Category Archives: News

International Astronomy Meeting at Union July 8-11, 2012

Prof. Koopmann organized and hosted an international group of astronomers for the Star Formation and Gas Reservoirs in Nearby Groups and Clusters
Conference from July 8-11, 2012. Prof. Koopmann received funding from the Skidmore Union Network (NSF ADVANCE grant, PI Brenda Johnson) to gather an international group of astrophysicists to discuss the latest results on the evolution of galaxies relatively near the Milky Way. The meeting focused on the observed star formation properties and gas content (the raw material for star formation) of galaxies in nearby relatively high density regions (groups and clusters), and the current theoretical understanding of the dominant physical mechanisms at work in the conversion of their gas to stars. The invited speakers were Michael Balogh (U. Waterloo), Greg Bryan (Columbia U.), Henry Ferguson (Space Telescope Science Institute), Christine Jones (Harvard U.), Martha Haynes (Cornell U.), Robert Kennicutt (Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, UK), and Ann Zabludoff (U. Arizona).

There were 73 attendees, including ~30 from international institutions (including Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Germany, Italy, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland). 14 were undergraduates, including 2 Union students: Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14.
A well-known attendee was Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose research interests include unusually active star-formation in galaxies in dense environments. He spent time with student attendees and interacted and posed for pictures with Union summer research students who recognized him during the lunch in Wold Atrium.

Halley Darling, ’13, and Lucas Viani, ’14, each presented posters during the conference about their multi-year research projects with Koopmann on the gas and star formation properties of a nearby group of galaxies.

Many Union staff helped with the conference. Special thanks to Colleen Palleschi, Halley Darling, Lucas Viani, Scott LaBrake, Paul Debiase,
Cynthia Martin, Mina Evtimova, Joyce Chabot, John Sheehan, Judy Manchester, Gary Olsen, Dining Services, ITS, Diane Meyers and Facilities, Mary D’Amelia and Special Events staff.


Prof. Orzel’s Publishes Second Book: How to Teach Relativity to your Dog

Chad Orzel, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, has published his second book: How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog, in which he explains relativity through imaginary conversations with Emmy, his German shepherd mix. The book is a follow-up to Orzel’s popular How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (see this post).

See the following links for more information:
Press Release
New York Times Review
Review in Wired
Times Union article
Cosmic Log article

Union Physics majors observe at Arecibo Observatory

Rachel Almodovar, Rebecca Koopmann, Halley Darling, and Lucas Viani at the Arecibo Telescope

Physics and Astronomy majors Halley Darling, ’13, Lucas Viani, ’14, and Rachel Almovodar, ’15, recently observed at the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico with Physics & Astronomy Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. The team carried out a 4-night observing run to record radio emission from hydrogen gas in galaxies located up to 750 million light-years away. The Arecibo telescope operates at radio wavelengths and is the world’s largest reflector, spanning more than 1,000 feet in diameter and with a surface area as big as 26 football fields.

The observations carried out by the Union team are part of the ongoing ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA, where ALFA i
s the name of the detector used in the observations) survey, a 7-year project headed by Riccardo Giovanelli at Cornell University, to census hydrogen-bearing galaxies in the local Universe. Among the targets were some of the smallest galaxies yet detected.

Funding for the trip was provided by Koopmann collaborative NSF “Undergraduate ALFALFA Team” grant with Colgate University and Georgia Southern University. The Union team also trained faculty and student colleagues from Hartwick College and St. Mary’s College of California in observing and data reduction techniques.

The trip was part of the Sophomore Scholar’s Project of Lucas Viani, ’14; he studied gas and star formation properties of a nearby gravitationally-bound group of galaxies.

Rachel Almodovar is from Puerto Rico – it was a childhood dream of hers to observe at Arecibo, an opportunity provided by Union! She wrote up her thoughts on observing at Arecibo on the ALFALFA blog at:

All three students will be working with Koopmann this summer on research related to the observing trip.

Prof. Koopmann and Students organize and attend NSF-Sponsored National Workshop at Arecibo Observatory

Lucas Viani, Rebecca Koopmann, and Wyatt Smith at the Arecibo Telescope

Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Rebecca Koopmann, ’89, organized the fifth annual NSF-sponsored ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) Undergraduate Team Workshop at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico January 16-18, 2012. The Arecibo Observatory is home to the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope, the largest telescope in the world.

Lucas Viani, ’14, a Physics & Astronomy major, and Wyatt Smith accompanied Koopmann and a select group of 16 other undergraduate students and 11 faculty members from 14 colleges and universities across the United States. Together they conducted observing runs, toured the telescope, and learned about radio astronomy. Viani and Smith presented posters about their summer research 2012 projects with Koopmann.

Union Wins Outstanding Chapter Award from SPS

The Union College chapter of the Society of Physics Students was recognized as an outstanding chapter for 2010, one of just 50 chapters nationwide (out of more than 700 nationwide) given this award. Union was cited for “Extensive outreach, community service, and social activities.” This is the second year in a row that Union has earned this distinction.

Congratulations to all the SPS students whose hard work has made this possible.

Prof. Orzel Speaks at AAAS Meeting

Associate Professor Chad Orzel gave a presentation at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, as part of a symposium titled “Science Without Borders: Learning from TIMSS Advanced 2008,” about the Trends in International Math and Science Survey, an international test of math and physics given to students in nine countries. Chad’s talk, “What Physics Knowledge Is Assessed in TIMSS Advanced 2008?” evaluated the content of the physics test by comparing them to college and high school curricula and tests developed through physics education research. Other speakers in the symposium included representatives from the international study center that administers TIMSS, and from the national test centers in Norway and Slovenia talking about their nations’ experience with TIMSS Advanced.

The AAAS is one the world’s largest general scientific society, and one of the premier science organizations in the world. This year’s meeting brought together several thousand scientists, educators, journalists, and policy makers from some 50 countries.

O’Brien ‘11 and Barringer ‘11 Present at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Katelyn O’Brien, ’11, and Daniel Barringer, ’11, presented posters about their research at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA, in January.

Katie O’Brien ‘11 with her AAS Poster
Katelyn presented results from her senior thesis project with Associate Professor Rebecca Koopmann, ’89. Entitled “SMARTS Hα
Observations Of ALFALFA Gas-rich Galaxies In NGC 5846″, the poster described Katelyn’s analysis of star formation from images of galaxies obtained at the Cerro Tololo National Observatory in Chile through Union’s participation in the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) consortium. Katelyn is pursuing a major in physics and minors in astrophysics and Spanish.


Danny Barringer ‘11 with his AAS Poster
Daniel presented results from his Summer 2010 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer project at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, AZ. Daniel worked with Connie Walker of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on the “Effects Of Light Pollution On The Movements Of Leptonycteris Curasoae Yerbabuenae In
The Tucson Area.” Daniel used data from the GLOBE at Night project and telemetry-tracking data to study the effects of light pollution on the flight paths of the lesser long-nosed bats between their day roosts and night foraging areas around the city of Tucson, AZ, finding that these bats are able to tolerate a fair degree of urbanization. Daniel was one of 6 students selected from a pool of 157 applicants from across the US to be awarded an REU internship at Kitt Peak in summer 2010. Daniel is a physics major and astrophysics minor.

The American Astronomical Society is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America.