The Visible and Invisible Night Sky: What Can All of the Colors Tell Us?

December 2018

Briefing date: December 6, 2018 (3:30pm EST)


Dr. Emma Marcucci (Space Telescope Science Institute)


  • Dr. Ranga-Ram Chary (IPAC/Caltech)

  • Dr. Luisa Rebull (IPAC/Caltech)

  • Dr. Laura Brenneman (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian)

  • Dr. Regina Caputo (NASA/GSFC)

 Slide presentation:

Transcript and audio recording:

  • Transcript (HTML file not yet available)

  • Audio recording (MP3 file not yet available)

Additional resources:

  • NASA Wavelength resources* (PDF file) 568 KB
    *Due to changes in the NASA Wavelength resource database, please use the attached resource PDF in lieu of URLs listed in slides. Original activity URLs should operate as normal.


Have you ever imagined what the sky would look like with X-ray eyes? Infrared eyes? Gamma ray eyes? Human eyes, which see visible light, are only able to perceive a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this briefing, a panel of speakers will describe what the sky would look like if you could see these other ‘colors,’ or wavelengths. We will host this Science Briefing in a webinar format so you’ll be able to see our panelists and watch as they make their presentations (you will still have the ability to download the presentation ahead of time and follow along using only a phone, however).

In this presentation, speakers will highlight unique features of 4 wavelengths.

The X-ray sky features some of the hottest, most energetic phenomena in the Universe, including shock-heated gas radiating with temperatures of over a million degrees Kelvin and bright disks of material spiraling around supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. Dr. Brenneman will discuss how these giant black holes play a vital role in the evolution of their host galaxies, and how X-ray observations of these systems illuminate this process.


Dr. Emma Marcucci is an Education and Outreach Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. She received her Ph.D. in planetary geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2013. As a Postdoctoral Fellow, she worked with satellite stereo images to derive topographic models of locations that lack good elevation information, such as locations in Alaska and on Mars and Mercury. Dr. Marcucci is now part of the Office of Public Outreach at STScI, sharing the science of Hubble and Webb with the general public and astrophysics content as a member of the Universe of Learning, an Astrophysics-based STEM learning and literacy program funded through NASA SMD.

Dr. Dr. Ranga-Ram Chary is a Senior Research Scientist at the California Institute of Technology. He got his PhD in 1999 from the University of California, Los Angeles. He enjoys working on a range of scientific topics, from the origin of our Universe, the existence of alternate Universes, distant galaxies, supermassive black holes and things in the night sky which go “Bang!”. He currently leads the effort to maximize science with the combined capabilities of the next generation observational facilities – Euclid, LSST and WFIRST. Prior to that, he led the U.S. Data Center for the European Space Agency’s Planck mission.

Dr. Luisa Rebull is a research astronomer at the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive (IRSA) at Caltech. She has always wanted to be an astronomer, ever since she was very little. She got her undergraduate degree in physics from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and her graduate degrees in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago. She did a postdoc at JPL as a NRC fellow in 2001, and has been on the science staff at IPAC since 2002. Her research focuses on the formation of young, low-mass stars all over our Galaxy (stars ~1 to 50 million years old) and in understanding how stellar rotation changes over the first billion years of a star’s life. Both star formation and the evolution of rotation rates tell us more about how and when stars form planets. She used infrared space-based telescopes as well as many other wavelengths and other telescopes (both ground- and space-based).

Dr. Laura Brenneman received her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland in 2007 based on groundbreaking work in making the first measurements of the angular momenta of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in active galactic nuclei (AGN). She has been a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory since April 2014, continuing her research into black hole spin both observationally and theoretically and working toward an understanding of how AGN and their SMBHs co-evolve through the processes of accretion and energetic outflows. Dr. Brenneman has published over 50 refereed papers in scholarly journals, as well as a cover article in Sky & Telescope magazine (May 2011) and a SpringerBrief on measuring SMBH spin in AGN (2013). She has given invited talks at more than 30 international conferences, and in May 2017, she addressed the U.S. House of Representatives Space Science Subcommittee for NASA’s “Space on the Hill” seminar series, discussing black holes. Dr. Brenneman has leadership roles on several present, upcoming and proposed X-ray observatories, including XMM-Newton, NuSTAR, XRISM, Arcus, Athena, STROBE-X and Lynx. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division, and she was named to the NASA Astrophysics Advisory Committee in 2018.

Dr. Regina Caputo received her Ph.D. in physics from Stony Brook University in 2011 in experimental particle physics on the ATLAS experiment. Her research focused on searching for evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model and in particular understanding the particle nature of dark matter. She entered the world of gamma-ray astrophysics in 2014 as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she continued her work on searches for signatures of dark matter. She is currently a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center studying the most extreme events in the universe through gamma rays. She is serving as the Analysis Coordinator for the Large Area Telescope (LAT) Collaboration on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which is currently celebrating its 10th year in orbit. Her research interests not only include understanding of the extreme universe with current gamma-ray telescopes but also developing future space-based gamma-ray missions.