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‘These images belong to all of us’: Spokane-area astronomers celebrate out-of-this-world footage from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently revealed a batch of out-of-this world images.

Webb’s First Deep Field is an infrared image that covers a miniscule patch of sky visible from the Southern hemisphere. The image illustrates the early universe with thousands of shimmering galaxies that help fill the celestial void. It is the highest resolution infrared image of the early universe that has ever existed.

One image shown in the release Monday is a spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b. The data that the Webb telescope found from WASP-96 b gives evidence to the existence of water vapor on the gas giant.

Vivienne Baldassare.
Baldassare

Vivienne Baldassare, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washington State University, specializes in black holes in small galaxies and is going to use the Webb Telescope images to help with her research. Baldassare, along with a team of distinguished scientists, was awarded observations to study nearby smaller galaxies and other stellar systems to search for black holes, she said.

“This is my life’s work to try to study this population of black holes in small galaxies,” she said. Astronomy and a lot of different science fields are hugely collaborative efforts, and I love being part of a group that’s working together to try to answer these questions.”

Baldassare is jubilant about being able to further her research, but she said she believes there’s more to these pictures than meets the eye.

“The telescope is an amazing international collaboration. These images belong to all of us,” Baldassare said.

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Spokesman-Review

WSU Planetarium offers views of the universe all summer long

June’s night sky is full of many summer constellations, and at the crack of dawn, Mercury, Venus, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen like beads on a thread.

The Washington State University Planetarium is hosting events each weekend this summer. At 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday, people can see the program titled The Sun, Our Living Star.

At the beginning of the event, the planetarium will open its roof to show and identify constellations in the sky. Later, a movie will be shown to educate people about the universe.

Guy Worthey.
Worthey

Guy Worthey, an astrophysicist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at WSU, holds these events as a way to introduce people to astronomy.

“It’s good to connect with reality and the universe around us,” Worthey said. “We all like to be connected with the world around us, and this is a really good way to learn some connections between yourself and the universe.

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Ten seniors recognized for excellence

Each year, 10 graduating seniors from Washington State University are recognized for excellence in several areas: academics, athletics, campus involvement, community service, and visual and performing arts. Six students in CAS are among WSU’s top 10 of 2022.

The WSU Alumni Association and Student Alumni Ambassadors coordinate the 80-year tradition of honoring these outstanding students, who are nominated from across WSU’s six campuses.

A selection committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students chose the winners based on criteria that fit each category.

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WSU Insider
WSU Features

Emeritus Society presents undergraduate researcher awards, grants

The Washington State University Emeritus Society of retired faculty has presented to students five undergraduate research awards and two grants in arts and humanities.

“Our organization underscores its mission to continuously advance our university, community, and state by making awards each year to exceptional students engaged in scholarly pursuits,” said Tom Brigham, society executive secretary and retired psychology professor.  “We are very pleased that our awards are something of a tradition at WSU, and we are happy to make a difference for so many.”

Society member Larry Fox, retired veterinary clinical science and animal sciences professor, made the award presentations at an April 14 event hosted by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA).

First presented in 2009, these $500 awards in five categories are intended to encourage students to strive for scholarly excellence. Recipients for 2022 include:

Emeritus Society Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Awards

Diana Alonso, a digital technology and culture major mentored by Ruth Gregory; in the award category of arts, humanities, and creative activities for the project, “Design a Website for Undocumented Students Interested in Higher Education in Washington State.” It seeks to identify the obstacles that undocumented students encounter when pursuing a higher education and help overcome those barriers by creating a resource website for incoming and current undocumented Washington college students.

Shir Levy, a communication and society and psychology major mentored by Christopher Barry; in the award category of social, economic, and behavioral sciences for the project, “Perceptions of Confrontational Behavior in Sport Situations as a Function of Athlete Status, Narcissism, and Psychopathy.” The research shows that confrontational behavior is viewed differently as a function of sport versus non-sport contexts, and a person’s history as an athlete or non-athlete, and the perceiver’s self-reported narcissism, psychopathy, and self-esteem.

Wyatt Wallis, a physics and astronomy major mentored by Mark Kuzyk; in the award category of physical sciences and mathematics for the project, “Characterizing Dye Doped PMMA by the Young’s Modulus Measured Against Intensity of Light, CTA Concentration, and Method of Fastening.” The research investigated the consequences of applying tensile stress to a number of properties of PMMA fibers.

Emeritus Society Undergraduate Research Grant in Arts and Humanities

These awards were new in 2021 and each provides $1,000 to support original undergraduate scholarships in the arts and humanities. Recipients for 2022 are:

Nakia Cloud, an anthropology major and linguistics minor mentored by Trevor Bond. His project, carried out in cooperation with the Tribe Cultural Resource Program, is part of a grant-funded effort to digitize and interpret Nez Perce Native American material culture as it is linked to the McWhorter Collection at WSU. This will help preserve Nez Perce tribal history by recording video interpretations and memories of current members as they respond to historical photos, documents, and artifacts.

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WSU Insider

Astronomers identify likely location of medium-sized black holes

Vivienne Baldassare.
Baldassare

Intermediate-mass black holes are notoriously hard to find but a new study indicates there may be some at the center of dense, star clusters located throughout the universe.

“One of the biggest open questions in black hole astrophysics right now is how do black holes form that are between the size of a stellar mass black hole and a supermassive black hole,” said Vivienne Baldassare, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washington State University. “Most of the theories for their formation rely on conditions that are found only in the very early universe. We wanted to test another theory that says they can form throughout cosmic time in these really dense star clusters.”

The research team’s work not only suggests that black holes can form in nuclear star clusters but also provides a mechanism by which intermediate-sized black holes could potentially form throughout cosmic time rather than just during the first few billion years of the universe.

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