9 Things You Should Know About the Universe

Jay Pasachoff, chair of Williams College's astronomy department, director of the Hopkins Observatory and the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy.

Williams astronomer Jay Pasachoff. Photo by Mark McCarty

The transit of Venus, astronomy’s most rare predictable event, will take place next summer, on June 5, 2012. With the transit and several other astronomical events right around the corner, the Williams Alumni Review asked astronomy department chair Jay Pasachoff what we ought to know about the universe.

1. Hubble changed everything.

2. What looks like empty sky isn’t.

3. Don’t rule out life on other planets.

4. The universe just keeps getting bigger faster.

5. The next frontier is infrared and very, very cold.

6. Pluto’s getting hotter.

7. Astronomy’s rarest predictable phenomenon is just around the corner.

8. Mercury will cross the sun in 2016.

9. This fall and winter are also prime times to see astronomical events.

Photo of the transit of Venus.

During the last transit of Venus, in 2004, astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff measured that the phenomenon blocks the sun's light by a 10th of a percent. Photo courtesy of the Williams College Transit of Venus Expedition.

Read an in-depth discussion with Pasachoff in the June 2011 Williams Alumni Review. (For the text-only version, click here.)

You can download his “Astronomy 101: The Cosmos” podcasts on iTunes and see his other publications on his website.

New: Watch a video of Pasachoff discussing the transit of Venus on Phi Beta Kappa’s website.

Jay Pasachoff is chair of Williams’ astronomy department, director of the Hopkins Observatory and the Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy.