Office of University Communications

Michael Cushing

Michael Cushing
Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Director of Ritter Planetarium

One of the top 100 scientific stories of 2011 according to Discover Magazine was finding stars so cool you could literally touch them. Michael Cushing led a team of researchers who discovered that new type of brown dwarf, called Y-dwarfs, with temperatures that could be as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Cushing also is director of the newly renovated Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory on The University of Toledo campus. The 40-foot dome planetarium is home to the world's first Spitz SciDome XD projector, one of the most advanced digital projection systems available. The Ritter Astrophysical Research Center, which houses both the Ritter Planetarium and a one-meter telescope, is a unique venue because professors doing cutting-edge astrophysics cross paths with grade-schoolers learning about the solar system.

Expertise: Stars and Y-dwarfs

Cool temperature stars
"Astronomers classify stars based on their temperature, using an odd collection of letters beginning with the hottest 'O' stars and, until recently, ending with the cool 'M' stars. During the last 15 years, we've been finding cooler and cooler brown dwarfs, and 'Y' represents the latest addition to this system."

Astronomer's discovery of cool 'stars' among top 100 scientific stories of 2011
UT News
February 2012

Meteor shower 
"During a meteor shower, the earth actually passes through a trail of debris that is left from a comet or asteroid as it orbits the sun. As we pass through that cloud of material, we get an enhanced number of meteors. Most are the size of a pebble or small rock. This is just 'space junk,' floating around, and every day, many of these particles fall toward the earth. As they encounter the atmosphere, they're moving at thousands of miles per hour. There's a lot of friction as they hit the atmosphere, and they heat up. Just like a space shuttle, these particles heat up as they enter the atmosphere, and they glow, and that's what you see as they streak across the sky."

Geminid Meteor Shower may be more impressive this year
December 2012

astronomy, star, stars, Y-dwarfs, science, education, planetarium, Ritter
Last Updated: 12/16/19