Speaking of Hubble...

Archive: August 2010

Hot Summer, Hot Science (Part I)

August 24, 2010 by Rachel Osten

blog_2010_08_24Here in Baltimore, we have been experiencing record-high temperatures and humidity.  The weather is being matched in its intensity by the exciting science going on at the Space Telescope Science Institute, home to Hubble’s science program.

The institute attracts scientific visitors from around the world, eager to share their latest ground-breaking results with the experts here. In fact, there are enough science coffees, talks, journal clubs, colloquia, etc. here that you could fill a day listening to other people talk about science without doing any of your own!

With so much going on, it’s easy to miss out on the science being done by a colleague down the hall. In order to remedy this situation, we have instituted a summer colloquium series that focuses on science results from members of our staff.  Talks so far have ranged from stars being shot out of the Milky Way to explorations of galaxy evolution.

It’s interesting to hear what others on the science staff do with their science time. I gave one of the first talks of the summer, to a packed audience. The (shortened) title of my talk was “Lighting up Stars.”

NASA operates satellites that take beautiful images of magnetic loops sticking up out of the surface of our Sun. These loops shine in X-rays, but most stars are points of light, so we can’t see what their structures look like.

My talk discussed a new X-ray diagnostic that lets us place constraints on the sizes of structures in Sun-like stars. We can use innovative techniques like this to get information on these hot, loop-like structures in other stars.  This is important for placing our Sun in context: although it is the one star we can study in close-up detail, it is only one star, and being able to compare its properties with other stars gives astronomers more insight into the processes at work in Sun-like stars.