The Shape of The Sun

What does the sun really look like? What is going on on its surface? What can X-rays show us that telescopes cannot? How can the three-dimensional aspect of space be modeled? Can we do original research ourselves? Last week, a group of students and I traveled to Cambridge to visit to Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics with Joseph Putko, head of our Perkin observatory to explore these and other questions. We saw things we never imagined possible. Aidan Ferguson '16, Kate Fulshaw '16, Hannah Whitesel '15, Sydney Clarke '16, Sierra Riley '16, Ruiyu Zhang '16, Jordan Ferreras '16, Miles Morgan '18, Andrew Willoughby '18, and Silas Howe'18 learned  about X-ray imaging and saw photographs of gas clouds and star formations invisible to other observing technique . We saw the Harvard glass-plate collection of astronomical images going back over a century, the largest in the world, and that in the 19th century, women called "computers" recorded and deciphered the observations. (Many of Harvard's early scholars in astronomy were women.)  The micro-observatory scope allowed us to send an image of the sun to Mr. Bates.  You too can asked it to take and send pictures to you electronically from remote location. Finally we were shown images of the surface of the sun at different extreme degrees Kelvin, which are studied to better understand how our star, the sun, works. Five scholars took time from their days to give us a glimpse of their current projects. It was an engrossing day and we were inspired and awed by the generosity and scholarship shared with us. Here are the links we used to prepare our visit, which give additional detail and access to the projects. I hope you will check them out and come visit our Perkin Observatory too!

About MicroObservatory

WorldWide Telescope

Harvard College Observatory

Chandra X-ray Observatory