Visit to Thai National Observatory – near Chiang Mai

At the end of the 2016 Semester 1, I had a fantastic trip over to Chiang Mai to visit the headquarters of the Thai National Observatory, known as NARIT. The NARIT observatory has been beautifully equipped with a set of 0.7-meter telescopes across Thailand, and its flagship telescope, a 2.4-meter telescope which is located near the highest point in Thailand. The strong support of astronomy comes directly from the Thai royal family, who have had a long and deep interest of astronomy. In particular the Thai Princess, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, has been an enthusiastic patron of astronomy as well as liberal arts. She attended the dedication of the 2.4-meter telescope and also has been overseeing the details of the new NARIT astronomy headquarters which is being constructed, and should be completed by the summer of 2017.

During the visit, I met with the director of NARIT, Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, who was a gracious host and convened a wonderful lunch with the staff and another visiting astronomer. I gave a research talk as well and enjoyed meeting many of the astronomers and learning about their research projects. I am looking forward to further work with NARIT in my upcoming Yale-NUS Observational Astronomy course YSC 2217, where we will take a group of Yale-NUS College students to Thailand to visit the observatory and use some of the 0.7 and 0.5 meter telescopes.  
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Lunar Eclipse

The third of the tetrad of lunar eclipses was enjoyed by a lively group of about 20 faculty and 15 students on the roof of Kent Vale 2. The cloudy skies of Singapore gave way to a spectacular viewing of the moon. Shuin Jian Wu brought his telescope, and we also had our trusty Yale-NUS 0.125 meter telescope to look at Jupiter and the moon. Some of the spectacular pictures are below. Pizza, beer and lively conversation made the cosmic spectacle even more memorable!  I can’t wait until the next (and final) lunar eclipse of the series next September!

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Visit to NUS satellite laboratory

During our Yale-NUS College Astrophysics tea series, we had a chance to visit the NUS satellite lab. In this lab, students and faculty from NUS, led by Dr. Cher Hiang Goh, have been building a nano-sat called Gallissia, which contains two experiments – one to measure the electron density above Singapore, and another from the Quantum Physics group to measure entangled photons in space.Victor Loke and Eugene Han gave us a wonderful tour of the lab, explained how the nanosat concept worked, the architecture for their particular satellite.  They showed us the clean room, and the way that they assemble the bus and other parts for the satellite – even giving us a chance to pass around some of the components of the satellite. The stabilization is done through a hysteresis electronic drive, where the Lorentz force upon a pair of parallel wires can be used to point the satellite in different directions and keep it oriented correctly. The propagation of a radio wave from the satellites 500 km orbit altitude will be delayed slightly by electrons in the ionosphere, and the phase shift from these electrons can be used to calculate electron density which will make GPS devices more accurate.…
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Spectroscopy Analysis

During our Foundations of Science class on March 31, we will be producing reduced spectra. For this we will open each spectrum using a program called “RSPEC” and then within the program is the capability for opening image files and setting the width of the spectrum, and calibrating the spectrum using some known lines. This post is to help with this process, by providing a set of line lists, and comparison spectra for use.

Some of the main features you will be finding within the spectra are standard parts of the MK spectral classification system. The temperature and luminosity of stars are often plotted on what is known as an “HR Diagram.” You can explore how the temperature and radius of the star affect the locations on the HR diagram, and other aspects of spectral typing at the site: and

With our spectra, we will open them with RSPEC with the lower left corner dialog (use “Image File” and select the image, after downloading the .jpg from the previous post). Then you will need to define the width of the spectrum using the yellow box on the side to just select the spectrum. This will produce a nice graph of wavelength and intensity for you to view.…
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Remote Observing and Spectroscopy!

During our Foundations of Science class in March 2015, we were able to use our Brackett Observatory at Pomona College in the afternoon class time to gather some amazing stellar spectra!  These spectra were taken using an Alpy stellar spectrograph, with help from Pomona’s Franklin Marsh (’17). The data will be analyzed by the class to study stars that could be hosting planetary systems. We will look at the absorption lines in the spectra to determine the “habitability” of a potential solar system around the star. Within the spectra are some from Jupiter and the Moon, and we will also look at those spectra to see if we can detect the presence of the atmosphere of Jupiter and to analyze a solar spectrum.…
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Yale-NUS Astrophysics Tea Talks

During Spring Semester (or Semester 2 as it is called here) I am offering a new series of astrophysics tea talks to the undergraduates of Yale_NUS College. Below is the schedule of our talks, which will survey a wide range of topics in astronomy, astrophysics, physics and space science. The talks are at 4:30PM on Thursdays, and are typically in the Level 1 common lounge or room 301. At the end of the semester, students will visit the new NUS Cube-Sat development laboratory, and will also help plan a satellite mission in a conceptual mission development plan.  The Schedule for the talks is available at this linke: astrophysics.tea.talks (PDF). Also we have a summary of the talks below:astrophysics.tea.talks.001
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Visit to Lulin Observatory, and NCU Taiwan

During December of 2014 the National Central University, Taiwan, invited me to visit them and give a scientific talk to their astronomy department. While there I had a chance to visit their Lulin Observatory, one of the leading Asian observatories, with several large 1.0-meter class telescopes and a new 2.0 meter telescope in the works. The Lulin Observatory is near a national park near Jade Mountain – a summit taller than Mount Fuji! Within the Observatory are a number of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars working on projects related to solar system research and collaborations with Caltech’s Palomar Transient Factory. In the coming years the NCU and Lulin Observatory may be hosting student researchers from Yale_NUS College and from Pomona College, as part of a summer undergraduate research internship being designed during 2014-2015. These photos are from the summit of the observatory and show the telescopes, our friendly crew that hosted me during the overnight visit, and some of the instruments. In the coming years Lulin and NCU will be major partners with Caltech in the new ZTF project, and have been developing an amazing new instrument known as the SED-machine.

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Global Observatory Network for Solar System Observations

During January 8-9, 2015, we hosted an international group of astronomers at Yale-NUS and at NUS to discuss new forms of global astronomy projects. The visiting scientists represented observatories from Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, India, and California. Our group planned some coordinate observations for March 2015 which will involve telescopes from around the world viewing Jupiter 24 hours a day, and constructing a “weather map” of Jupiter that will enable astronomers to learn more about the drift of storm centers on Jupiter. We were joined by Glenn Orton, a senior scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and these observations will be helpful to support the upcoming NASA mission known as Juno, which will encounter Jupiter in July 2016. Chris Go, world famous amateur astronomy imager gave a workshop on high resolution imaging of Jupiter as well. It was a great meeting!  You can learn more about our network – with the acronym GONSSO – at our site


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Sunrise from Mammalapuram Shore Temple, Sept. 28, 2014 – week 7 Cosmology and Culture trip

This movie was taken from a series of shots with my Canon DSLR on the beach at Mammalapuram at sunrise during our Week 7 trip. The trip was entitled “Cosmology and Culture of the Chola” and included a contemplation of time, space, and eternity from the perspectives of astronomy and astrophysics and from the ancient Chola, as viewed from their temples.  As you watch this – think about our experience, our time on earth, and the universe!  May it fill you with wonder and peace!

Part 1 of the movie (quicktime) Cosmology.and.Culture.Sunrise.480p.part1

Part 2 of the movie (quicktime)

Dropbox Link to Movie – click here to view (subject to some compression)

(the music is from the soundtrack by A.R. Rahman, “The Hundred Foot Journey”)
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