Days and nights of stars

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By Roger Snodgrass

A series of evening lectures focusing on astronomy and space sciences continues today at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Science Museum.

Astrophysicist Gabriel Rockefeller’s talk will focus on gamma-ray bursts, he said today, both the current state-of-the-art and also the relatively short history of rapidly accumulated knowledge.

“How did we first discover this astrophysical phenomenon? How do the bursts form and what’s behind them?” he asked.

LANL has had a long history of involvement in gamma-ray bursts, since they were discovered during the Vela satellite program of the 1960s, which was intended to verify provisions of the nuclear test ban treaty.

Rockefeller said he would bring his talk up to recent events. Gamma ray observation has become “an amazing industry” around the world, he said, as ground-based telescopes prompted by satellite sightings are called into action aby computer-generated notices.

Laboratory scientist Didier Saumon of the Applied Physics Division led off the Astronomy Days lecture series night with a talk on extrasolar planets and brown dwarf stars.

The museum is located at 15th Street and Central Avenue in downtown Los Alamos. The talks are free and open to the public.

Additional talks are as follows:

• Thursday on Supernova by Aimee Hungerford of CCS-2

• July 15 on Galaxies by Steven Diehl of Theoretical Physics (T-6)

• July 16 on High Energy Astronomy by John Pretz of Neutron Science and Technology (P-23).

The lecture series concludes July 18 with a presentation by Earthwatch students. The Earthwatch students participate in a variety of activities over a two-week period coordinated and designed by Los Alamos technical staff members.

For more information, call the Bradbury Science Museum at 667-4444 or go to the museum’s webpage.