On Dec. 8, the 9th grade class of Weston High School came to the Kennedy College of Science at UML to learn about the college and get the opportunity to experience some of the different areas of study that professors research. The Active Astronomy Roadshow, led by Dr. Silas Laycock, and supported by Dr. Chandrika Narayan,Tom Heywosz, and Nate Woodward, with technical help from David Riccio, explored light and what it could tell astronomers.
Students started off looking through diffraction gratings at heated tubes of glowing gas to try and distinguish what was in the tube using the emission spectra of the gas. Students looked at Neon (a crowd favorite due to the bright red color), Helium, Hydrogen, and the most difficult gas, Air. After looking at the different gases, we talked with students about how this technology was used in Astronomy, on a much greater scale, to determine the composition of Celestial Objects.
After talking about emission spectra, we looked at Schlieren Imaging, which is the process of showing the flow of gases of varying densities. Students got the chance to see gas flowing on a screen connected to a camera and mirror set up. While students had fun playing with a heat gun and compressed air, and Dr. Laycock had fun using the blow torch, the point was to illustrate how much our eyes miss. We need to use all kinds of wavelengths and techniques to see the world in its entirety.