November Meeting: Friday, November 12, 7:30 p.m.

On-line via Zoom

Magnetic Anomalies on the Moon

Dany Waller

Graduate Student, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Swirls are a unique class of lunar features. They occur across all types of terrain on the Moon and are associated with strong magnetic anomalies. Although the Moon does not currently have an active magnetic field like Earth, it may have had one in the past. The current magnetic anomalies may be left over from that time. Magnetic fields can provide radiation protection from the solar wind, influencing physical and chemical properties of lunar soil.



October 8th Meeting/Lecture, 7:30 p.m. via Zoom

New Horizons and the Solar System’s 3rd Zone

Will Grundy, PhD

Planetary Scientist, Lowell Observatory
Co-Investigator, New Horizons mission

Dr. Grundy does spectroscopic, thermal, and imaging observations of outer Solar System bodies using numerous large ground- and space-based telescopes including Hubble, Keck, Gemini, DCT, IRTF, and MMT. He headed the surface composition science theme team on New Horizons. Dr. Grundy will discuss the astonishing scientific results from this mission, and how our view of the solar system has changed as a result.



Club meeting September 10th: Member’s Night

Friday, September 10th
Venue TBD: Either via Zoom or live at Pace University

One of the most popular meetings of the year is our annual “Member’s Night.” Club members present talks on a vast range of subjects of astronomical interest, including their astronomy trips, observations, new equipment, imaging techniques, and other topics.

Members interested in presenting should email WAA’s Vice President for  Programs, Pat Mahon, at

Roman Tytla at WAA Members’ Night



June 11 Club Lecture

Via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 995 8877 4272, Passcode: 239178

Citizen Science
Rick Bria, Astronomical Society of Greenwich and WAA Member

Rick will discuss how amateur astronomers can contribute to the scientific understanding of astronomical phenomena, including occultation timing, spectroscopy and exoplanet transits. Rick directs the observatory at the Sacred Heart School in Greenwich.



May 14th Lecture, 7:30 pm

Via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 995 8877 4272, Passcode: 239178

The Space Race in Review
Andy Poniros, NASA Solar System Ambassador

Andy Poniros will talk about the the space race with the Soviet Union from its earliest days through the Apollo program that sent 24 humans to the Moon (with 12 actually setting foot on our satellite). The presentation will include images and unique audio of these historical events, including personal interviews that Andy recorded with Apollo astronauts and mission controllers.



April 9 lecture: Lowell Observatory

April 9, 2021, 7:30 p.m. Via Zoom

Discovery at Lowell: The Past, Present, and Future of Lowell Observatory
Kevin Schindler — Lowell Observatory

The wealthy Bostonian Percival Lowell established Lowell Observatory in 1894 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Percival came from a distinguished eastern family – his brother Abbott was president of Harvard for 24 years and his three sisters included the poet Amy Lowell. Percival graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. After spending six years working for his grandfather and 10 years in the Orient, he decided in 1894 to build an observatory initially to study the planet Mars.

Through the years, the Observatory has been home to many discoveries, including the first detection of the expanding nature of the universe, the discovery of Pluto, moon mapping for the Apollo program to the moon, the rings of Uranus, atmosphere of Pluto, and scores of others.

Lowell Observatory is recognized as a Registered National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 2011 Time magazine named Lowell one of “The World’s 100 Most Important Places.”

Lowell is an active world-class astronomy research center, utilizing a number of modern instruments including the 4.1-meter Discovery Telescope. Lowell’s mission includes an astonishing amount of live and on-line education and outreach to locals, visitors, and to Arizona’s Native American communities. The Lowell web site offers many live and streamed programs.

In 2014 Lowell Observatory took a major step toward ensuring this heritage is preserved by opening the Putnam Collection Center. This facility will ultimately house the Observatory’s vast collection of documents and artifacts. Some of these treasures include correspondence with such luminaries as Einstein and Hubble, Percival Lowell’s cherished Mars globes, one of the original Pluto discovery plates, and Percival Lowell’s 1911 Stevens-Duryea automobile. In 2019 the Giovale Open-Deck Observatory was opened, with six high-quality telescopes set up for nightly outreach and even on-line live video astronomy. Lowell is completely rebuilding its visitor’s center, and the new Astronomy Discovery Center will open in 2023.

Kevin Schindler has been associated with the Observatory for more than twenty years. He is its official Historian, and has written several books about Lowell, its history and its scientific output.



March 12, 2021 7:30 pm Lecture

Via Zoom

High Performance Infrared Focal Plane Arrays for Astronomy, Earth Science, and Planetary Missions

James W. Beletic, Ph.D. – President, Teledyne Imaging Sensors

Dr. Beletic has over 30 years of experience in astronomical instrumentation, with specialization in visible and infrared image sensor technologies. His career is a unique combination of international work experience that includes leadership positions at the world’s foremost astronomical observatories and an industry leader in infrared sensors (Teledyne), and scientific positions at major research centers (Harvard University, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Georgia Tech Research Institute). Teledyne sensors are used on most of the large research telescopes in the world and in space.

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



February 2021 Lecture

Friday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom


Current Searches for Methane and other Organic Molecules in Mars’ Atmosphere

Br. Robert Novak 
Professor Emeritus of Physics 
Iona College, New Rochelle, NY 

Three searches for methane in Mars’ atmosphere are currently ongoing. The Mars Curiosity Rover (Launched Nov. 26, 2011, landed August 6, 2012) has detected methane repeatedly throughout its time on Mars. The Trace Gas Orbiter launched by the European Space Agency in 2016, makes solar occultation measurements at sunrise and sunset. This instrument measures gases in the atmosphere above an altitude of 10 km; no detectable methane measurements have been reported up to now. NASA’s Astrobiology Group, headed by Dr. Michael Mumma, has been using infrared spectrometers attached to NASA’s 120-inch Infrared Telescope on Mauna Kea. They regularly detect methane on Mars and have reported upper limits for other organic molecules (such as ethane, methanol, etc.). The methodology used to make these measurements will be described, along with the criteria used to determine if these organics originate from living or non-living sources.

Br. Novak 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). He taught at Iona College from 1976 to 2018, and worked in their Advancement Department between 2018 and 2020. He continues to observe Mars using the NASA-IRTF (Dec. 9, 10, and 11, 2020; Feb. 24, 25, and 26, 2021), analyzes data from these and previous data runs.



March 13th Meeting & Lecture


Microquasars: What Can We Learn From Them (and Why Bother)?

Diana Hannikainen, PhD
Observing Editor, Sky & Telescope Magazine

Friday, March 13th, 7:30 PM
Wilcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville

Most of us are familiar with quasars – supermassive black holes in galaxies far away – and their iconic jets that spew matter at relativistic velocities into intergalactic space. Less well known are their smaller cousins, the quasars’ miniature counterparts that we call – for reasons that shall become obvious – “microquasars.” What does unite the two classes of object is the process of accretion around a black hole and the subsequent ejection of matter at speeds approaching that of light. In this talk, you’ll hear about the history of microquasars, how we use X-ray and radio observations to understand them better, and what they can tell us about the behavior of matter in extreme gravitational fields.

Diana Hannikainen studied for her BSc in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and then moved to Finland, in part to explore her Finnish roots. While there, she embarked on graduate studies at the University of Helsinki, and received an MSc followed by a PhD in Astrophysics, the latter in conjunction with the University of Sydney in Australia. The subject of her PhD thesis was multiwavelength observations (X-ray, radio) of microquasars, a topic she continued throughout her time in research. A couple of years ago, she switched careers and moved to Cambridge, MA, to take up the position of Observing Editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.