Physics & Astronomy Departmental News

Holcomb Observatory Hosts Thousands of Visitors for Total Solar Eclipse

Thousands of visitors descended upon the green space surrounding Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium to view Indianapolis’s first total solar eclipse in 819 years. The weather was perfect and viewing conditions were wonderful. Our students and staff provided expertise not only for the visitors but also for local, national ,and international media outlets.

Professor Han’s Image of the Totally Eclipsed Sun goes Viral

Professor Xianming Han’s photo of the April 8th total solar eclipse was seen far and wide. It got over 1.4 million views on Facebook! This magnificent close-up of the naked-eye prominence, displayed on the lower limb of the Sun during totality. These striking features don a captivating pinkish hue, courtesy of gaseous hydrogen achieving the perfect density and temperature to fluoresce. And hold onto your seats because this prominence measures a whopping 3 times the diameter of our Earth!

Four Students Present Research Findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting In New Orleans

Four of our physics and astronomy students presented their research findings at the Winter Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in new Orleans, LA. The students and the presentations were:

Caroline Erickson is Awarded the Seitz Award in Spring 2024.

Caroline and Seitz Award

Congratulations to Caroline Erickson, Junior, Astronomy and Astrophysics/Mechanical Engineering 2nd Maj/Spanish Minor, as she was recently awarded The Seitz Award. She will spend her summer at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom. Caroline plans to research the accretion process of systems such as black holes and neutron stars. She will use data from space-based NASA telescopes such as the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), which detects X-rays from accreting systems, and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), which observes high energy light from black holes and neutron stars. 

Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium Gearing Up for Total Solar Eclipse

A picture of people watching a solar eclipse in front of Holcomb Observatory

Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium is bustling with excitement as students and staff gear up for the spectacular total solar eclipse on April 8th, 2024. This celestial event marks a historic milestone, as it will be the first total solar eclipse witnessed in Indianapolis in over 800 years. The observatory is fully engaged in eclipse-related activities and will be hosting a free-to-attend Eclipse Viewing Festival on the momentous day.

During the Eclipse Viewing Festival, a dozen telescopes equipped with solar filters will be strategically placed across the lush green areas surrounding the Holcomb Observatory, ensuring an unforgettable viewing experience for all attendees.

Aarran Shaw, PhD joins the Physics & Astronomy faculty in Fall 2023.

A picture of professor Aarran Shaw.

Dr. Aarran Shaw has recently joined the Physics & Astronomy faculty.  Dr. Shaw is a multi-wavelength astrophysicist whose research focuses on studies of accreting black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs. He uses data from a variety of telescopes that cover different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, including the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s NuSTAR X-ray telescope, the twin Gemini 8-meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and the telescopes of the SARA consortium, which Butler is a member. Dr. Shaw will have multiple projects available that will involve working with data from these observatories for students who are interested in performing research. You can find his impressive list of publications here.

Invitations to attend national conferences.

Two of our majors attended the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) annual conference 2022 that was held in Charlottesville, VA. They will also be attending the annual conference 2023 being held in Knoxville, TN. Also, four of our Astronomy-Astrophysics majors will be presenting their research at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) annual meeting being held in New Orleans, LA in January 2024.

Physics & Astronomy majors are active in research and internships this summer.

Our majors were very active, taking part in summer research and internships. One major qualified for the Seitz Award for research in Japan as well as participated in a NASA internship. Some majors participated in National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF – REU) at Harvard University and University of Rochester, one major attended Butler Summer Institute, another major was involved in an independent study research with one of our Physics professors. Others participated in internships. Details are included in the Research & Internship Opportunities site in this website.

Class of 2027 new students arrive on campus.

We welcomed 21 new students to the Physics & Astronomy program in August 2023. They are part of the Peer Mentoring program where 1st year students are matched up with current majors who will provide student mentoring and support for them while having new experiences on campus.

Congratulations to the Class of 2023

Picture of the Butler University 2023 commencement ceremony at Hinkle Fieldhouse

We are delighted to share that in the past academic year, a total of ten majors successfully graduated from our program. One major completed their degree in December 2022, and nine more majors earned their diplomas in May 2023. These accomplished individuals have since embarked on various paths, either pursuing advanced studies in graduate schools or beginning their careers.

Additionally, at the Spring 2023 Butler University commencement ceremony held at Hinkle Fieldhouse, we had the privilege of having Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Brian Murphy, as the invited commencement speaker.