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Imagine RIT 2014: Revealing the Universe

AST Graduate Student Exhibit for Imagine RIT 2014


The 2014 Imagine RIT festival, held on Saturday May 3rd, was a huge success! Over 40,000 members of the public visited 500+ exhibits on the RIT campus which showcased work completed by students across all colleges. The AST graduate students and professors held two popular exhibits: Revealing the Universe, which taught visitors about the electromagnetic spectrum, and how astronomers observe different forms of light from objects in space, and Black Hole mini-golf, where visitors played digital mini golf in outer space following the laws of general relativity. 

Revealing the Universe:

The AST grad students spent many painstaking weeks constructing paper scale models of the Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra and ALMA telescopes which were a big hit at the festival. Visitors learned about how each telescope works, and what wavelengths of light each observes. These, in conjunction with breathtaking images of the student's research, helped visitors explore our universe from the nearest planets to the most distant galaxies. 

The most popular piece of our exhibit was the infrared camera. Children, adults, and even their pets sat in front of the camera and laughed at how funny they appeared in infrared light. The camera was an excellent tool to teach visitors about how objects of different temperatures emit light at different wavelengths, and how we use similar cameras on space telescopes to observe infrared light from planets, gas clouds and galaxies

Infrared "selfies" were very popular by the end of the day.

Visitors also tested their knowledge in our astro-trivia competition. Children had a great time stumping their parents when it came to explaining why Pluto is no longer a planet, or how large the sun is as compared to Earth. Many adults took the time to read our research posters, and then did great on our more advanced trivia questions. 

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate this year so we were not able to catch a good glimpse of the sun through our telescope. We did have a few short opportunities to peak at the sun through solar glasses, which our visitors really enjoyed. Hopefully next year the weather will cooperate and we will be able to observe any solar activity throughout the day. 

Over at the gravitation exhibit, grad students invited visitors to explore the effects of curved spacetime.  An infrared gesture detector allowed children and adults to control the position and orientation of a spaceship in a computer game.  The goal was to shoot red targets by firing shots which are deflected by the simulated gravitational field of multiple black holes.  Meanwhile, posters and an animated presentation displayed a selection of the latest gravitational research conducted by faculty, post docs, and grad students.
Overall, the AST graduate students and professors had a wonderful time educating the public about their research and astronomy in general at Imagine RIT. They plan to continue to participate in Imagine RIT, so stop by next year to learn about the latest astronomical discoveries, test you space knowledge, play some space-golf and more!