WAA January 10th Meeting


Lecture Friday, January 10th at 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

Why Go Back to the Moon?

Andy Poniros

NASA Solar System Ambassador

Andy has been a NASA volunteer since 1997 and a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador since 2004. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and has worked as a Medical Imaging Engineer for 45 years. He is certified by NASA to handle Lunar samples, is a science correspondent for radio station WPKN in Connecticut where he produces astronomy and space mission radio shows and podcasts. He’s also an amateur astronomer and telescope maker.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!



WAA December Meeting

Friday, December 6th at 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor
Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

The History of Glass: The Power Behind Discovery

Alan Witzgall
Senior Optician, ESCO Optics

Alan is an active member and officer of several amateur astronomy societies in New Jersey. In his professional life, he is a Senior Optician for ESCO Optics of Oak Ridge, NJ. His career in optics started with building telescopes in his basement during his high school and college years. In 1977, one of them, a 10-inch reflector, took first award at Stellafane, the birthplace of the amateur telescope-making hobby in America.

Mr. Witzgall has been “pushing glass” for a living for over 40 years, and will speak on how his favorite material has built the modern world and opened up all sciences and technologies.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!




WAA November 1st Meeting

Friday, November 1st at 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

Christopher Clavius & the Gregorian Calendar

Paul R. Mueller, S.J., Ph.D.

Superior of the Jesuit Community and Vice Director, Vatican Observatory, Castel Gandolfo, Italy, and Tucson, Arizona

In this year marking the 480th anniversary of the birth of Christopher Clavius, S.J., it seems appropriate to focus on his life and legacy. That legacy ranges from the Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar that we all use today, to the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It ranges from popular textbooks to worldwide curricular reform. And it ranges from the history of science in China to the Vatican Observatory, which Pope Gregory XIII established in 1580 to help confirm and refine astronomical observations made in support of Clavius’ reform of the calendar. Paul Mueller, S.J. will explore Clavius’ life and work in their early and modern contexts and illuminate his enduring legacy for modern science, religion, and culture.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!


Next Lecture: September 13, 2019

Members’ Night, Friday, September 13th, 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor lecture room, Pace University, Pleasantville

Members are invited to present short talks on their experiences, astronomy trips, techniques, images, equipment or other topics of interest to fellow club members.

Please contact Pat Mahon at waa-programs@westchesterastronomers.org if you are interested in speaking.

Members’ Night is always a terrific program and one of the highlights of the year.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!




WAA May 3rd Meeting & Lecture

Investigating asteroid impacts using three-dimensional petrography of ordinary chondrites.

John Friedrich, Fordham University

Friday, May 3, 2019, 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

The imaging technique known as x-ray microtomography allows geologists and meteorite researchers to probe the internal structure of solid materials in three dimensions at extremely detailed resolution, up to 1 micron (1/1000th of a millimeter) per voxel (cubic pixel). Dr. Friedrich will discuss how this technique works and how it is used to investigate physical structure of meteorites and to reconstruct their impact history. This can provide information on the meteorite’s parent body. In the case of ordinary chondrites, these parent bodies are the earliest relics of the newly formed solar system.

Jon Friedrich is a Professor of Chemistry at Fordham University. He studies the chemical and physical processes shaping the early solar system. He earned a Ph.D. from Purdue University and is a Research Associate of the American Museum of Natural History.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!



WAA April 5, 2019 Lecture

7:30 pm, Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

Astronomy and the Ancients: A Classical Journey through the Stars

Matthew McGowan, Fordham University

This lecture offers a historical survey of astronomy and astronomical texts from the classical period through the renaissance including Homer, Plato, Aratus, and Copernicus. It considers the science of astronomy in light of its relation to literature and philosophy, in particular to Stoicism.

Matthew McGowan is a classical philologist with research interests in Latin literature and ancient scholarship. He has published broadly on a variety of Greek and Latin topics and his books include Ovid in Exile (Brill, 2009) and Classical New York: Greece and Rome in Gotham (Fordham University Press, 2018). He teaches a wide range of courses, from classical myth to Latin prose composition, and regularly leads tours where Latin can be found: Rome, Paris, the NY Botanical Garden, and the Bronx Zoo. He was President of the New York Classical Club (2009-2015) and is now Vice- President for Communications and Outreach for the Society for Classical Studies (2016-2020).

Free and open to the public.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!




CHANGE OF LOCATION TO Phelps Hospital Auditorium, Sleepy HolloW, 7:30 PM

Catching Comets (and the Instruments that Catch Them)
Steve Bellavia, Brookhaven National Labs

We have been informed by Pace that they are hosting the Westchester High School basketball playoffs on Friday night again this year and that parking will be extremely problematic, with potentially 1,000 cars seeking parking on campus. It is very likely that few spaces will be available in the lot outside of Lienhard Hall. As a result, we have decided to move the site of our WAA meeting and lecture to the Auditorium at Phelps Hospital, just 3.2 miles down Route 117 from Pace. Parking is available just outside of the Auditorium, which has excellent audiovisual equipment.

Phelps Hospital is located 5 minutes west of Pace on Route 117 and Route 9 (Broadway). Click here for an overview satellite image of the area.

To get to the Phelps Auditorium from Pace, drive west on Route 117 until you see the sign for Phelps on your left and Regeneron on your right. Keep going straight until the stop sign. Turn left and drive straight ahead about 500 feet behind the hospital, past the loading dock and Auditorium entrance to the parking lot on your right. The Auditorium entrance is up a few steps into the hospital; the Auditorium is immediately to your right upon entering the building. Click here for a detailed image of the route, which is marked in orange dots. Click here for a very detailed satellite image of the parking area and the auditorium entrance. And click here for a 3D view of the parking area and the Auditorium entrance.

If you are coming from Route 9, just turn onto the hospital property at the main entrance and go straight ahead, past the red brick building to the parking lot.

We apologize for any inconvenience, but we think that this is a much better solution than dealing with what is sure to be a traffic and parking nightmare at Pace.


March 1st Lecture

Catching Comets (and the Instruments that Catch Them)

SteveN Bellavia, Brookhaven National Labs

Friday, March 1st, 7:30 pm

Lienhard Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville

Free & Open to the public. Member meet & greet begins at 7:00 pm.

This is a talk on the more notable comets in the last several years, how they were discovered, and the technology required to discover them. It also briefly discusses the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the LSST, that once up and running, will undoubtedly be the comet-catching observatory for the world. It finishes up with a discussion of ‘Oumuamua and the intriguing questions it has left behind as it leaves our solar system.

Steven Bellavia is an amateur astronomer and telescope maker. He is an aerospace engineer who worked for Grumman Aerospace with the Thermodynamics Group of the Space Division. He had a key role in developing a nuclear rocket engine and performed the analysis, design and fabrication of the micro-gravity liquid droplet radiator that flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-029.

Steve has been at Brookhaven National Laboratory since 1992 and is the principal mechanical engineer on the camera sub-system for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Prior to that, he was doing research and engineering for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory. Steve is also adjunct faculty at Suffolk County Community College for Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, and the Astronomy Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, New York.


WAA Lecture February 1st: MARS

Friday, February 1st, 7:30 pm
Lienhard Hall, 3rd floor
Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

The Source of Methane on Mars: Geology or Biology?

Brother Robert Novak, Ph.D.

Department of Physics, Iona College

Observations from Earth-based telescopes showed that methane is present in the Martian atmosphere. Mars Curiosity and Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter have supported these observations.

Is atmospheric methane coming from decaying life underneath the surface of Mars or is it from geological processes? On Earth, both these sources occur. The ratio between carbon-12 methane and carbon-13 methane differs between biologically produced and geologically produced methane. Also, the ratio between ethane and methane differs for each source. Identifying these ratios in Mars’ atmosphere will give us insights as to the origins of the methane.

Br. Novak will discuss the telescopic search for methane and the method for determining these ratios. Data obtained with the ISHELL spectrometer on the NASA IRTF telescope on Mauna Kea in January, 2017 (Mars Northern Winter) and January 2018, (Mars Northern Summer) were taken to determine ethane/methane ratios. Preliminary results will be shown and discussed.

Br. Robert Novak, CFC, is a Professor Emeritus of Physics at Iona College in New Rochelle NY. He finished his teaching career in May, 2018 and is currently working at raising funds for the sciences at Iona and is continuing his collaboration with the Astrobiology Program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He holds degrees in Physics from Iona College (B.S., 1972), Stevens Institute of Technology (M.S., 1977), and Columbia University (M.Phil., Ph.D., 1980).

Free and open to the public.

Pre-lecture socializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!


January 11th: Joe Rao — Head-Turning Celestial Sights, 2019-2022


Friday, January 11th, 7:30 pm
Lienhard Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville

In the aftermath of the “Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017,” many were led to believe that there would be no more “astronomical spectaculars” until the next total solar eclipse over the US in 2024.  In this talk, however, Joe Rao will explain that there are several celestial occurrences that are coming our way between now and 2022 that more than qualify as “head-turning” events.  In fact, a couple of cases are literally once-in-a-lifetime sky shows. And the best thing of all is that you won’t need to make any arduous (or expensive) journeys to remote parts of the world: all of these events are accessible from our own backyards.

Now if he can only guarantee good weather…

Speaking of weather, Joe Rao is an 8-time Emmy nominated broadcast meteorologist. Last June he celebrated his 40th anniversary in broadcasting, having started out in radio and later (in 1995) going full time on television as Chief Meteorologist at News 12 Westchester.  At the end of 2016, Joe made the switch to Verizon Fios1 News where he is based today.  Joe is also an assiduous amateur astronomer, having been actively involved in astronomy for over 50 years.  Since 1986 he has served as an Associate at the Hayden Planetarium and is currently a Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope.  He also writes about astronomy and space for the online news service Space.com, as well as for Natural History magazine and The Farmers’ Almanac.  In 2008, Joe was the recipient of the Solar Physics Division Popular Writing Award of the American Astronomical Society and in 2009 received the prestigious Walter Scott Houston Award from the Northeast Region of the Astronomical League.

Socialializing with fellow WAA members and guests begins at 7:00 pm!

Free and open to the public.