Hubble’s Latest and Greatest

The optics system of the Hubble Space Telescope was built in Danbury, Connecticut (take that, John Oliver!), in 1990 in a windowless white building overlooking the Danbury Fair Mall owned by PerkinElmer, now Collins Aerospace. The telescope’s long-delayed successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled to launch next year in October. In the meantime, the Hubble continues to provide an unparalleled look at the universe. In what NASA called a “landmark study,” scientists using NASA’s Hubble telescope have mapped the “halo,” an immense envelope of gas surrounding the Andromeda galaxy. “Scientists were surprised to find that this tenuous, nearly invisible halo of diffuse plasma extends 1.3 million light-years from the galaxy — about halfway to our Milky Way — and as far as 2 million light-years in some direction,” NASA said in a release. “This means that Andromeda’s halo is already bumping into the halo of our own galaxy. They also found that the halo has a layered structure, with two main nested and distinct shells of gas.”

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This illustration depicts the gaseous halo of the Andromeda galaxy if it could be seen with the naked eye.

“Understanding the huge halos of gas surrounding galaxies is immensely important,” said co-investigator Samantha Berek of Yale University, in a statement included with the release. “This reservoir of gas contains fuel for future star formation within the galaxy, as well as outflows from events such as supernovae. It’s full of clues regarding the past and future evolution of the galaxy, and we’re finally able to study it in great detail in our closest galactic neighbor.” — EO

Husky heartbreak

The UConn basketball family suffered two big losses this summer with the deaths of former standouts Cliff Robinson and Stanley Robinson (no relation).

Cliff arrived in Storrs in 1985 in what would be coach Dom Perno’s final season. He played the next three years for Jim Calhoun — winning the 1988 NIT championship — and was selected by Portland in the second round of the 1989 NBA Draft.

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Cliff Robinson (right) during a game in 1989.

Cliff would be the first Husky to make a significant impact in the NBA. His teams made the playoffs in 17 of his 18 seasons as he worked his way onto a few all-time NBA leaderboards. Following his career, Cliff traveled to North Korea as part of Dennis Rodman’s basketball diplomacy trip, was a contestant on the 28th season of Survivor, and became an advocate and entrepreneur in the marijuana industry. He died of lymphoma at age 53.

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Stanley Robinson #21 in 2009.

Stanley, known affectionately as “Sticks,” was a fan favorite and a starter on the 2008-09 team that reached the Final Four during his junior year. One of the most athletically gifted players to ever suit up for UConn, Stanley was also a second-round pick in the NBA draft but never made his way into the league. He played internationally throughout the last decade. He was 32 when he died. — MW

Nate the Great

We spoke with Dr. Nate Wood, 27, for July’s “Last Word” and he shared stories about simultaneously attending medical and culinary school, working with Dr. Oz and Rachael Ray, treating COVID-19 patients in the Yale ICU, and recording a version of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” after a night shift at the hospital. Not only did that smartphone video of him playing piano and singing go viral, but Wood ended up winning an MTV Video Music Award — as did all five nominees — in a new-for-2020 category “Everyday Heroes: Frontline Medical Workers.” 

Hey Doc, your life is insane.

“You’re telling me, dude,” Wood says in early September. “Last month was the busiest, craziest, most fun month of my life. I got no sleep but it was good.”

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Nate Wood

In addition to the VMA win, he spent his August working 14-hour days at ABC News where he would write articles and cut scripts for Good Morning America and the nightly news.

When Wood first received the email from MTV with the news that he was a VMA nominee, he says he thought it was spam. He was less suspicious upon receiving an invite for the next season of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. “I do not have time for that,” Wood says. “That I will not be doing. I could say no to something.” He’s currently working with GMA to film a cooking segment for their website, but makes it clear his patients still come first. “They’re the priority for sure.” — MW

Wage raise

Connecticut’s hourly minimum wage increased from $11 to $12 as of September. Last year Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill that called for yearly increases of the state’s minimum wage over a four-year period. The first increase took place in October 2019 and raised the rate from $10.10 to $11 per hour. The minimum wage will increase to $13 in August 2021, $14 in July 2022, and $15 on June 1, 2023. After 2023 the minimum wage will be set based on the percent change in the federal Employment Cost Index.

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Connecticut’s minimum wage is well above the federal minimum page of $7.25 per hour but below two of the three states it borders. New York’s minimum wage is $15 per hour, Massachusetts’ is $12.75 per hour, and Rhode Island’s is $11.50. — EO

John Oliver vs. Danbury

Call this heavyweight feud “The Brutality in the Municipality.” (On second thought, no, don’t.) The first punch was thrown during a segment about jury selection on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. After mentioning Hartford and New Britain, both in terms relevant to the piece, Oliver randomly took aim at Danbury. It’s as if he picked the city, pun intended, out of a hat. The abrupt and apparently arbitrary rivalry is expected to come to a conclusion with the return of Last Week Tonight on Sept. 27. — MW

John Oliver Sewage Plant

ROUND 1: Oliver comes out swinging in his Aug. 16 episode: “If you’re going to forget a town in Connecticut, why not forget Danbury? Because, and this is true, f--- Danbury!” After then inviting the city to do something we won’t print here, he followed up with, “If you’re from there, you have a standing invite to come get a thrashing from John Oliver, children included.”

ROUND 2: On Aug. 22, Mayor Mark Boughton answers back with a video shot on location at Danbury’s wastewater treatment plant. “We are going to rename it the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant. Why? Because it’s full of crap, just like you, John.” (The next day, in a segment taped prior to Boughton’s response, Oliver takes another seemingly random shot. “F--- Danbury! Babies, elderly, pets, buildings, all of you can go f--- yourselves.”)

ROUND 3: Oliver responds in his Aug. 30 episode: “Danbury, as one, has risen up and fought back magnificently.” In addition to the Boughton video, Oliver shows clips of 8-year-old city resident Caio P. Leaf and the Danbury Hat Tricks hockey team giving him the business. “My opinion of the city has now changed.” But then, after playing a clip of Boughton saying the renaming wouldn’t really happen, a faux-enraged Oliver goes off. “F--- you, Danbury! You had the first good idea in your city’s history and you chickened out on the follow-through.” After realizing that “I want this, I need this,” Oliver offers $55,000 in donations to area charities: $25,000 to the Connecticut Food Bank, $25,000 to fulfill Danbury schoolteachers’ requests on Donors Choose, and $5,000 to ALS Connecticut. Oliver even had a sign made so the city wouldn’t have to pay for it. He announces the show will be on hiatus for a month.

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ROUND 4: On Sept. 6, in a video broadcast on WTNH’s The Capitol Report, Mayor Mark emerges from a porta potty to announce that the offer has been accepted, with the condition Oliver comes to Danbury to cut the ribbon. “$55,000? It’s a little light for somebody in the 1 percent. But, a deal is a deal.” Boughton adds that if Oliver turns him down, instead of naming the sewage plant after him, the town will “honor” Oliver by putting his name on the portable “john.”

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.