Introducing the Visual Astronomy Display

I’m excited to share a new project I’ve been working on at the Wolbach Library recently: The Visual Astronomy Display.

Basically, it is a large screen monitor showing a curated list of YouTube videos about astronomy.  The playlist, usually running about an hour and a half to two hours, is refreshed on a monthly basis and stocked with videos of astronomical interest, each no more than 5 to 6 minutes in length, with a preference for videos that include Closed Captioning or have little to no dialogue (the videos are playing in a library, after all).

Ok, that makes the whole endeavor sound a bit dry, but, I assure you, the videos are not!!

As the curator for our YouTube playlists, I’ve had a lot of fun searching through videos to find new and interesting content to share with visitors to the library.  Oh, you can’t stop by the library?  That’s ok; you can find our YouTube playlists online and we’ve just added a page to the Wolbach Library website where you can see what’s playing this month on the Visual Astronomy Display (you can also scroll down to see the January playlist!).

I’ve found videos that answer common astronomy questions, such as “how do stars form?” or “where, exactly, did the Big Bang happen?”  There are also videos about NASA’s upcoming missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.  Backyard astronomers might be interested in the two or three “what’s in the night sky this month?” videos I like to gather for each list.  And, of course, I also include videos of current astronomical interest (Comet ISON was all the rage in December).

The goal for these playlists is two fold; 1) to have a little bit of everything, something to engage and interest any viewer, and 2) to encourage serendipitous discovery.  Something fleetingly seen in one of these quick videos might spark an idea, or take a current research project into directions you may not have otherwise considered.

So, turn up the volume (even the videos without dialogue usually have great music!), grab some popcorn, and enjoy learning about what has been happening in space!

Visual Astronomy Display for January 2014

Highlights from the January playlist include…

  • A video in which scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center analyze 32 years of data from satellites, such as Aqua and Landsat 8, to discover the coldest place on Earth;
  • Images of the red and green colors in the Northern Lights over Sweden on Christmas Day 2013;
  • An update from JPL about Curiosity’s work determining the age of a Martian rock and taking the first readings of radiation on the surface of the red planet;
  • A gorgeous collage of solar images from the Solar Dynamic Observatory which clearly illustrate how observing the sun in different wavelengths will highlight different features, such as sun spots and solar flares; and
  • An explanation on what happened to the comet as ISON approached the Sun and then subsequently fizzled out on the other side.

Playlist Archive

Suggestions, Comments, or Questions

About Katie Frey

Katie Frey leads the development of the Unified Astronomy Thesaurus, a community supported linked data vocabulary for sorting, filtering, and exploring astronomical literature, data sets, images, etc.

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