE 131: Project Planetaria class held in Spring 2013.  Future plans and spinoffs from this collaboration were also described, including the New Horizons Message and Galaxy Gardens projects with Jon Lomberg and Embody Physics.

Slides from the presentation can be found at this link.

Cool Star Lab & UCSD Physics Connect with STEAM at the First STE[+a]mConnect Conference at Qualcomm

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On Friday March 28th, Dianna Cowern and Adam Burgasser from the Cool Star Lab, and UCSD Physics students Evan Grohs, Daniel Gonzalez and Neil Sapra, participated in the first STE[+a]MConnect conference held at Qualcomm.  A collaborative effort between UCSD Extension and KDR PR, this inaugural event of the STEAMConnect network featured speakers, musical and dance entertainment, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs, with the aims of forging new partnerships in art and science and identifying actions to “turn great ideas into reality in and out of our classrooms.”

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Project Planetaria to Perform at La Jolla Playhouse October 4-5

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Adam Burgasser’s science-art collaboration Project Planetaria will be presenting a new work, Our Star Will Die Alone, in two performances at the La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls Festival, October 4-5 at 10:30pm. The site-specific piece will explore what it means to live the life of a star through a participatory performance, integrating data-driven elements that our rooted in our scientific understanding of stellar astrophysics. Audience members will witness the birth of our star, explore its fusion through hand-held custom electronic devices (“Project Planetaria Devices”) and listen to its chaotic, post-main sequence death throes with a heavy metal score based on stellar evolutionary calculations. Through sound, light, projection, and a death metal band, this performance will articulate the productive and destructive aspects of our primary source of light and energy.

Tickets ($15) can be purchased at Festival website: http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/wowfestival/productions/star

You can follow the creative process in the production of this show here.