Jean Creighton

Astronomy Contributor

Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five. She studied physics at the University of Athens and went on to earn a Master’s degree from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Waterloo. She began teaching astronomy at UW-Milwaukee in 1999 and in 2007, she took over as director of UWM's Manfred Olson Planetarium.

In 2014, Creighton was selected by NASA to be an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador and spent 20 hours in the stratosphere on SOFIA, the largest moving observatory in the world. She's very proud to have shared the cosmos with over 150,000 members of the community.

Red Huber / Getty Images

This month four astronauts arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) thanks to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It was a milestone for both NASA and SpaceX as the Crew Dragon’s first fully operational mission, and marks its second crewed flight. The U.S. government and private agencies have been working together for about a decade to get more people into space.

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Every year in October, Nobel Prizes are awarded to people throughout the world. This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astrophysicists for their work in advancing black hole discoveries.

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As the weather shifts to fall, there’s also a shift in the sky. While it’s now technically autumn, the fall sky offers us the best of both summer and winter stargazing.

Lake Effect astronomy contributor Jean Creighton shares how to find the best constellations and planets the fall sky has to offer:

1. Summer Triangle

NASA

The primary pieces of the International Space Station (ISS) were delivered over 42 assembly flights more than 20 years ago. Independent elements were constructed around the globe and assembled for the first time in space, starting the groundwork of nearly continuous human presence in space. 

The ISS has grown into an impressive research complex that continues to model not just international cooperation, but research that can help solve problems in space and on Earth.

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Every year the Perseid meteor shower is one of the highlights of summer stargazing. It started about a week ago and will peak Aug. 11-13.

These shooting stars are debris left by the passing Swift-Tuttle comet burning in the Earth’s atmosphere. The Perseids are known for bright, frequent meteor sightings.

JPL-Caltech / NASA

It seems like the world has been fascinated by Mars for decades. Since unmanned missions began in 1960, there have been 56 missions to Mars from countries around the world. While less than half of these missions have been successful, the problems haven’t stopped us.

Photograph by L Calçada / European Southern Observatory

While 1,000 light-years may seem like a vast distance away from Earth, it’s practically in our backyard because of the scale of the universe. And it’s just 1,000 light-years away from Earth where astronomers found the closest black hole to the Earth in the double-star system HR 6819

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While Wisconsin is having a hard time keeping consistent spring weather, one thing we do notice this time of year is more daylight.

But how does the positioning of the sun change course over the year? And how does it affect us? Our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says that now is a great time for us to ask these questions. As we all spend more time in the same place, we can be more purposeful in observing the sun’s patterns.

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Spring has arrived and we’re starting to enjoy more pleasant weather. And as we practice social distancing, people are still encouraged to go outside for exercise, walking pets, and to maintain their sanity.

While the meteorological spring starts earlier in the month with the first signs of warmer weather, the astronomical spring starts when the day is longer than the night, Jean Creighton explains. With the March equinox comes a chance of scenery in the sky — making it a perfect opportunity to go outside by yourself or people you live with and simply look up.

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The process of making new scientific discoveries can be unclear. Sometimes, it seems like these scientists are possessed by divine spirits, translating the unimaginable to the unwashed masses. Astrophysicst Jean Creighton believes that's a misperception that can alienate the scientific process from so-called "non-scientists." 

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It’s no secret that the universe is vast. The distances between us and our closest astronomical neighbors are huge and the numbers only get bigger the farther away those stars and galaxies are from us. So, how do astronomers grapple with it to make the size of the universe understandable to the rest of us?

Jean Creighton, Lake Effect's astronomy contributor, says one way we do it is by using orders of magnitude. Another way is by using time as a measure. That seems odd until you realize we do it all the time:

What Cool Things Happened In Astronomy In 2019

Dec 19, 2019
Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al. / NASA

Any number of scientific discoveries or events make the "best of" lists every year. Well, our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton is no different, and she shares her picks for 2019:

First all-female spacewalk

The first all-female spacewalk took place on Oct. 18. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made the historic excursion.

The initial all-female spacewalk was planned in March, but it was canceled.

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We talk with our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton regularly about the latest discoveries in astrophysics, but we've never really talked about how those discoveries are paid for. So, for November's astro chat, Creighton explains the process of writing a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation:

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When people think of astronomers, several names come to mind: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, or Carl Sagan — all white men. But throughout history, women and other people of color have made huge contributions to our understanding of the cosmos.

Astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says that highlighting that diversity in the field is necessary for both kids and adults. 

"It's so important to break those barriers, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, so that the stereotypes that people put in their heads are set aside," says Creighton.

The Autumnal Equinox Is More Than Just A Day — Here's Why

Sep 26, 2019
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Our astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton, says it’s a special time of year. Earlier this week, we officially slid into fall and experienced the autumnal equinox (or we did if we were up at 2:50 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 23). While our calendars mark the first official day of fall, the autumnal equinox is more than just a day. 

"The definition of an equinox is when the path of the sun, which is called the ecliptic, crosses the equator of the Earth, projected on the sky," Creighton explains. "It's a time and a place in the sky." 

Does The Full Moon Really Affect Us?

Aug 22, 2019
NASA

2019 has been the summer of the moon. Man first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, and over the past few months we've been looking at back at the history of the space race and ahead at what future missions might look like.

READ: 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11 Moon Landing Has Wisconsin Scientists Looking Back, Forward

NASA

Every month, Lake Effect contributor and astronomer Jean Creighton joins us to talk about the universe and our solar system within it. This time, she talks about the resources, effort, and partnerships that made sending Apollo 11 to the moon possible.

LISTEN: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11

Creighton says NASA had to work with 20,000 companies to make the mission possible.

NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center / NASA

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission was the pinnacle of NASA’s decade long efforts to conquer space flight. It occurred just eight years after President John F. Kennedy announced a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

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Every month, astronomer and contributor Jean Creighton joins us to talk about the cosmos. While the cosmos, full of its different stars, planets, and physics concepts can be intimidating, Creighton says we should allow ourselves to wonder at the beauty. Plus, it's actually healthy if you feel like some of the concepts allude you.

What Is A Star's 'Proper Motion?'

Apr 25, 2019
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Whether it's an accelerating car, a person biking or a thrown object, most motion is visible to the human eye. However, even at rest we all are in motion - at least on a cosmic scale.

Lake Effect's Bonnie North and astronomy contributor Jean Creighton started a conversation last month about celestial motion, and Creighton picks up the story by explaining another kind of motion - proper motion:

NASA Goddard

Contributor Jean Creighton, who is the Director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium on the UW-Milwaukee campus, joins us each month to talk about all things astronomical. Today we learn about celestial motion, and when we first knew that stars move through space.

NASA / Flickr

Astronomers, astrophysicists and fans of space travel marked the end of an era earlier in February. After 15 years on the surface of Mars, the Opportunity Rover mission finally ended, after more than six months had gone by with no success in communicating with the craft.

Lake Effect astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton, joins Bonnie North to talk about the legacy and impact of the Opportunity Rover. Creighton also explains the reason behind all seasons here on earth, and the difference between seasonal changes, the climate and weather. 

NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

"In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad idea," wrote Douglas Adams in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Lake Effect astronomy contributor Jean Creighton disagrees with that sentiment. In fact, she’s been dedicating her current shows at UWM’s Manfred Olson Planetarium to the beginning of said universe.

Top Astronomical Discoveries Of 2018

Dec 12, 2018
Milky-way-space-station
NASA

The past year has been marked by major collisions — both metaphorical and literal — that have changed the world and our view of the universe. Recent discoveries have confirmed scientific theories, brought more materials from space and brought to light how earthly elements came into existence.

Every month, Lake Effect’s Bonnie North speaks with our astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton, the director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UWM. This month, she gives us her list of the top astronomical discoveries of 2018. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are preparing to give extra thanks this holiday weekend when their latest mission to Mars — the InSight Mars Lander — touches down on the surface of the Red Planet on Monday afternoon.

helen_f / Fotolia

Last month, director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium at UW-Milwaukee and our regular astronomy contributor, Jean Creighton explained how the sun stays together, even though it is made of gasses and plasma.

READ: Here Comes The Sun, But What Holds It Together?

NASA/SDO / NASA.org

If, as the They Might Be Giants song goes, the sun a mass of incandescent gas, how does it all stay together? That's the question astronomer and Lake Effect contributor Jean Creighton answers for us this month. (Hint: gravity has something to do with it...)

Look Up, The Planets Are Aligned

Jul 27, 2018
Bill Dunford / NASA

When we talk about proper alignment, we’re often talking about our spines, or our priorities, or perhaps our metaphysical place in the universe.

Contributor Jean Creighton is all for those kinds of calibrations, but the kind of alignment she wants to talk about in this month’s astronomy chat is planetary.

"We have an unusual situation where we can see four planets, practically simultaneously, in the night sky," she notes.

NASA PLANETARY DEFENSE COORDINATION OFFICE

These days, the word 'asteroid' usually only comes up when we're talking about the extinction of the dinosaurs. But astronomy contributor Jean Creighton notes that a near-Earth object,or NEO, is either a comet or asteroid that gets within 30 million miles from the Earth's surface. But what would we do if a massive object were hurtling toward Earth today?

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There have been astronomers in Wisconsin for a long time. There’s the Yerkes Observatory near Lake Geneva. There are astronomy programs at places like UWM and UW-Madison. And even a private observatory up in the Northwoods.

But astronomy contributor Jean Creighton tells Lake Effect’s Bonnie North that well before European settlers landed in the area, Wisconsin's Native Americans were already studying the night sky.

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