Ni Hao ("Hello" in Chinese) from CAP 2011


This week, the latest incarnation of the Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) series of meetings is happening in Beijing, China. There have been several of these meetings around the world – Munich in 2005, Athens in 2007, and Cape Town in 2010. Each of these, with a slightly different twist, have been designed to bring those of us who do astronomy outreach and communication together to discuss best practices, new ideas, emerging trends, etc.

This week, the focus will be to look at the ever-evolving landscape of modern communication and how astronomy can – and should – fit in. We are here talking about some of the latest work we’ve done in what we call “public science”. Like public art, public science strives to engage people in their everyday lives. Instead of having the general public stumble across a piece of artwork, we suggest that unintentionally interacting with science could be surprising, inspiring, and beneficial to any efforts to boost scientific interest and literacy.

And, most importantly, we are here to see old and new colleagues and to learn what else is going on around the world in astronomy communication. It’s great for CAP to be in Asia for the first time, and we are looking forward to an exciting week.

-Megan Watzke, Kim Arcand et al.

Digging for Gold in Chandra's Archives

October is American Archives Month—a time to celebrate the importance of archives across the country. In honor of Archives Month, we're participating in a pan-Smithsonian blogathon. Throughout October we, and other blogs from across the Smithsonian, will be blogging about Chandra's rich archive of astronomical data, issues, and behind-the-scenes projects.


Summer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA, is a perfect time for picking up projects that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. As activities slow down a bit, it's great to dig deeper into the Chandra data archive looking for a hidden gem; and when sifting through over 8 terabytes of data comprising more than 10,000 observations from one of NASA's "Great Observatories," you're bound to unearth more than a few.

Living the High Life

NGC 281

High-mass stars are important because they are responsible for much of the energy pumped into our galaxy over its lifetime. Unfortunately, these stars are poorly understood because they are often found relatively far away and can be obscured by gas and dust. The star cluster NGC 281 is an exception to this rule. It is located about 9,200 light years from Earth and, remarkably, almost 1,000 light years above the plane of the Galaxy, giving astronomers a nearly unfettered view of the star formation within it.

A very good year

The year 1905 was certainly a busy one for Albert Einstein. He had at least five papers published during that time. Not only would any scientist be proud to be so prolific, but Einstein was able to enjoy the fact these papers fundamentally changed the way we understood how the Universe worked.


Star Blasts Planet With X-rays


This graphic contains an image and illustration of a nearby star, named CoRoT-2a, which has a planet in close orbit around it. The separation between the star and planet is only about 3 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, causing some exotic effects not seen in our solar system.

Meet An Astronomy Intern: Jessica Brodsky

In this latest video blog, we sit down with Jessica Brodsky. Jessica is a student from Brown University who spent part of her summer doing detective work on the archive of Chandra images. Her task was to back fill the metadata into the Chandra images on From her feedback, it was a useful experience, as Jessica's interests lie in digital assets management and web development. (We also heard that Jessica plans to take an astronomy course at Brown this year - awesome!).

Highest Energies in the Smallest State

This morning, the High Energy Astrophysics Division (aka HEAD) meeting kicks off in Newport, RI. What is this, you might ask? Well, the American Astronomical Society, or AAS, is the country’s largest professional group for astronomers. And because it is so large, they have also created several subdivisions so that scientists of a particular bent can gather to talk about their areas of interest.

NASA's Chandra Finds Nearest Pair of Supermassive Black Holes

NGC 3393

Evidence for a pair of supermassive black holes in a spiral galaxy has been found in data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This main image is a composite of X-rays from Chandra (blue) and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) of the spiral galaxy NGC 3393. Meanwhile, the inset box shows the central region of NGC 3993 as observed just by Chandra.


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