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The Great Debate

Apr. 27, 2020—Up until the early 1920s, astronomers questioned one of the fundamental aspects of astronomy that we take for granted today: Is the Milky Way the entire universe or just a small part of it? By the start of the 20th century, astrophotography techniques were beginning to advance, allowing astronomers to gain clearer and deeper images...

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The DeWitt Wren

Apr. 24, 2020—On a spring day in May of 2009, then graduate student (now Dyer Observatory astronomer) Billy Teets entered the dome housing Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory’s DeWitt Telescope to retrieve a tool left from work done earlier in the year.  An unexplained feeling told him that he should look within the telescope itself.  To his surprise, he...

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Moon Halo

Apr. 23, 2020—On nights when a bright moon is seen through passing cirrostratus clouds, one might have the opportunity to witness a moon halo, just like the one above captured by Dyer Observatory’s All-Sky camera.  The halo measures 22° from the center to the bright inside edge, about twice the width of a fist at arm’s length, and...

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The Solar Eclipse of March 7, 1970

Apr. 22, 2020—Did you witness the great solar eclipse of March 7, 1970? Totality crossed Florida and skirted up the United States’ eastern seaboard, but a partial eclipse was visible across the contiguous forty-eight states. In Nashville, the partial eclipse began at 11:04 am and lasted until 2:35 pm. At its peak at 12:20 pm, 84% of...

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Inclination Compass

Apr. 21, 2020—When entering Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, one of the first things noticed is the large display case in the front lobby.  Behind its glass, you will find artifacts dating back to the 1870s that reflect the history of astronomy at Vanderbilt University, including Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory.  The majority of the exhibit is comprised of what is...

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The DeWitt Observatory

Apr. 13, 2020—At the heart of Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory is the 24″ Seyfert Telescope.  Installed in 1953, thousands of visitors peek through it annually at our various public events.  The Seyfert Telescope, however, is not oldest telescope telescope still used at Dyer Observatory.  In the 1930s, John H. (“Jack”) DeWitt, one of the key figures responsible for...

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Redbuds Abound

Apr. 10, 2020—Every season shares its own unique beauty with us, but spring bursts with especially joyful color. On the Dyer property we look forward to the first blooms of the native redbuds (Cercis canadensis) on top of our hill about this time every year. Photo by Alex. Rockafellar <- Previous          April 10,...

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Observing the Universe with Neutrinos

Apr. 9, 2020—On this date (April 9) in 1987, Vanderbilt University physicists announced a project named Deep Under Muon and Neutrino Detector (DUMAND) to study neutrinos, tiny particles that escape from stars and violent events such as supernovae. The scientists involved were especially interested in the interaction of collapsing galaxies and black holes. Vanderbilt University physicists Medford Webster...

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Seyfert’s Sextet

Apr. 8, 2020—Galaxies are often very photogenic.  There are roughly as many galaxies in the observable universe, each with millions to over a trillion stars, as there are individual stars within our own galaxy, the Milky Way.  If you do the math, that means there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand...

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Muriel Mussels Seyfert – Jack of All Trades

Apr. 7, 2020—Muriel Elizabeth Mussels Seyfert (1909-1997) was an astronomer and research assistant at Harvard College Observatory.  Among other things, her work led her to discover three new planetary nebulae in the Milky Way in the mid-1930s. The discovery was picked up by the newswires and reported in newspapers across the country. Articles described the objects as “tremendous...

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