Cosmology Short Courses

Extreme Astronomy @ the Planetarium (2004)

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Cosmology Short Course for Planetarium Staff
September 24 - 26, 2004

Extreme Astronomy @ the Planetarium

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Cosmology Short Course for Planetarium Staff:
Extreme Astronomy @ the Planetarium

September 24 - 26, 2004
at the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum

Follow-Up Session: October 20, 2004
at the GLPA Meeting, Detroit, MI

29 participants, 12 instructors

M. Zingale et. al.


Lucy FortsonCarlo Graziani
Tom JordanRandy Landsberg*
Dietrich MüllerAngela Olinto
Mark SubbaRaoSimon Swordy*
Doug RobertsJim Truran
Mel UlmerScott Wakely

* Course Directors

Course Description

This three-day intensive short course explored the most violent and mysterious realms of modern astronomy: astronomy of the highest energy phenomena. It probed the science behind the violent worlds of black holes, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei, supernovae, high energy particles from space, x-ray & gamma-ray bursts; as well as the experiments to observe these phenomenon. The instructors were researchers at the scientific forefront who are trying to understand these incredibly powerful events (see schedule). The course provided participants with a firm foundation in modern high energy astronomy. It also offerd practical tools, such as short animations, that helped participants bring this world to a wider audience. Ultimately these KICP courses aim to help bring the excitement of discovery into the planetarium and thereby to the public (see Impact).

Some of the most astounding recent discoveries about our universe have been made by telescopes and instruments collecting forms of natural radiation from space, which are invisible to the human eye. For example, the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to scientists who worked in collecting astrophysical x-rays and solar neutrinos. This course focused on the high energy parts of the electromagnetic spectrum where radiation displays almost pure quantum characteristics, arriving as discrete photons. We also explored the phenomena of high energy particles arriving from space, where nature manages to produce sub-atomic nuclei with energies over a billion times larger than possible in accelerators on Earth. Another area of interest was the ghostly world of neutrinos, in which the inhabitants are many but the interactions are few.

The origins of all of these particles from space are some of the most exotic places known in our universe: near the edges of black holes, at the outskirts of supernovae explosions, or from the enormous jets produced in active galaxies. This course was intended to help introduce the high energy universe into the planetarium setting by bringing together the researchers making the discoveries with planetarium staff, who interact directly with the public.

Although "Extreme Astronomy" was taught by some of the world's leading experts, who are making many of the discoveries that the short course explored, it remained focused on bringing the science of high energy astrophysics to the public in a planetarium setting. This is reflected by the primary course location, which was the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. The course structure consisted of lectures, question and answer sessions, hands-on laboratory sessions, tours, computer laboratory sessions, and workshop sessions. If the success of the KICP's previous cosmology course for planetarium staff is an accurate indicator we expect this course to be tremendously rewarding and to help change planetarium programming. (see 2003 Cosmology Short Course and Impact)

A special thanks to our principal collaborators: the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) and the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.


UChicago Department of Physics
UChicago Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Enrico Fermi Institute

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Last update: April 11, 2005