Newswise — It’s been a year of adaptation for everyone. The pandemic has upended many of the ways we function as an organization, from the easy communication gleaned from informal office chats to how our crews might implement a configuration change moving many of the Very Large Array’s 230-ton antennas (many, many employee safety protocols). There were unanticipated events that had to be addressed on the fly: ALMA Observatory had to shut down its 66-antenna array in March. There were the very much anticipated celebrations — the Very Large Array turned 40 on October 10! Celebration of this amazing milestone (the VLA is one of the most productive ground-based telescopes ever) was reconfigured by our STEAM Education team from an in-person celebration into an all-day (eight-hour) virtual tour.
Yet, science still prevailed! The VLA and the Very Long Baseline Array kept observing, while ALMA’s treasure trove of archival data remained available to anyone, and could still be utilized for science. (ALMA, by the way, is preparing a plan to restart operations in March of 2021).
This transition has had positive outcomes: we found new avenues of broadcasting science and astronomy that reach more people — we are literally making Contact! Our Education and Public Outreach staff continue to find different and better ways to communicate with our audience and to facilitate discussions about science and technology.
To recognize this wonky year, we created a recap of some of the scientific results that were popular with the public. To do this, we collaborated with Phil Plait (aka the Bad Astronomer), for the second year in a row, to develop a series of astronomy videos to highlight six exciting astronomical breakthroughs. Phil earned his Ph.D at the University of Virginia, right down the street from NRAO’s Charlottesville headquarters, and has been writing about science and astronomy for more than twenty years. EPO gave him a challenge: to write super-condensed versions of six science results, and he happily took it on!
Every day through January 1, a video will be released on our social media platforms with additional commentary and fun facts. Check out our astronomy highlights of 2020 and let us know what you think. Enjoy!
Here are the highlights, with links to the new videos and the original press releases announcing these discoveries.
Measuring the Wind Speed of a Brown Dwarf a Quadrillion Miles Away
Nomadic Black Holes Wander Galaxies
A Triple Star System with Misaligned Protoplanetary Disks
Saturn-Sized Exoplanet Discovered by the Gravitational “Wobble” in the Small, Cool Star It Orbits
ALMA Shows Volcanic Impact on the Atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Io
Supergiant Atmosphere of Antares Revealed by Radio Telescopes
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.