Stars Above, Earth Below: Astronomy in the National Parks
The national parks that protect our enjoyment of the landscape by day, also protect our enjoyment of the sky at night. A view of the stars and Milky Way overhead have become as rare as the view of glaciers, grizzlies, and granite cliffs that bring millions of visitors to the parks every year. Through the pristine views of a starry sky at night we learn about where our planet has come from, where it is going, and how cultures all over the Earth and throughout history have understood the universe in which we live. Come learn about the world of astronomy visible every day and night in the parks with Dr. Tyler Nordgren, astronomer, photographer, and author of the new book "Stars Above, Earth Below: A guide to Astronomy in the National Parks.
Dr. Tyler Nordgren
Tyler Nordgren is an astronomer and Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Redlands in California. Tyler was born in Portland, Oregon but grew up outside of Anchorage, Alaska in the little town of Eagle River. He earned his BA in Physics from Reed College and a MS and Ph.D in Astronomy from Cornell University. At Cornell, Tyler used the Very Large Array to measure the size of dark matter halos around galaxy pairs undergoing the first phase of collision.
As a post-doctoral researcher at the U.S. Naval Observatory he put his interferometry experience to use by helping to construct the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer, one of the new generations of interferometers with which astronomers have been able to observe stars with unprecedented resolution. At the NPOI, Tyler worked to directly observe the diameters of such household stars as Pollux and Polaris.
With collaborators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory using the Palomar Testbed Interferometer, he took part in projects that actually observed individual stars (Cepheid variables) expand and contract. These stars are the first rung on the Hubble distance ladder to the size of the Universe.
Since 2001 Tyler has been at the University of Redlands, a small, private liberal arts college in southern California, where he has developed classes that take students on the road to meet astronomers at laboratories and universities around the U.S. and around the world.
In 2004 he was part of small team of seven astronomers and artists who converted the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Rover camera calibration targets into functioning sundials and saw them land safely in Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum. He continues to be involved in scientific research and outreach to the public. All told, this work has taken him from Alaska to Australia and the Hopi Reservation to the downtown streets of Rome.
"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Don McClelland