Academics » Graduate Outreach
Astronomy department graduate students are strongly involved in our community, and take part in numerous outreach activities. They work with school children, give talks to amateur astronomy societies, arrange telescope viewing events for clubs, and act to promote the love of astronomy and science within local schools and other organizations throughout the Southwest Border Region. We highlight a few of their favorite events below.
It's Science Week at Alameda Elementary School, and what better way to celebrate then with astronomy?
Graduate students Cat Wu, Nick Ule, Liz Klimek, and Candace Gray joined in the fun, introducing 80 fourth-grade students to some fascinating current astronomy topics. Briana Morales shows off a small comet that she made herself (left), while Alonzo Gonzales, Jon Armendariz, and Peter Escalante explore structures on the surface of the Sun (right), with some help from Nick Ule.
You're never too young to enjoy science!
Planetary science researchers Candace Gray, Adam McKay, and Chas Miller visited local junior high and high school
classrooms recently, to share their knowledge of the solar system. Students
learned about some of the mysteries of the outer planets, and then
experimented by creating their own comets from terrestrial materials!
Graduate students Jillian Bornak and Chas Miller prepared for the crowd of people at the
Science Education Alliance Fair outside of the Las Cruces Natural History Museum in February 2011.
Armed with spectrographs, sky maps, scale solar system models, and stickers,
the two graduate students looked forward to spreading the word about their
fantastic astronomy department and about astronomy in general. The event was
a great success!
Sky Safari events, done in coordination with the Las Cruces Natural History Museum, are always a popular
outreach activity. Graduate students set up telescopes in local state parks
Llorona and Leasburg Dam, using the often beautiful sites to show of
the sights of the night sky. Shown here are Robert Edmonds and Adam McKay setting up just before sunset at Leasburg Dam
on a warm evening in the summer of 2009.
After an April 2009 Apache
Point Observatory Open House event for the public, graduate students Roberto Avila and Mike Sussman searched star charts by cell phone light in
a quest to verify the location of the globular cluster Omega Centauri, a naked-eye object for sufficiently dark
NMSU graduate students Mike Sussman, Randy Carlson, and James Stockton traveled to Holloman Air Force Base for
the 2007 Xprize
Cup. Several thousand area elementary students attended the event, with
attractions ranging from acrobatic aircraft to Space Ship
NMSU was represented by several solar telescopes and one of the department's 8-inch Meade Telescopes. Mike, Randy, and James spent the day showing students and members of the public views of the Sun (including a solar prominence) as well as the planet Venus, visible in broad daylight! The NMSU astronomers were in turn treated to an airshow, functioning examples of current and future aerospace vehicles, and the combined interest of many open minds.
Astronomy alumnus Erica Voges (now an NMSU professor in mathematics) and
astronomy professor Nicole Vogt served as judges for the annual Southwestern
New Mexico Regional Science & Engineering Fair, hosted at NMSU this March.
They evaluated posters on diverse topics covering everything from parachute
design, static electricity, and melting efficiencies to studies of gravity and
air resistance, and interviewed grade six through twelve students to hear
about their scientific experiments.
On November 8th, 2006, Mercury transited the Sun, starting at noon (MT) and
taking about four hours to cross the disk of the Sun. Perfectly clear skies
ensured constant viewing for the entire transit. In honor of this event the
Astronomy Department set up telescopes outside the department building on the
sidewalk. Faculty and graduate students took turns throughout the day at the
telescopes, encouraging passers-by to catch a glimpse of this rare sight of
the inner-most planet and explaining the details of the event (as well as
taking time to drink in the sights themselves).
Mercury appears as a tiny dot on the Sun (photo center), far smaller than the erupting sun spot on the rightmost edge.
In July, Tanya Tavenner attended the Alamogordo Astronomy Club's
monthly meeting and gave an hour-long talk about her research involving the
planet Venus. Afterward, she spent a couple of hours answering questions and
talking about astronomy with the club members. This was an unusual public
outreach event, in that Tanya was specifically asked to discuss her ongoing
Tanya has taken near-infrared images of Venus with the Apache Point Observatory 3.5-meter Telescope.
Ashley Ruiter recently joined up with NMSU physicist
Dr. Matthias Burkardt to talk about astrophysical topics of interest with a
local high school science fiction class. Topics ranged from black hole
creation to dark matter, and beyond.
Over the Halloween weekend, several graduate students traveled to the Gila
National Wilderness area for a public event organized by the Gila park
rangers. A 45 minute talk about general astronomy by Ryan Campbell preceded some wonderful sky viewing with
the department's two portable 8-in Meade telescopes. Approximately 75 members
of the public were in attendance and were treated to an amazingly clear and
dark sky. Dust lanes in the Milky Way were clearly visible and the
International Space Station passed (quickly) overhead. After the event, the
graduate students hiked back to camp and relaxed around the fire.
James Stockton participated in a program called
Astro-mentoring put on by the Natural History Museum of Las Cruces. The
program was for third through sixth grade students and involved meeting for
six consecutive Thursdays in the Fall. Students each received a small
telescope from the Natural History Museum to use at home for the full six week
class. Each Thursday evening James showed the students interesting objects in
the night sky and explained the formation and physical characteristics of what
they were viewing. With luck, a lifelong interested in astronomy was cemented
in each of their minds.
If you would like to request a similar event for a local school or organization, you may do so here.