astronomy

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Nestled on a hill between dorms on the University of Michigan campus is a beautifully-preserved time capsule.

From the outside, the Detroit Observatory looks almost new, with its crisp white paint and sharp wooden molding. In reality, the observatory dates back over 150 years to the earliest days of University of Michigan’s founding.

History

Historically, the observatory was much more than simply a building to house telescopes.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In recent years, more than 1,800 exoplanets (planets that orbit a sun outside of our solar system) have been discovered across the universe by telescopes such as the Kepler Space Telescope. Hiding among these planets are some that researchers hope could perhaps be hospitable for life. 

The International Astronomical Union is now opening up the opportunity for the public to become involved with this exciting age of planetary discovery through its "Naming Exoworlds Contest."

User: NASA Goddard Space / Flickr

 

University of Michigan researchers believe the water in your glass or bottle might be older than the sun.

One of those researchers is Ilse Cleeves, an astronomy PhD student. 

Cleeves and her fellow researchers arrived at the estimate by simulating the chemistry that went on as our solar system formed. They studied the ratio of two different varieties of water – common water and a heavier version. Through the simulation, the researchers found that at least half of our water likely formed in the cold molecular cloud that spawned our solar system. 

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips / Official U.S. Navy Imagery

When you grab a bottle of water at the grocery store, do you ever wonder where that water came from.

And do you really know the quality of that water? We found out if it's really better than what comes out of your tap.

And, as the use of meth makes headlines across the state, we talked to one woman about her recovery and what she's doing for other addicts.

And, we traveled to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinac City, one of only 10 designated sky parks in the entire world.

Also, musician Matt Jones talked about his newest work and overcoming a challenging year.

First on the show, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed (D-Nev.) says a bipartisan deal has been reached, a deal that would avoid a U.S. default and it would end the partial government shutdown. 

Speaking on the senate floor, Reed thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for working out the agreement, an agreement to reopen the government through January 15th and increase the nation’s borrowing authority through February 7th. 

Now though the deal’s in place the House and Senate still need to vote to approve the legislation.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow joined us today to give us her perspective on the issue.

Michigan stargazers will get a treat this fall.

Comet ISON was first spotted last year, and since then some have said it could be the ‘comet of the century’.

The comet should first appear in the night sky in mid-November.    If it survives a close pass by the sun, it would reappear in December.

John French is the interim director of the Michigan State University-Abrams Planetarium.    He hopes Comet ISON will live up to the hype.

If you are a baby-boomer who grew up in Michigan, chances are good you remember a particular point in time when you were out in your backyard, peering into the night sky, searching for UFOs.

For one week in March of 1966, Michigan was awash with reports of UFO sightings. Scores of people called police to report suspicious items in the sky. Ultimately, the Air Force dismissed these sightings as nothing more than "swamp gas," causing then-Congressman Gerald Ford to fire off an indignant statement, declaring that people deserved a better explanation than something as laughable as "swamp gas."

Rudi Lindner is a professor of History and Astronomy at the University of Michigan. He teaches a class called "Discovery of the Universe" that includes the history of UFOs.

Courtesy photo

Do you trust your government? What about your government? Do your elected leaders trust you?

Disapproval rates of Congress are at all-time lows - gridlock, and indecision. Can we change the dynamic, and what does it mean going forward?

And census results show a surprising trend: the state's male population is growing. We took a look at what's behind the numbers.

Also we spoke with Michael Narlock, head of Astronomy at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, about the best places to go in Michigan for stargazing this summer.

And Darrin Camilleri, President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats, joined us to talk about increasing tuition and raised interested rates for student loans.

Also we continued our week-long series of stories from immigrants about what America means to them.

Today we heard from Linda Steinke, whose family came to the U.S. from Iran in the 1970s when her father had the opportunity to work in the auto industry.

First on the show, the group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has filed language with the Secretary of State to put another petition on the 2014 ballot. The group wants to ban wolf hunting in Michigan.

If the language is approved, the group will try and collect more than 160 thousand signatures to put the question to voters.

Rick Pluta, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network joined us today.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

For centuries and centuries, we’ve been fascinated by the night sky. As we relax into the summer months we figured we’d spend a little time taking a look at what we’ll see when we look up at the night sky here in Michigan.

Michael Narlock is the head of Astronomy at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, and he joined us today with tips and strategies for summer stargazing.

Listen to the full interview above.