“Ok”, I almost hear Niall saying, “that’s all very well Emma but this is an astronomy blog, do you have a point?” Well I can’t do anything about the drop in library visitors (except go more frequently myself and urge you all to do the same), but I can blog a little about one essential type of library used by astronomers.
The Herschel Space Observatory, launched last year, carries several spectrometers which are used to analyze the far-infrared light and look for the signatures of different chemicals that might be present. Obviously this only works if you can identify what it is that you’ve detected, and this is where the American Museum of Natural History comes in. They’ve got a large number of different minerals in their collection which they’ve been using to create a high-quality library of infrared spectra to which the Herschel data can be compared. This library might not feed anyone’s book habit, but it could potentially be vital in understanding the composition of various parts of the Universe.
Nissinboim, A., Ebel, D. S., Harlow, G. E., Boesenberg, J. S., Sherman, K. M., Lewis, E. R., Brusentsova, T. N., Peale, R. E., Lisse, C. M., & Hibbitts, C. A. (2010). The American Museum of Natural History Mineral Library for Spectroscopic Standards Lunar and Planetary Institute Science Conference