Happy Birthday Hubble

On April 24, 25 years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space. Hubble has circled the Earth more than 130,000 times, and the stunningly clear images that it has sent back from above our planet’s atmosphere have revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

To celebrate Hubble’s 25 anniversary, NASA has release this beautiful new image of a star forming region known as Westerlund 2.


You can find out more about this image here.

There is, understandably, a lot of media coverage of Hubble this week.

A few sites that you might find especially interesting are:

Unforgettable Hubble Space Telescope Photos

The Hubble Telescope: 25 Years of Images From Space

Modest but Momentous: Hubble’s Brilliant, Unsung Images

I’m happy to report that an astronomer colleague (Dr, Michael Gregg, UC Davis) and I have new Hubble observations scheduled for next week, we’re studying how galaxies are transformed when they move from rural to urban regions of the cosmos.

And if you live far enough south (Nantucket is pushing it) you can even see the Hubble Space Telescope when it passes over your home. You can find dates and times for your location by visiting this website.

Best Regards,

-Dr. Michael West



Daffodil Day 2015

Celebrate Daffodil Weekend with the Maria Mitchell Association1

Book Signing at Mitchell’s Book Corner, 10AM-11AM

Our Deputy Director and Curator of the Mitchell House, Archives, and Special Collections, Jascin Leonardo Finger, has been asked to do a book signing at Mitchell’s Book Corner.  She will be signing her book Daring Daughters of Nantucket: How Island Women from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries Lived a Life Contrary to Other American Women.

‘Sconset Tailgate Party, 1PM-3PM

Follow the antique cars down to ‘Sconset where we will be hosting our picnic to celebrate Daffodil Day. Come look through our solar telescope to see the sun in a whole new light! A surprise creature will be making an appearance as well.


David Gagnon named Executive Director

The Board of Directors of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association have selected Mr. David Gagnon of Brattleboro, Vermont to take over as Executive Director of the 114-year-old Nantucket nonprofit science center.  Mr. Gagnon was selected after a nationwide search that began in August, 2014.


Dave most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in Brattleboro, VT, a role he filled since 2006. As COO, Dave oversaw fundraising and development, IT, HR, membership, facilities and finance for the organization. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. Prior to his work at OTA David and his wife Shelley Dresser served as the co-Executive Directors of the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center in Southern Vermont. Bonnyvale’s programs included research, summer camps, and citizen science, with a dynamic school out-reach program.

“We are delighted to have Dave join us”, says John Daniels, board President and acting Executive Director.  “He’s an experienced leader with a strong non-profit management, fundraising and science background.  We believe he is just the person to take our science research, educational programs and campus facilities to the next level.”

“I have a love for the environment and a deep respect for Nantucket,” says Dave.  “I spent a lot of time on the island and I’m excited to bring my passion about nature to the students and researchers associated with MMA. My family and I are looking forward to becoming part of this vibrant community.”

Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts in Environmental Studies and a Master’s Degree from Yale University from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

April 13-18 is International Dark Sky Week


April 13-18 is International Dark Sky Week,
a time to celebrate and preserve the wonders of the night sky.

Did you know that 2/3 of Americans can’t see the
Milky Way where they live because of light pollution?


We’re lucky here on Nantucket because skies are still dark, but if we don’t work together to reduce light pollution then we could lose our spectacular skies someday too.
Find out more here.

For an amazing timelapse video from the International Space Station, check out The New York Time‘s website here.

-Dr. Michael West

What Whales Look Like from Space

The photos below might look like images of distant galaxies observed with Hubble Space Telescope, but they’re actually whales here on earth observed from space.

British Antarctic Survey and DigitalGlobe

British Antarctic Survey and DigitalGlobe

The Atlantic has an interesting article today about the only two animals on our planet that can be seen from space – elephants and whales. If you’d like to read the full article, click here. If you would like to examine the complete essay from Plos One, click here.

-Dr. Michael West


Nantucket Science Festival- 2 Days Away!

temp_logoThings are coming together for the first ever Nantucket Science Festival. There will be cheerio beading and play-doh constructing for the little ones, electrical circuits and mechanical mayhem for older kids and amazing nanotechnology activities for everyone.

Everyone is a scientist at the Nantucket Science Festival!

This is a drop in program so come anytime between 10am and 2pm this Saturday March 28.  The event will be in the Middle School cafeteria- the best entrance is directly off the parking lot behind the school.

Nantucket Science Festival 2015

Thank you to all our sponsors who have donated great door prizes or donated provisions for the dedicated volunteers!

Dan’s Pharmacy
Dreamland Threater
Kitty Murtagh
Marine Home Center
Mitchell’s Book Corner
Nantucket Bakeshop
Nantucket Cottage Hospital
Nantucket Toy Company
Peach Trees Nantucket
Petticoat Row
Zach Dusseau


Corned Beef and Cosmic Rays


Here’s an interesting historical tidbit you might not know about.

On this date (March 24, 2015) 50 years ago, astronaut John Young reached into his spacesuit and pulled out a corned beef on rye sandwich that he’d smuggled aboard the Gemini 3 spacecraft before its launch. If you’d like to know more, including the problems of crumbs in space, then read on here.

-Dr. Michael West

2015 REU Students Selected

Dr. Michael West is delighted to report that all six of the MMA’s REU offers have now been accepted. We’ve got an amazing and diverse cohort of students that truly reflects the goals and spirit of NSF’s REU program. Our summer REU students for 2015 will be:

Elizabeth Apala (East Central University, Oklahoma)
Patrick Drew (UMass Amherst)
Missy McIntosh (Harvard University)
Rayna Rampalli (Wellesley College)
Madison Smith (New College of Florida)
John Weaver (University of St Andrews, Scotland)

As you’ll see, 4/6 students are women, and 3/6 attend universities here in Massachusetts. All are American citizens or permanent residents, as required by NSF. We look forward to welcoming all of them to Nantucket this summer!

-Dr. Michael West, Director of Astronomy

Spiders: Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

WHEN: March 9, 6:00PM – 8:00PM
The Rose & Crown

Have questions about spiders?  Or maybe you want to know what kind of spider you threw outside into the cold last night?  Here is your chance to learn about spiders on Nantucket and get all your questions answered.  Director of Natural Science, Andrew McKenna-Foster, will give an entertaining presentation on the world of spiders from 6 to 8 pm at the Rose and Crown on March 9th.

Argiope trifasciata

The garden spider Argiope trifasciata, photographed on Muskeget Island.

Science Pubs on Nantucket are a series of informal presentations by island scientists, hosted by the Linda Loring Nature Foundation and the Rose and Crown.  Join in for good food, beverages, and science the second Monday of every month.