Friedman Lecture in Astronomy set for April 9

April 01, 2019

A free presentation titled “The Penn State NASA Suborbital Rocket Program for Astronomy” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in 100 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park campus. The lecture will be presented by Randall McEntaffer, a professor in the Penn State Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. The event is part of the 2018-19 Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy, which is free and open to the public. The presentation will also be streamed live and available through Penn State’s Mediasite.

“Penn State has a long history in building instruments for studying high-energy light emitted by objects like neutron stars, the remnants of supernova explosions, and disks around black holes,” said Chris Palma, teaching professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. “We wanted to share with the community some of the work being done here to build rocket payloads that are designed to help NASA push forward the technology available for future space missions.”

McEntaffer collaborates with a number of colleagues who have laboratory facilities on campus, such as the Nanofabrication Laboratory in the Materials Science Institute, which allow his team to fabricate critical parts of the instruments they fly on NASA rockets. The suborbital rocket flights are short, but they provide information that cannot otherwise be obtained about the ability of these new technologies to survive the rigors of launch and exposure to space. 

Randall McEntaffer

Randall McEntaffer

IMAGE: Penn State

“Last summer, Randy’s team traveled to the Marshall Islands to launch their latest rocket,” said Palma, “and back here in Pennsylvania, we were all waiting to hear how it went in real time.” In this talk, McEntaffer will highlight the design and launch of that rocket, as well as what they learned during last year’s flight.

McEntaffer earned undergraduate degrees in physics and in astronomy at the University of Iowa in 2000. He completed a doctoral degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2007. He brought his suborbital rocket lab to Penn State in 2016 to join colleagues here working on similar technologies.

This presentation is hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is funded by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

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Last Updated April 01, 2019