A Star Was Born

Nantucket Magazine published an article celebrating Maria Mitchell’s life just in time for her 200th birthday celebration.  Read the article here to learn more about Maria Mitchell.

2017 AAS Alumni Breakfast

Dr. Regina Jorgenson, Director of Astronomy, and Dr. Katherine Rhode, MMA Board Member, will be hosting a complimentary breakfast celebrating REU Alumni of the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association.

Sponsored by Plane Wave Instruments, Princeton Instruments, and the American Astronomical Society.

When: Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 7:45 AM – 9:00 AM

Where: Appaloosa 1
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
1501 Gaylord Trail
Grapevine, TX 76051

Save our Skies : Loines Observatory

UPDATE 12/9/16 at 2:38 PM

Thank you everyone for your continued support to protect our skies. We have been in contact with the Town Administration who has released the following positive note:

Town Administration would like to assure the community, Maria Mitchell Association, and lovers of open skies around the world that the Town of Nantucket is working to resolve the situation at Loines Observatory so that we maintain the unobstructed views for visitors and researchers that existed prior to the installation of the new poles. At the December 7th Board of Selectmen meeting, the Board decided to move ahead with the bike path project as it was already under construction.  The Board also agreed to work with the utility companies to find a solution. The lines of communication between the town and the Maria Mitchell Association are open. We are actively working to determine cost and quick time frames to either reduce the height of the poles or place the wires underground.

Elizabeth Gibson
Town Manager
Town of Nantucket
(508) 228-7255

CALL TO ACTION 12/8/16 at 5:00 PM

Sign petition here 

Dear Members and Friends of the Maria Mitchell Association:

I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of an issue that is directly impacting the Maria Mitchell Association and our landmark Observatories.  The Town of Nantucket is currently installing a bike path on Milk Street, which of course, we support.  However, in order to install the bike path, the Town decided to move the utility poles to the north side of the street, directly adjacent to the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatory.  In addition to moving the pole location closer to the Observatory, we also just learned that the newly installed poles are much taller than the existing poles.  The combination of closer and taller poles and wires means that the view of the night sky from Loines Observatory will be significantly impacted, both for our visitors and research astronomers alike.  Particularly disturbing is the fact that this will affect our views of the southern sky, which contains the ecliptic – the apparent path of the Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky – as well as the direction towards the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy.  Not only will the new poles and wires obstruct our visitors’ views of the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars, but also, it will essentially end our capability to perform research in that part of the sky.

Once we became aware of this critical issue, the MMA immediately sent a letter to the Board of Selectman, Town Planner, and the Nantucket Historical Commission.  We presented testimony last night at the Board of Selectman meeting and implored them to rectify this problem with a solution that would not impact our viewing and research.  Although the Board expressed concern and said they would ask various experts for alternatives, they also suggested that perhaps MMA could pay to have the lines moved underground.  Obviously, this is wholly unacceptable.  I have heard estimates of $100,000 to $1,000,000.  Our resources must be dedicated to providing science education and research opportunities to the children and adults on Nantucket, as well as our curious visitors. Paying to install utilities because of bad information and a lack of consideration for one of Nantucket’s cultural, scientific, and historic landmarks is not acceptable.

Obviously MMA will do everything we can to have the poles and wires moved to ensure an unimpeded view of the night sky and to secure the legacy of Maria Mitchell and the great scientists who followed in her footsteps.  Future generations of astronomers should not have to modify their research interests because of wires thoughtlessly installed in 2016.  Future generations of visitors to our immensely popular Open Nights at the Observatory should not be told that their view of Saturn or Mars is obstructed because of wires installed by the Town without consideration of the legacy of our scientific and educational institution.

Although the MMA will work diligently to save our clear view of the sky, we need our members and supporter’s help.   As you are likely aware, Maria believed in and fought for women’s access to the practice of science in a time when it was generally denied.  Let us not now stand by and watch as a precious resource – our access to the night sky – is taken away by careless planning.  Please e-mail and/or call  the Nantucket selectmen and ask them to find a solution that makes our sky whole again and allows a clear view of the planets and stars for generations to come.  Tell them about your experiences at the Observatory.  Time is of the essence!

 

Board of Selectman contact information:

Matt Fee: mfee@nantucket-ma.gov

Bob DeCosta: bdecosta@nantucket-ma.gov

Rick Atherton: ratherton@nantucket-ma.gov

Dawn E. Hill Holdgate: dhillholdgate@nantucket-ma.gov

Jim Kelly: jkelly@nantucket-ma.gov

Deborah Timmermann (Nantucket Historical Commission): islandhousenantucket@comcast.net

Libby Gibson (Town Manger): lgibson@nantucket-ma.gov

Town Office number: 508-228-7255

Of course, your own words are usually best but feel free to use this text if you would like:

“As a long term supporter of science research and education on Nantucket and the Maria Mitchell Association’s Loines Observatories, I urge you to look for a solution that will eliminate the significant impact that the new poles and wires will have on astronomical research and viewing of the night sky from the Loines  Observatory.”

Inquirer and Mirror Article 

December 8, 2016        

 

 

Endangered Beetle Having Trouble Surviving on Nantucket

NEWS November 28, 2016

Contact: Lauren Berlin

508-228-9198 or lberlin@mariamitchell.orgABB measuring 6-14-16

Endangered Beetle Having Trouble Surviving on Nantucket

Nantucket, MA

The American burying beetle, the largest and most visually striking of America’s carrion beetles, was reintroduced to Nantucket Island in 1994 as a part of an effort to save this federally endangered species.  About the size of a wine cork with a black body and bright orange markings, the American burying beetle disappeared from most of the eastern United States in the last 100 years.  A recent paper published in the Journal of Insect Conservation (http://rdcu.be/mLij) by scientists at the Maria Mitchell Association and the Roger Williams Park Zoo suggest the Nantucket population cannot survive without continued human assistance.

“This species has to find and bury a dead bird or rodent about the size of a rat to successfully reproduce and few places in the U.S. have enough animals like that anymore,” says Andrew Mckenna-Foster, lead author of the paper and the former Director of Natural Science at the Maria Mitchell Association.  “These beetles are extremely efficient recyclers of dead animals.  The American burying beetles evolved to specialize on certain sized carrion, possibly the now-extinct passenger pigeon, and we think a loss of bird species and an increase in competition from animals like opossum have made life very difficult for them,” continues Mckenna-Foster.

The published paper outlines successful reintroduction methods for Nantucket and provides a recipe to re-establish the population.  The researchers provided carrion in the form of quail carcasses to the beetles and saw the population rise to a peak of 212 beetles in 2011.  After reducing the number of quail provided, they watched the population drop to only 24 beetles in 2016.  Changes to field methods and careful record keeping allowed them to make conclusions on why the population decreased.  This comprehensive knowledge about the Nantucket population opens up new avenues of research.  Ultimately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the Nantucket population and deliberations are underway to determine next steps. “The MMA is proud to be intimately involved with this important reintroduction of an endangered invertebrate. It is important to note that this is the longest running introductory effort of an endangered invertebrate in the US” states David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.

This work is important because it supports the hypothesis that a reduction in carrion is primarily responsible for the decline and this is probably true across the U.S.  Since the late 1800s, humans have drastically changed ecosystems around the world and one result has been a simple reduction of the number of animals out there.  “It’s easy to notice when a big species like the Carolina Parakeet goes extinct due to hunting.  But it’s also easy to overlook what happens to all the species that depended on that bird.  We’re starting to understand how species extinctions have sent reverberations through the ecosystem as a whole” says Mckenna-Foster.

Research on the American burying beetles on Nantucket will continue in 2017.  More information on this species and many other rare or common birds, plants, fish, and insects can be found at the Maria Mitchell Natural Science Museum or contact the association if you would like a digital copy of the publication.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell.  She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847.  She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell.  More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

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The Maria Mitchell Association Exceeds Matching Grant from the Triad Foundation

NEWS October 24, 2016
Contact: Lauren Berlin
508-228-9198 or lberlin@mariamitchell.org

The Maria Mitchell Association Exceeds Matching Grant from the Triad Foundation

Funds to be used to expand marine research in Nantucket waters

Nantucket, MA – This past August, the Maria Mitchell Association (MMA), Nantucket’s Science Center, received a $15,000 matching grant to fund marine research for on-island and visiting scientists from the Triad Foundation.  Nearly one month ahead of the Triad Foundation’s November 18 deadline, the MMA exceeded the match.  A total for sixty individuals made donations totaling nearly $18,000 as of October 15, nearly $3,000 above the goal.  This means the MMA has received $30,000 towards its important research concerning Nantucket’s waters.

“Our members and supporters are passionate about Nantucket and its surrounding waters. That’s why they rose to the challenge and took the opportunity to double their donation for a cause that resonates with their interest.  Best of all, the combination of the grant and donations will provide much needed funds to maintain our Aquarium and marine research programs in Nantucket waters,” says David Gagnon, Executive Director of the Maria Mitchell Association.

The grant will also help fund the cost of maintaining the MMA’s 15-foot Boston Whaler.  The boat is used for a variety of research projects including mooring effects on eelgrass, harbor phytoplankton biodiversity, and barrier dune snake surveys.

In addition to meeting local research needs, the boat and MMA Aquarium is available to visiting scientists to further their research. The MMA works with a variety of scientists and organizations including the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution which this summer conducted local research on non-native tunicates and rare jellyfish.

The Maria Mitchell Association is named after America’s first female astronomer, Maria Mitchell.  She is known for discovering a comet over Nantucket in October 1847.  She went on to become the first professor at Vassar College. The Maria Mitchell Association was founded in 1902 to preserve her legacy of scientific achievement and to carry on her passion for hands-on learning. Today, the Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories (Loines and the Maria Mitchell Observatory), as well as the MMA Aquarium, the Natural Science Museum, and the birthplace of Maria Mitchell.  More information about the Maria Mitchell Association can be found at www.mariamitchell.org.

 

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