Tag Archives: Astronomy

TSU ready for total solar eclipse, scientist believes historic event will spark new interest in astronomy, research

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A Tennessee State University scientist believes the total solar eclipse on Monday will spark new interest in astronomy and TSU’s nationally recognized research.

Dr. Geoffrey Burks is an astronomer and associate professor of physics at TSU. He said the Aug. 21 event is once-in-a-lifetime, but its impact will probably be long lasting, particularly in the minds of youngsters.

“It’s just so rare to be able to see something in your lifetime where the sun is covered up in the middle of the day,” Burks said. “They’ll remember this a long time.”

TSU will have eclipse viewing events to recognize the historic day. They are planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hale Stadium on TSU’s main campus, and at Avon Williams, the university’s downtown campus. The event at the stadium will include comments from TSU President Glenda Glover, NASA engineer Dr. Virginia Tickles, TSU researchers, as well as performances by TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands. There will also be free food.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” said TSU Dean of Students Frank Stevenson. “We want it to be a day that you will remember where you were on this day. It will also be an opportunity to showcase a little bit of Tennessee State University.”

During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.

Typically, there are two solar eclipses each year somewhere on the Earth, but most of the time the very narrow path of the total eclipse is a shadow over the ocean.

The one occurring on Aug. 21 is unique because it crosses the entire United States, and Nashville is the largest city within the entire eclipse’s path.

The last time a total solar eclipse could be seen from Nashville was July 29, 1478, according to NASA. After Aug. 21, the next one visible from Nashville will be on Aug. 16, 2566.

“This is a big thing,” said Willie Moore, a junior civil engineering major at TSU. “I want to make sure I am in the right place to see it.”

Burks said the Aug. 21 eclipse might also draw more attention to astronomy research. At TSU, its research and astronomy professors have received national recognition. The university owns and operates eight robotic telescopes at the Robotic Observatory Center in the mountains of southern Arizona.

In 1999, a team led by TSU astronomer Greg Henry announced the discovery of a shadow of a planet crossing a distant star. The discovery made national and international news, and was lauded by then President Bill Clinton.

“I want America to know about your enormous contributions to research,” Clinton said the following year at a higher education leadership banquet in Washington, D.C. “I want every American to know … Tennessee State astronomers made the world’s first direct detection of a planet orbiting another star.”

Last year, Dr. Henry was part of a team of astronomers who discovered an extrasolar planet scientists say has the most eccentric orbit ever seen.

Highlights of the planned TSU eclipse events on Monday include:

  • Safe viewing presentation (Hale Stadium, 10:20 a.m.)
  • NASA speaker-Dr. Virginia Tickles (Hale Stadium, 12:05 p.m.)
  • The Solar Eclipse: What’s Happening Now? (Hale Stadium, 12:30 p.m.)
  • TSU Aristocrat of Bands performs (Hale Stadium, 12:45 p.m.)
  • Words from TSU President Glenda Glover (Hale Stadium, 1:10 p.m.)
  • Full solar eclipse; viewing also on plaza of Avon Williams Campus (1:27 p.m.)

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Total solar eclipse could spur interest in astronomy, TSU scientist says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 could spur new interest in astronomy, said a Tennessee State University scientist.

Dr. Geoffrey Burks is an astronomer and associate professor of physics at TSU. He said the Aug. 21 event is once-in-a-lifetime, but its impact will probably be long lasting, particularly in the minds of youngsters.

“It’s just so rare to be able to see something in your lifetime where the sun is covered up in the middle of the day,” Burks said. “They’ll remember this a long time.”

TSU is having a “Blue and White Solar Eclipse Day Party” to recognize the historic day. Events are planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hale Stadium on TSU’s main campus, and at Avon Williams, the university’s downtown campus. The event at the stadium will include comments from TSU President Glenda Glover, NASA engineer Dr. Virginia Tickles, TSU researchers, as well as performances by TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands. There will also be free food.

Dr. Trinetia Respress, chair of TSU’s Department of Educational Leadership and one of the organizers of the events, said she believes Aug. 21 is a day students in particular will never forget.

“I think it’s something they will enjoy, whether you’re in science, or not in science,” she said.

During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.

Typically, there are two solar eclipses each year somewhere on the Earth, but most of the time the very narrow path of the total eclipse is a shadow over the ocean.

The one occurring on Aug. 21 is unique because it crosses the entire United States, and Nashville is the largest city within the entire eclipse’s path.

The last time a total solar eclipse could be seen from Nashville was July 29, 1478, according to NASA. After Aug. 21, the next one visible from Nashville will be on Aug. 16, 2566.

“This is a big thing,” said Willie Moore, a junior civil engineering major at TSU. “I want to make sure I am in the right place to see it.”

Burks said the Aug. 21 eclipse might also draw more attention to astronomy research. At TSU, its research and astronomy professors have received national recognition. The university owns and operates eight robotic telescopes at the Robotic Observatory Center in the mountains of southern Arizona.

In 1999, a team led by TSU astronomer Greg Henry announced the discovery of a shadow of a planet crossing a distant star. The discovery made national and international news, and was lauded by then President Bill Clinton.

“I want America to know about your enormous contributions to research,” Clinton said the following year at a higher education leadership banquet in Washington, D.C. “I want every American to know … Tennessee State astronomers made the world’s first direct detection of a planet orbiting another star.”

Last year, Dr. Henry was part of a team of astronomers who discovered an extrasolar planet scientists say has the most eccentric orbit ever seen.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

 

Using Hubble Space Telescope, Team Including TSU Astronomers Develop Most Detailed Exoplanet Weather Map

In this artist's illustration, the Jupiter-sized planet WASP-43b, orbits its parent star in one of the closest orbits ever measured for an exoplanet of its size -- with a year lasting just 19 hours. (illustration courtesy of NASA, EAS, Z. Levay)
In this artist’s illustration, the Jupiter-sized planet WASP-43b, orbits its parent star in one of the closest orbits ever measured for an exoplanet of its size — with a year lasting just 19 hours. (illustration courtesy of NASA, EAS, Z. Levay)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When it comes to understanding the stars and galaxies, scientists at Tennessee State University continue to play key roles in major discoveries and breakthroughs.

Just this week, TSU astronomers Gregory Henry and Michael Williamson were part of a team of astronomers that announced they had made the most detailed map ever of the temperature distribution of an exoplanet’s atmosphere, and traced the amount of water vapor it contains.

Both results were made from data collected using instruments on board the Hubble Space Telescope. The planet targeted for both of the investigations was the hot-Jupiter exoplanet referred to as WASP-43b.

TSU operates a unique array of robotic telescopes located in the Patagonia Mountains of southern Arizona that have gained international recognition for the research programs they have accomplished, including the discovery of planetary systems around other stars in 1999.

In their latest effort, Henry and Williamson, working on a study headed by Jacob Bean, of the University of Chicago, used one of the TSU automated telescopes to make a long series of nightly measurements of the planet’s host star’s brightness.

Gregory Henry
Dr. Gregory Henry

“The planet’s host star is some 70 percent smaller and cooler than our own sun, but, like the sun, exhibits the coming and going of cooler regions on its surface called starspots,” said Henry, who headed the team in the 1999 discovery of a new planetary system. “These starspots are analogous to the dark sunspots seen on the sun and that come and go with the 11-year sunspot cycle.”

He said the starspots cause continuous, subtle changes in the brightness of the star.  To enable the construction of an accurate temperature map of the planetary atmosphere, the calibration of the Hubble Space Telescope measurements of the planet’s atmosphere must include the effects of the star’s changing brightness.

“The WASP-43b result is indeed interesting, given that this planet is unique among the nearly 2,000 known exoplanets in that it has the shortest period of revolution around the star: only 19 hours.  This period defines the length of the planet’s year, compared to 365 days for our earth,” Henry said.

“Our observations are the first of their kind in terms of providing a two- dimensional map of the planet’s thermal structure,” added Kevin Stevenson, also of the University of Chicago. “These maps can be used to constrain circulation models that predict how heat is transported from an exoplanet’s hot day side to its cool night side.”

To make the map more detailed, the team also measured the water abundances and temperatures at different longitudes. To do this, Henry and his colleagues took advantage of the precision and stability of Hubble’s instruments to subtract more than 99.95 percent of the light from the parent star, allowing them to study the light coming from the planet itself — a technique called emission spectroscopy. By doing this at different points of the planet’s orbit around the parent star, they could map the atmosphere across its longitude.

“We have been able to observe three complete rotations — three years for this distant planet — during a span of just four days,” explained Bean. “This was essential in allowing us to create the first full temperature map for an exoplanet and to probe its atmosphere to find out which elements it held and where.”

Finding the proportions of the different elements in planetary atmospheres provides vital clues to understanding how planets formed.

 

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

After 44 years, TSU Engineer and Administrator Michael Busby “Retiring with a Great Deal of Joy”

Micheal Busby, former educator, administrator and interim associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, retired June 30 from TSU after nearly 44 years of service. (photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)
Micheal Busby, former educator, administrator and interim associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, retired June 30 from TSU after nearly 44 years of service. (photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Even with the development of a widely recognized astronomy program that saw the construction of a robotic observatory center, and the detection of a planet orbiting another star – all under his watch – Michael Busby is not jumping at any credit for a mounting of scientific advances at Tennessee State University.

“I have been fortunate to work with some very talented and gifted people who made these things possible,” said Busby, who retired June 30 from TSU after nearly 44 years as an engineer, professor and administrator.

“It’s been a rewarding experience. I owe Tennessee State University so much to have been put in positions where I did not only use my talent but was given opportunities to work with some very incredible people and administrators to help us achieve so much,” Busby said.

Recounting his years at TSU, Busby, 69, was visibly emotional when he talked about the satisfaction he received when the University gave him his first “big career break” to join the faculty in 1972, not long after earning a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee.

“Although I had a job working for a company briefly after I left UT, I found the opportunity to work at TSU and interact with so many students and other faculty to be an excellent career start,” Busby added.

He talked about many achievements, but for him what stood out the most was the opportunity to head the newly established Center of Excellence, a multidisciplinary research laboratory founded in 1986 within the state-wide Centers of Excellence program to increase the research base of Tennessee, as well as serve as a research resource for faculty and students of TSU.

“The center allowed us to advance in so many areas, collaborate with many national and international scientific and government agencies and institutions, and to develop faculty and students who are considered among the best in the nation,” Busby said.

Busby and Tennessee State University astronomer Greg Henry join Vanderbilt astronomers Douglas Hall and Frank Fekel in March 1989 at the robotic telescope site in the mountains of southern Arizona.  TSU's automated astronomy research program began as a collaborative effort with Vanderbilt astronomers to study a mysterious new class of variable stars with the robotic telescope on the right.  TSU now owns and operates 8 robotic telescopes at the Arizona site. (courtesy photo)
Busby and Tennessee State University astronomer Greg Henry join Vanderbilt astronomers Douglas Hall and Frank Fekel in March 1989 at the robotic telescope site in the mountains of southern Arizona. TSU’s automated astronomy research program began as a collaborative effort with Vanderbilt astronomers to study a mysterious new class of variable stars with the robotic telescope on the right. TSU now owns and operates 8 robotic telescopes at the Arizona site. (courtesy photo)

Under Busby’s watch, the center established an Automated Astronomy Group of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, researchers, and support staff with automated telescopes, advanced control systems and systems identification, and applied mathematics. The automated astronomy research program began as a collaborative effort with Vanderbilt astronomers to study a mysterious new class of variable stars.  TSU now owns and operates eight robotic telescopes at the Robotic Observatory Center in the Patagonia Mountains near Washington Camp, Arizona.

On Nov. 14, 1999, a team led by TSU astronomer Greg Henry, announced the discovery of a shadow of a planet crossing a distant star. The discovery made national and international news.

“…I want America to know about your enormous contributions to research. I want every American to know that last November, Tennessee State astronomers made the world’s first direct detection of a planet orbiting another star,” then President Bill Clinton announced at the annual National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education Leadership Award Banquet in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 16, 2000.

“That was a crowning moment for the Center of Excellence and the Automated Astronomy Group…all because we had outstanding scientists and people doing what they are good at,” Busby added.

For a mechanical engineer with no specific background in astronomy, bringing the program together with the right people in place, and to achieve such prominence, speak to Busby’s “outstanding leadership and managerial genius,” one colleague said.

“His vision and management style made all the difference,” said Henry, an original member of the Automated Astronomy Group who has been with the University since Busby brought him on nearly 25 years ago.

“His genius was having the vision of what this center would be. He hired the right people, gave them what they needed and allowed them to do their work,” Henry added. “And he takes no credit for it.”

In the 26 years since its establishment, the COE has brought in more than $40 million in external funding through grants, and total faculty publications in refereed and non-refereed journals is nearly 1,300. Student support for an average 41 undergraduate and 10 graduate students per year is about $500,000.

With all of these achievements, no doubt colleagues and administrators see Dr. Busby’s departure as a “huge” vacuum being created at the University.

“Dr. Busby has been an outstanding instructor and researcher at TSU for decades,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering. “His loyalty and dedication to the university is unwaverable….and his iconic presence will be missed by his colleagues and students.”

In addition to teaching and heading the COE, Busby also served in many other capacities over the years. One of his last roles was serving as interim associate vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs, a position he held until his retirement and the subsequent hiring of a new associate vice president.

The new Associate Vice President, Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young, who worked with Busby for several months before his retirement, described the longtime TSU professor and administrator as providing “outstanding leadership that significantly impacted the research notoriety” of the Center of Excellence in Information Systems.

“Mike Busby has worked tirelessly to grow the research enterprise at TSU and we are truly grateful for his leadership and long-term commitment to the University,” Crumpton-Young said.

As he leaves, Busby said he is very optimistic about the future of the center and the University.

“I am very pleased with the kind of people and administrators we have in place at the institution. We have people who truly care about TSU and who want to take TSU to places it’s never been before,” Busby said.

About retirement, Busby said he is going to stay busy spending more time with his wife of 51 years, and keeping up with an engineering consultancy he has long been involved with, except this time, he will control his own time.

“I am retiring with a great deal of joy,” the Goodlettsville, Tennessee native added.

 

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.