Guest Speakers 2011-2014

December 2014
Ms. Diana Challis
Title: Around the World in 6 Constellation
Description: Astronomers are taught 88 ‘official’ constellations out of greek legend. But every civilization around the world has created their own myths and stories from the same sky. I will look at some familiar stars to see what other cultures have made of them. -See what the Pawnee make of Ursa Major or the Maori make of Scorpius. What familiar constellation becomes the turtle in Brazil?
I will end with a look at the Sun, moon and planets to see that wildly different cultures can still produce unifying ideas.

Novemeber 2014
Dr. Mark Krumholz, UC Santa Cruz
Title: The Birth of Suns
Description: We normally think of space as empty, but it’s not. The space between the stars in our Galaxy contains, on average, about 1 atom per cubic centimeter. That’s a better vacuum than the best vacuum chamber we know how to make, but there are a lot of cubic centimeters in interstellar space, and the mass between the stars of our Galaxy adds up to about 10% of the mass of all the stars. It is from this interstellar medium that new stars are continually born, at a rate of about 1 new Sun per year. In this talk I will describe our current understanding of the gas in interstellar space, and how and why it condenses to make new stars. Dr. Krumholz’s webpage. There are some interesting short video clips under “Movies”.

October 2014
Mr. Brian Day, NASA Ames
Title: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
Description: The explosion of a small asteroid near Chelyabinsk in 2013, and numerous near-misses since then (such as the September 2014 close pass by asteroid 2014 RC) serve as reminders that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery. We’ll look at the threats posed by Near Earth Objects (NEOs), the strategies for mitigating these hazards, and the key roles that amateur astronomers can play in helping to save the Earth.

July 2014
Dr. Richard Elphic, NASA Ames
Title: Barnstorming the Moon: Adventures of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer
Description: The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was launched from Wallops Flight Facility on 6 September, 2013 aboard the very first Minotaur V, a Peacekeeper ICBM converted to civilian use. The launch was perfect, and LADEE entered lunar orbit on 6 October, 2013. In the following weeks, the first laser communications from deep space achieved 622 Mbits/sec downlink, speeds sufficient for broadband video. Following instrument checkout and commissioning, LADEE commenced science operations on 21 November, 2013. Over the next 100 days, LADEE’s Ultraviolet/Visible Spectrometer (UVS) systematically mapped sodium, potassium and other species in the tenuous lunar exosphere, while the Neutral Mass Spectrometer (NMS) systematically mapped argon, helium, and discovered neon in the lunar exosphere. At the same time, the Lunar Dust EXperiment (LDEX) discovered and characterized the dust exosphere, caused by continual bombardment of the Moon’s surface by micrometeoroids. After the nominal science mission ended on March 1, 2014, LADEE continued to acquire more science data, culminating in a set of observations at very low altitudes (<10 km) above the sunrise terminator. Data from LADEE show how the Moon "breathes", with different species in its thin atmosphere varying with a variety of parameters. For example argon-40, a constituent arising from potassium-40 decay in the lunar interior “freezes out” on the very cold lunar nightside (~100K), but produces a dawn bulge of enhanced gas density as the cold lunar surface rotates around into sunlight and warms up. Other exotic behavior is also seen. This talk will describe the mission and some of the initial science results. Article on image taken of LADEE

May 2014
Dr. Sandra Faber, UC Observatories
Title: The Crisis at Lick Observatory: Lick at the Frontier, and How You Can Help
Abstract: The first remote mountaintop observatory in the world, Lick Observatory has had a remarkable record of discovery spanning 126 years. It continues to be a vibrant research facility, especially for projects that require large numbers of nights on modest-size telescopes. Come hear about the exciting research areas in which Lick remains a world leader, such as the discovery and monitoring of exploding stars (which help us understand our own chemical origins as well as the ultimate fate of the universe); the search for planets orbiting other stars, especially Earth-like planets; and the study of giant black holes in the centers of nearby galaxies. Located on the summit of 4,200′ Mt. Hamilton in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, Calif., Lick is used to develop and test new instruments, such as the “adaptive optics” systems that can give telescopes on Earth clarity that matches or exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Lick is also a primary base for the University of California’s astronomy education and outreach efforts. Yet, despite all this, the UC Office of the President has decided that the university’s funding for Lick will be terminated by 2016−2018, given the financial pressures on UC. This crisis has inspired a group of Silicon Valley and Bay Area leaders to begin a serious search for alternative sources of funding to sustain this vital Bay Area institution. Come find out, from the Interim Director of University of California Observatories, what Lick is all about and why we need to keep it going!

April 2014
Mr. Derek C Breit
Occultations Ain’t Voodoo. Why, How, and When to Observe Them
His website is here.
The webpage he showed at his presentation for Houge Park specific occultation events is here.

January 2014
Dr. Charlie Conroy, UCSC
SJ Mercury article
Galaxies from Beginning to End

November 2013
Dr. Junwei Zhao, Stanford’s Solar Observatory Group
Solar Cycle and Helioseismology

September 2013
Mr. David Raimondi
Rocketry in Education

August 2013
Dr. Chris McKay
The search for life on other planets, with an update from the Mars Curiosity Rover

May 2013
Dr. Steven Beckwith
The Dawn of Creation: The First Two Billion Years

February 2013
Dr. Thomas Zobrist
Building the world’s largest telescopes: the future of ground-based astronomy.

January 2013
Dr. Mark Showalter
The newly discovered moons of Pluto.

November 2012
Peter Platzer
ArduSat: Making Space Exploration Affordable For Everyone

September 2012
Steve Gottlieb
Lord Rosse’s Discovery of Spiral Nebulae.

August 2012
Tim DeBenedictis
Astronomy on your Mobile Device: Going where no smartphone has gone before.

July 2012
Bob Jardine
Astronomical League Projects

June 2012
Dr. Peter Nugent
Supernova 2011fe.

May 2012
Marita Beard
NASA/SOFIA “Partners in Science Education” program

March 2012
Dr. Graeme Smith
Two Views Of The Moon

Febrauary 2012
Dr. Lynn Rothschild
Life at the Edge: Life in Extreme Environments on Earth and the Search for Life in the Universe.

January 2012
Dr. Alex Filippenko
Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

December 2011
Dr. Bruce Margon
The Beauty of Hubble: Astronomy, Art & Culture from the Hubble Space Telescope

November 2011
Rogelio Bernal Andreo
Deep Sky Wide Field Imaging

October 2011
Dr. Puragra Guhathakurta
Our Place In The Cosmos

August 2011
Dr. Elinor Gates
Untwinkling the Stars: Improving our View of the Universe with Adaptive Optics

July 2011
Rick Morales
Fremont Peak history and programs at the Fremont Peak Observatory

May 2011
Dr. Jessie Christiansen
Searching for other Earths: Latest results from the NASA Kepler Mission

March 2011
Brian Day
Whats New On The Moon

February 2011
Dr. Erick Young
SOFIA Mission Director for NASA

January 2011
Dr. Jeff Moore
TITAN: Dead or Alive