The Heavens Revealed

November 17, 2009








Glenn MillerThe mysteries of the universe were revealed to members of the Rollins Community on November 5 in the Bush Auditorium.   In a presentation given by Winter Park Institute Distinguished Visiting Scholar Glenn Miller, audience members were given a tour of our solar system, galaxy, and universe, as seen through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope. 

Miller currently serves as Deputy Division Head of Information Technology at the Space Telescope Science Institute, where he has been on staff since 1983. His contributions to the design and development of numerous programs vital to the Institute’s operations, in addition to authoring many articles in relevant areas of astronomy, have earned him multiple honors, including the NASA Vision 2000 Control Center Systems Award.  Miller, clearly an expert in the field, explained the Hubble telescope’s significance to scientific theory in addition to giving an overview of its troubled existence.   

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and has taken nearly one million exposures of over 30,000 targets throughout its twenty years of earth orbit.  In spite of its initial mirror problem, which resulted in unfocused blurry photographs, the telescope has been upgraded and updated four times,  and has continuously provided scientists remarkable views of the fringes of the universe.   It has also presented easy access to groundbreaking data.  Hubble’s position above Earth’s atmosphere allows it to see fainter celestial bodies, deeper in space, with sharper contrast.  In addition to its quality imagery, Miller cited Hubble’s efficiency, low learning curve, and digital data as indicators of the telescope’s success. 

Throughout the presentation, Miller displayed Hubble’s most recent and dazzling findings and explained their impact on the scientific community.  Hubble’s advanced technology, specifically its infrared spectrograph, has allowed astronomers to prove the existence of black holes, dark matter, and dark energy.   According to Miller, Hubble’s recent evidence has completely changed scientific theories.  It is now believed, based on Hubble’s findings, that “five billion years ago, the rate of the universe’s expansion increased exponentially,” Miller said.  “This acceleration is theorized to be a result of the existence of dark energy, whose characteristics are still a mystery.  This enigma accounts for three-fourths of the total mass-energy of the universe.”  In addition to this confounding revelation, Miller postulated that Hubble’s influence has impacted the search for extra terrestrial life.   “The possibility of life out there increases as the Hubble illustrates how our solar system is less unique than we thought.” 

Miller stated that the future of Hubble is uncertain.  The telescope’s life span will last another five to ten years and another servicing mission is already in the planning stages.  Miller hopes that his presentation to the Rollins audience will spark interest in students to support and become part of the Space Telescope Institute.  He encouraged them to visit www.hubblesite.org for more information. 

Rollins College President Lewis Duncan, formerly a rocket scientist, added his pleasure with Miller’s presentation by stating that, "Dr. Miller did a remarkable job of connecting the wondrous beauty of the Hubble photographs to the expanding boundaries of scientific inquiry and the real-world challenges of operating a technologically complex instrument in near-Earth space."

Miller (Class of 1975) graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in physics. Once again the Winter Park Institute has brought another of the world’s leading experts on today’s important issues to campus.  The Rollins community is privileged to benefit from this thought-provoking initiative.  For more information on upcoming Winter Park Institute events, please visit www.rollins.edu/wpi or call (407) 619-1995.

-Justin Braun (Class of 2011)

Glenn Miller Visits Astronomy and NASA RCC

On October 6, Glenn Miller (Class of 1975) visited Assistant Professor of Physics Christopher Fuse’s RCC, “Astronomy and NASA”, to answer questions about life after Rollins, NASA, and the universe.

The class is currently working on designing its own NASA missions in teams of two. The two teams are planning missions to find the basic building blocks of life on the moons of Jupiter, Europa and Ganymede. Both teams are working on building rovers to explore the surface of their respective Galilean Moons.

His perspective on working in physics and astronomy helped the class gain perspective not only on their missions, but also the future of space programs and how they can be a part of that future.

-Mary Neville (Class of 2013)

 


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