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Bulletin of the Eastbay Astronomical Society
Founded in 1924 at Chabot Observatory, Oakland, California
Volume 77, Number 8, April 2001


[Front Page] [Cygnus the Swan] [Saturn] [Current Events Pictorial] [Editor's News / Pictorial / Chabot News] [Schedule]

Bad Astronomy
Speaker: Philip Plait, Ph.D
"The Bad Astronomer"

Saturday, September 1, 2001
Physics Lab, 2nd Floor, Spees Building
Chabot Space and Science Center
10000 Skyline Blvd.
Oakland, CA
· General Meeting - 7:30 pm
· Lecture - 8:00 pm

Who is this guy who calls himself "The Bad Astronomer?" Is he really bad? Is he really an astronomer?
First, yes, I am a real live astronomer (when people ask me what astronomers do, I tell them "They astronom!"). My name is Philip Plait and I work at the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University, a member of the California State University system. The campus is about 60 kilometers north of San Francisco. I am currently working on a NASA-sponsored public outreach program for a satellite named GLAST (Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope). I just started this job in December of 2000 and I am very excited to be a part of such a great program to educate people about high-energy astronomy. Let me state here that I am not a NASA employee, and anything I say, pretty much ever, is not the official word from NASA! I always speak for no one but myself.


Predecessor to Chabot's Mark IX Universarium? No! It's the navigator's station aboard the United Planet Cruiser C-57D in the classic 1956 sci-fi movie, Forbidden Planet, with more bad astronomy than you can shake a stick at. Still, it was a great film.

I received my PhD in astronomy at the University of Virginia in 1994. While there, I helped teach introductory astronomy classes and for three years (six semesters) I ran a nighttime lab where students used binoculars and telescopes to observe the sky. I wrote several of the exercises for that lab, which helped me learn how to communicate difficult astronomical techniques to people unfamiliar with the jargon. UVa also has an observatory located a few kilometers away from campus, and twice a year would hold Public Nights so people could come and look through the telescopes. I usually volunteered to stay outside the dome and answer questions people had about astronomy. The bug to teach basic astronomy to the public got a hold of me during those nights.
Before that, I was (and still am) an avid amateur. I had a 10" reflecting telescope for over 20 years (I bought it when I was 13 years old), and now here at Sonoma State I have access to a 14" and another 10", so I am still very much active in hands-on astronomy.


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