Halifax, Canada
Halifax, Canada

In astronomy, the Pleiades , or Seven Sisters , is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The celestial entity has several meanings in different cultures and traditions.The cluster is dominated by hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms a faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster , but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium, through which the stars are currently passing. Computer simulations have shown that the Pleiades was probably formed from a compact configuration that resembled the Orion Nebula. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood. Wikipedia.

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News Article | April 26, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

In 2015 a US survey found that LGBTIQ scientists felt more accepted in their workplaces than their peers in other professions did. The Queer in Stem survey, published in the Journal of Homosexuality, surveyed 1,400 LGBTIQ workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They found respondents in scientific fields that had a high proportion of women were more likely to be out to their colleagues than those who worked in male-intensive disciplines. This is heartening news as it’s not necessarily that way in most Australian workplaces. Last year the Australian Workplace Equality Index found that nearly half of LGBTIQ Australians hide their sexual identity at work. The report also found many LGBTIQ people have experienced verbal or physical homophobic abuse in the workplace. Discrimination still takes place in Stem workplaces around the world. The 2016 survey LGBTIQ Climate in Physics, published by the American Physical Society, found that more than one in five physicists from sexual and gender minorities in the Unites States reported having been excluded, intimidated or harassed at work because of their sexual identity. Transgender physicists and physics students faced the most hostile environments, while women experienced harassment, intimidation and exclusion at three times the rate of men. Despite apparently progressive attitudes, being gay in Stem fields can be difficult. For me, it was a bit of a miracle I made it as an astrophysicist at all. When I went to enrol in high school in the UK, I was told I would be forced to wear a skirt. My reaction was akin to that of an 11-year-old boy. Dressing up in a skirt wasn’t an option for me, so I didn’t attend another day of school after the age of 11. My parents were accommodating and I taught myself at home, but not everyone is fortunate to have that amount of flexibility and autonomy in their education. I came out as gay aged 17. It was 1997 – the start of more enlightened times in the UK. Despite this, my girlfriend’s mother wanted us to keep our relationship a secret in case she got sacked from her job as a college lecturer. I was working at the time as a part-time nanny, but my employer (who was a lovely person) asked me to keep my relationship a secret in case she lost custody of her children. At university, I volunteered my time as the student union’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender officer, providing frontline support to students. It was an uplifting experience to listen and provide a social support network to fellow students coming out. Through this work I made many lifelong friends but I also copped plenty of abuse. One day I came into the office and discovered a chilling personal death threat on my voicemail. I have been intimidated and belittled many times owing to my sexuality and gender but, frankly, insults from individuals are the easiest type of flak to take. It’s the campaigns by well-funded groups to curb human rights that scar deeply. Campaigns to fight an unequal age of consent, a ban from the armed forces, a ban on blood donation, a ban on adoption and, more recently, a ban on same-sex marriage in the UK were successful, but not without a measure of blood, sweat and tears. And there’s more work to be done in Australia. So, what does this have to do with workplaces? Given that so many LGBTIQ people are likely to face barriers to inclusion in their jobs, this affects their mental health (LGBTIQ people are three times more likely to experience depression compared with the broader population) and it also has a detrimental effect on engagement, which is closely linked with productivity. Having witnessed this problem in several Stem working environments around the world, I wanted to help tackle it. In 2014 I led a team of Astronomical Society of Australia members to launch the Pleiades awards – a framework for astronomy organisations to engage in self-reflection and improvement of their workplace culture and practices. The project has led to many positive actions improving our professional community, for instance every workplace in Australia for astronomers now has a diversity and inclusion committee. And these have introduced initiatives including mentoring programs for students, guidelines for the prevention and reporting of harassment at conferences and scholarships to enable researchers who have returned from parental leave to host a conference and “get back into the game”. This has emboldened astronomers to open up at the Astronomical Society of Australia’s annual conferences on inclusion and diversity to discuss hard issues including race, cultural and linguistic background, ability, health, sexual and gender expression and how these play out in our professional community. Whereas 10 years ago I was speaking at meetings about women in Stem, I’m now as likely to be talking about intersectional issues faced by LGBTIQ scientists and, happily, I am also more likely to share the stage with people from different cultural backgrounds speaking their truths. Astronomy is slowly improving its listening skills. At my workplace, the CSIRO, we are working hard to improve the way things are done. In the astronomy and space science business unit, we’re undergoing a deep period of self-scrutiny and improvement called the Culture Project. In parallel, our diversity and inclusion group is working alongside the human resources team on positive changes in the areas of hiring, training, flexible working arrangements and facilities to improve the workplace for all. There are improvements across the organisation, too. Staff run an active LGBTIQ network and are setting up an LGBTIQ Ally network, to equip people with the skills and knowledge required to effectively support LGBTIQ employees. We are taking part in a pilot of the national Science and Gender Equity program, which employs an evidence-based approach to identify areas for improvement in equity and inclusion. The organisational will is there but complacency has absolutely no place in the process. We must push on. In our global economy and with our truly global workforce within Stem, we must work together to make things better. Playing a positive and active role in these activities shows our fellow humans that we take time to listen to their experiences, and respect and acknowledge the different path they have taken in life from us. In our fractured world it’s time we listened more and judged less. Take the time to stand together and support each other. It’s basic human kinship. And I’m happy to do my part.


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: phys.org

Gaia is a space observatory parked at the L2 Lagrange Point, a stable place in space a million miles behind Earth as viewed from the sun. Its mission is astrometry: measuring the precise positions, distances and motion of 1 billion astronomical objects (primarily stars) to create a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy. Gaia's radial velocity measurements—the motion of stars toward or away from us— will provide astronomers with a stereoscopic and moving-parts picture of about 1% of the galaxy's stars. Think about how slowly stars move from the human perspective. Generations of people have lived and died since the days of ancient Greece and yet the constellations outlines and naked eye stars appear nearly identical today as they did then. Only a few stars—Arcturus, Sirius, Aldebaran—have moved enough for a sharp-eyed observer of yore to perceive their motion. We know that stars are constantly on the move around the galactic center. The sun and stars in its vicinity orbit the core at some half-million miles an hour, but nearly all are so far away that their apparent motion has barely moved the needle over the time span of civilization as we know it. This video shows more than 2 million stars from the TGAS sample, with the addition of 24,320 bright stars from the Hipparcos Catalogue that weren't included in Gaia's first data release back in September 2016. The video starts from the positions of stars as measured by Gaia between 2014 and 2015, and shows how these positions are expected to evolve in the future, based on the stars' proper motions or direction of travel across space. The frames in the video are separated by 750 years, and the overall sequence covers 5 million years. The dark stripes visible in the early frames reflect the way Gaia scans the sky (in strips) and the early, less complete database. The artifacts are gradually washed out as stars move across the sky. Using the map above to get oriented, it's fun to watch Orion change across the millennia. Betelgeuse departs the constellation heading north fairly quickly, but Orion's Belt hangs in there for nearly 2 million years even if it soon develops sag! The Pleiades drift together to the left and off frame and then reappear at right. Stars seem to move with a wide range of velocities in the video, with stars in the galactic plane moving quite slow and faster ones speeding across the view. This is a perspective effect: most of the stars we see in the plane are much farther from us, and thus seem to be moving slower than the nearby stars, which are visible across the entire sky. Some of the stars that appear to zip in and out of view quickly are passing close to the sun. But motion of those that trace arcs from one side of the sky to the other while passing close to the galactic poles (top and bottom of the frame) as they speed up and slow down, is spurious. These stars move with a constant velocity through space. Stars located in the Milky Way's halo, a roughly spherical structure centered on the galaxy's spiral disk, also appear to move quite fast because they slice through the galactic plane with respect to the sun. In reality, halo stars move very slowly with respect to the center of the galaxy. Early in the the visualization, we see clouds of interstellar gas and dust that occupy vast spaces within the galaxy and block the view of more distant suns. That these dark clouds seem to disappear over time is also a spurious effect. After a few million years, the plane of the Milky Way appears to have shifted towards the right as a consequence of the motion of the sun with respect to that of nearby stars in the Milky Way. Regions that are depleted of stars in the video will not appear that way to future stargazers but will instead be replenished by stars not currently sampled by Gaia. So yes, there are a few things to keep in mind while watching these positional data converted into stellar motions, but the overall picture is an accurate one. I find the video as mesmerizing as watching fireflies on a June night. The stars seem alive. Enjoy your ride in the time machine! Explore further: New, highly accurate positions and motions available for millions of stars


The researchers say the wave formed billions of years ago, after a small galaxy cluster grazed Perseus and caused its vast supply of gas to slosh around an enormous volume of space. "Perseus is one of the most massive nearby clusters and the brightest one in X-rays, so Chandra data provide us with unparalleled detail," said lead scientist Stephen Walker at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The wave we've identified is associated with the flyby of a smaller cluster, which shows that the merger activity that produced these giant structures is still ongoing." A paper describing the findings appears in the June 2017 issue of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures bound by gravity in the universe today. Some 11 million light-years across and located about 240 million light-years away, the Perseus galaxy cluster is named for its host constellation. Like all galaxy clusters, most of its observable matter takes the form of a pervasive gas averaging tens of millions of degrees, so hot it only glows in X-rays. Chandra observations have revealed a variety of structures in this gas, from vast bubbles blown by the supermassive black hole in the cluster's central galaxy, NGC 1275, to an enigmatic concave feature known as the "bay." The bay's concave shape couldn't have formed through bubbles launched by the black hole. Radio observations using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in central New Mexico show that the bay structure produces no emission, the opposite of what scientists would expect for features associated with black hole activity. In addition, standard models of sloshing gas typically produced structures that arc in the wrong direction. Walker and his colleagues turned to existing Chandra observations of the Perseus cluster to further investigate the bay. They combined a total of 10.4 days of high-resolution data with 5.8 days of wide-field observations at energies between 700 and 7,000 electron volts. For comparison, visible light has energies between about two and three electron volts. The scientists then filtered the Chandra data to highlight the edges of structures and reveal subtle details. Next, they compared the edge-enhanced Perseus image to computer simulations of merging galaxy clusters developed by John ZuHone, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The simulations were run on the Pleiades supercomputer operated by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. Although he was not involved in this study, ZuHone collected his simulations into an online catalog to aid astronomers studying galaxy clusters. "Galaxy cluster mergers represent the latest stage of structure formation in the cosmos," ZuHone said. "Hydrodynamic simulations of merging clusters allow us to produce features in the hot gas and tune physical parameters, such as the magnetic field. Then we can attempt to match the detailed characteristics of the structures we observe in X-rays." One simulation seemed to explain the formation of the bay. In it, gas in a large cluster similar to Perseus has settled into two components, a "cold" central region with temperatures around 54 million degrees Fahrenheit (30 million Celsius) and a surrounding zone where the gas is three times hotter. Then a small galaxy cluster containing about a thousand times the mass of the Milky Way skirts the larger cluster, missing its center by around 650,000 light-years. The flyby creates a gravitational disturbance that churns up the gas like cream stirred into coffee, creating an expanding spiral of cold gas. After about 2.5 billion years, when the gas has risen nearly 500,000 light-years from the center, vast waves form and roll at its periphery for hundreds of millions of years before dissipating. These waves are giant versions of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, which show up wherever there's a velocity difference across the interface of two fluids, such as wind blowing over water. They can be found in the ocean, in cloud formations on Earth and other planets, in plasma near Earth, and even on the sun. "We think the bay feature we see in Perseus is part of a Kelvin-Helmholtz wave, perhaps the largest one yet identified, that formed in much the same way as the simulation shows," Walker said. "We have also identified similar features in two other galaxy clusters, Centaurus and Abell 1795." The researchers also found that the size of the waves corresponds to the strength of the cluster's magnetic field. If it's too weak, the waves reach much larger sizes than those observed. If too strong, they don't form at all. This study allowed astronomers to probe the average magnetic field throughout the entire volume of these clusters, a measurement that is impossible to make by any other means. Explore further: The arrhythmic beating of a black hole heart More information: S. A. Walker et al. Is there a giant Kelvin–Helmholtz instability in the sloshing cold front of the Perseus cluster?, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2017). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stx640


Systems and methods for collecting information about a students educational and social activities from a plurality of networked sources, storing the information, and providing access to the information are provided. A collection component receives information associated with a student, including at least educational activity information. A portfolio component then associates the information in a portfolio for the student, which is stored in a data store, and an access component provide access to the portfolio. In an aspect, the collection component receives the information from an external source, such as an interactive electronic application, over a network in response to receipt of the information by the external source.


Patent
Pleiades | Date: 2014-09-17

Current approaches to paperless books use single screen laptop computers or electronic paper display (EPD)-based book readers. Laptop computers consume too much power and cannot be used for extended periods of time, such as an entire school day, without recharging its battery. EPD devices are limited in functionality due to their slow refresh rate and grey-scale only images. An embodiment of the present invention integrates bi-stable display technology and refresh display technology into a single device and manages the use of these technologies to achieve power savings while providing a rich set of display functionalities to support user interaction with content in a synergistic manner. The power savings functionality enables the device to have a battery operating life between charges of many hours of operation, such as eight hours or more, while the display functionality enables users to access, display, and interact with content in ways users have become accustomed and in ways not before possible.


Patent
Pleiades | Date: 2012-01-13

Systems and methods for collecting information about a students educational and social activities from a plurality of networked sources, storing the information, and providing access to the information are provided. A collection component receives information associated with a student, including at least educational activity information. A portfolio component then associates the information in a portfolio for the student, which is stored in a data store, and an access component provide access to the portfolio. An educational activity component provides educational activities to the student and a social activity component provides a public interface and social activities for students.


Patent
Pleiades | Date: 2012-01-09

Apparatus, system and methods provide a first screen that displays interactive content and a second screen that displays media content corresponding to portions of the text. The interactive content includes text and contextual references that operate as links to the media content displayed on the second screen. The contextual references provide video, graphical illustration, voice, text and/or interactive media in order to further enhance and complement the portions of the interactive content in the first display. Various resources enable creation of the media content and/or the interactive content in order to further provide historical descriptions, pictures, videos, contemporaneous writings and so on that complement the text of the book by providing further content. Resource inputs from various device components are compiled and used to playback an interactive experience for a user.


Patent
Pleiades | Date: 2012-01-10

The interactive electronic book can be displayed on a dual-screen electronic device, with a first screen that displays the text of the book, and a second screen that displays the contextual references. Links to the contextual references can be displayed on the first screen alongside the text or embedded in the text. The contextual references can be historical descriptions, pictures, videos, contemporaneous writings and so on that help to put the text of the book in context. The contextual references can relate to the portion of the text that is displayed on the first screen. Different modes allow for the displayed text to be shown in marked mode, or unmarked mode. The interactive electronic book can also include testing software which tests the reader on their understanding of the text. The interactive electronic book can also be updated with new texts and contextual references.


Systems, methods, and apparatus are described herein that facilitate education through an interactive illustration. The systems, methods and apparatuses can facilitate both the design of a course employing the interactive illustration at an instructor interface and education utilizing the course at an educational terminal. The design of the course can be based on a selection of an image, a selection of an activity, a selection of a development level of a student and selection of a work stage. The same image can be utilized for different activities, development levels and work stages. Additionally, tools utilized with the interactive image can be the same for different images, activities, development levels and work stages. The tools can also be the same for the design of the course and the study utilizing the course.


Patent
Pleiades | Date: 2011-01-21

Systems, methods, and apparatus that couple portable educational terminal(s) with an instructor interface by way of an interactive, real-time educational system are presented herein. An educational component can be configured to authorize, via a network computing environment, a first communication between the educational component and an educational terminal; authorize, via the network computing environment, a second communication between the educational component and an instructor interface; and transfer, via the network computing environment, educational path information between the educational terminal and the educational component in response to the second communication. The educational path information can include digitized textbook information and/or relate to a lesson plan associated with the educational terminal. Further, the educational component can be configured to authorize the first communication in response to at least one of an alphanumeric registration, a voice activated registration, a biometric registration, or first information associated with the educational terminal.

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