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Science Buzz Cafe # 471 at HopMonk – Mountaintops to Blackholes: Extreme Astronomy in Chile!
Laura Sparks, Santa Rosa JC, Earth & Space Sciences (Former Dept. Chair)
Bordered by the towering Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile’s desert landscapes are the perfect places to build giant telescopes. By the next decade, 70% of the world’s professional astronomical observing will happen in Chile. SRJC astronomy instructor and Astronomy in Chile Educational Ambassador Laura Sparks will discuss Chile’s unique traits and fascinating role in 21st century astronomy. She will take the audience on a journey through the most important discoveries made by Chilean telescopes, including the first picture ever taken of a black hole, the accelerating expansion of the universe, and the first-ever photo of an alien planet system being born around a distant star.
Laura attended Arizona State University, where she completed a B.S. in Physics in 2003. She then received her M.S. in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2005. Her research focused on gamma ray astrophysics as part of the VERITAS project, a group of telescopes located on Mount Hopkins in southern Arizona. Laura has been teaching astronomy full time at Santa Rosa Junior College since 2009, where she also served as Department Chair of Earth & Space Sciences from 2015-2019.