WAA December Meeting

Friday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m.
David Pecker Conference Room, Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY
or via Zoom (link on the WAA home page)

DART and the Dinosaurs

Dany Waller
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

The bold, ingenious and successful DART mission may make it possible to prevent devastating asteroid impacts that could wipe out much of life on Earth. Dany Waller is a member of the DART team at JHU-APL. She’ll discuss the risks of asteroid impacts and review the planning, execution and results of the DART mission.

The December meeting is also the official Annual Meeting of WAA, at which the officers will be elected.



WAA November Meeting

Friday, November 11 at 7:30 pm

David Pecker Conference Room
Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY
or on-line via Zoom

The McCarthy Observatory: A Refuge for Science

Bill Cloutier
Founding member, McCarthy Observatory

The McCarthy Observatory is the centerpiece of a community science center in New Milford, Connecticut. It was conceived, designed and constructed by volunteers from the local communities with a common goal  to establish a teaching tool to promote science literacy.

The observatory is different from many other astronomical facilities in that its focus is on accessibility and educational outreach. While capable of real science, the mission of the non-profit organization that operates the facility is to encourage critical thinking and promote STEM-related learning. Over the past 22 years, the all-volunteer staff has continued to add to the observatory’s educational offerings and look for new and innovative means to engage with the public.

The talk will focus on the history of the McCarthy Observatory, as well as the challenge of managing a small, all-volunteer organization with lofty goals.

Bill Cloutier is an amateur astronomer and founding member of the McCarthy Observatory. He is also on the Board of Directors that oversees the all-volunteer, non-profit organization that operates and maintains the Observatory, which opened to the public in December 2000. Bill is the author of the observatory’s monthly newsletter, covering topics related to astronomy and space exploration, a regular presenter at public events, an adult education classroom instructor for a night sky appreciation course, NEO observer, and the caretaker/public outreach coordinator for the observatory’s antique refractor telescope. Before retiring, Bill worked in the nuclear industry for 42 years. He has had a life-long interest in astronomy, lunar photography, the history of lunar exploration, and sharing those pursuits with the public. He is also a NASA Solar System Ambassador, a volunteer outreach initiative conveying the latest happenings in space exploration to the general public to generate interest in the STEM disciplines.



October Club Meeting & Lecture

Friday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m.
David Pecker Conference Room, Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY
or on-line via ZOOM

A Synthesized View of Planetary Systems
Malena Rice, PhD
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A tremendous diversity of exoplanets and protoplanetary disks has been discovered over the past three decades, offering an unprecedented lens into the range of formation pathways available for planetary systems. In parallel, studies of the solar system have revealed tantalizing, complementary constraints with exquisite detail. I will describe how, taken in conjunction, these two lines of evidence can be combined to advance our current understanding of planetary systems.

Drawing from the relationship between stars, planets, and neighboring minor planets, I will focus on the interface between subfields. I will discuss how minor planets, including interstellar objects and distant solar system bodies, provide evidence for hidden, wide-orbiting planetary perturbers in both the solar system and extrasolar systems. I will also describe a novel algorithm to directly search for the most distant solar system objects using the TESS dataset. Then, I will highlight how observational constraints on planetary system architectures and compositions provide complementary information regarding the key planet formation pathways. I will conclude with the prospects for future constraints on planetary system evolutio

Malena Rice is a 51 Pegasi b Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her research focuses on planetary system dynamics. Originally from Simi Valley, California, she earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 2017 and her M.S. (2020), M.Phil. (2020), and PhD (2022) in Astronomy at Yale University. Outside of her degree work, Malena has also conducted research at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and at the University College London. Malena is passionate about STEM education and accessibility, and she regularly leads both public outreach events and graduate-level teaching workshops. In her free time, she enjoys playing the flute and piano, visiting art galleries, reading, traveling, and spending time outdoors.



Members’ Night: Friday, September 16th, 7:30 p.m.

Join your fellow club members to hear about a wide range of astronomy topics. Members’ Night is one of our favorite traditions. Topics range from equipment, techniques, observations, trips, teaching techniques and even creative arts.

Members are asked to present topics in 10-15 minute segments.

Members interested in presenting should contact Pat Mahon at

Live or on-line: your choice!


WAA July 8 Meeting

Friday, July 8 at 7:30 pm
David Pecker Conference Room
Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

Or on-line via Zoom! (link on the WAA home page)

Make Plans Now to Observe the 2023 Eclipse!

Charles Fulco
NASA Solar System Ambassador

The next major solar eclipse to cross the U.S. is little more than a year away. If you want to be in the path of annularity, Charles will show you how to start making your plans now. He’ll also describe terrestrial landmarks along the path that can enhance your photos.

An enthusiastic and experiences science educator, Charles is particularly interested in solar phenomena.



Meeting/Lecture June 10 at 7:30 pm

Live and via Zoom (see Home page for link)

Urban Astrophotography Update

Mauri Rosenthal
Westchester Amateur Astronomers and Amateur Astronomy Association (NYC)

Mauri will talk about a range of topics relating to imaging:

  • Living with Light Pollution: Perspectives from several years of doing and teaching urban astrophotography
  • Catalogue of targets accessible from the NY metropolitan area without traveling to darker skies
  • Updates regarding gear that makes this easier than ever
  • Solar imaging update – also easier than ever and the sun is going nuts
    • Bonus — Good times for aurora chasers (albeit not in the metro area!)
  • Everyday AI – ways in which cheap and readily available Artificial Intelligence are benefitting backyard imagers

Mauri Rosenthal combined longstanding hobbies of backyard astronomy and photography to begin astrophotography in earnest 8 years ago. Surprised by the image quality achievable with small telescopes from his yard in Westchester County, Mauri has been developing deep expertise in Ultraportable Urban Astrophotography and is on a mission to use new technology to extend the access of city-dwellers to the wonders of the night sky. Mauri has played a central role in developing and teaching New York City’s Amateur Astronomers Association courses in Astrophotography which have helped dozens of city dwellers to get started in imaging since 2019.  Follow Mauri’s imaging on Instagram and Flickr.



WAA Meeting/Lecture May 13 at 7:30 p.m.

In person at Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville, AND on-line via Zoom

The Night of the Shooting Stars

Joe Rao
Associate and Guest Lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium, Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope

In 1995 Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 broke apart in dramatic fashion. Now a number of meteor dynamicists have confirmed what Joe Rao predicted last year: a stream of particles ejected during the comet’s disruption may yield a dramatic meteor outburst at the end of May 2022. The predictions are uncertain because no one knows for sure how fast the concentrated dust swarm left 73P’s disintegrating nucleus. But there is a chance that we could see meteors briefly fall at rates numbering in the scores or maybe even in the hundreds per hour! In this presentation, Joe will explain the reasons why late on the night of May 30th, you may see more shooting stars than you’ve seen in your entire life!

For 21 years, Joe Rao was the Chief Meteorologist and Science Editor at News 12 Westchester. He was nominated for 8 Emmy Awards and in 2015 was voted first among weathercasters in New York State by the Associated Press. Since 1986 he has served as an associate and guest lecturer at the Hayden . He is a contributing editor for Sky & and writes a syndicated weekly column for the online news service space.com. He also pens a monthly astronomy column for Natural History magazine and provides annual astronomical data for The Farmers’ Almanac. Joe is a long-time friend of WAA.



WAA April Meeting Friday, April 8 at 7:30 pm

David Pecker Conference Room, Willcox Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville,
or on-line via Zoom
(see home page for link and instructions for live attendance)

The Amazing Variability of T Tauri Stars
Department of Astronomy, SUNY Stony Brook

The T Tauri stars are young pre-main sequence stars of about Solar mass, with ages of a few million years. They are protostars – still collapsing from their natal dust clouds and not yet stably fusing Hydrogen in their cores. As indicated by the namesake of the class, these are variable stars. But all stars, including the Sun, are variable. What is so special about the T Tauri stars?

The talk will summarize some recent observations of pre-main sequence stars, motivated in large part by the high cadence, long term monitoring afforded by TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Although designed to find exoplanet transits, TESS watches about 8% of the sky at any one time continuously for about 27 days, so it sees everything.

From above the atmosphere there are no day/night cycles, no weather to interrupt observations, and no twinkling except what the stars do on their own. TESS observations of stellar variability, coupled with ground-based spectroscopy, have given us fantastic new insights into the environments of these protostars.

Professor Walter has a PhD is in Astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley, has been teaching astronomy at Stony Brook University since 1989. He studies the birth and death of stars and stellar magnetic activity (stellar weather) using telescopes in Arizona, Chile, Hawaii, and in Earth orbit.



WAA March Meeting: Friday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m.

On-line via Zoom

Comets, Asteroids and Near-Earth Objects
Steve Bellavia
Brookhaven National Labs & Suffolk Community College

Steve will discuss comets, asteroids and Near Earth Objects that have been discovered in the last several years, including visitors from other star systems as well as close neighbors that pose potential hazards, crossing Earth’s orbit every several years.

Steven Bellavia is an amateur astronomer and telescope maker.  He is an aerospace engineer who worked for Grumman Aerospace with the Group of the Space Division. He 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 was the principal mechanical engineer for the camera on the Vera Rubin (formerly called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, LSST).

Steve is an assistant adjunct professor of astronomy and physics at Suffolk County Community College and the Astronomy Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, New York.



February is Mars Month at WAA

WAA Lecture Friday, February 11 at 7:30 pm via Zoom

Diurnal, Seasonal, and Inter-Annular Variations of Gases in the Mars Atmosphere
Br. Robert Novak, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, Iona College

The NASA Infrared Telescope is a 3.2-meter telescope located on top of Mauna Kea (4200 m above sea level) on the Big Island of Hawaii. iSHELL is a high resolution (R > 70,000) infrared spectrometer that was installed on the telescope in September 2016. Spectral/spatial images taken by iSHELL can detect gases in Mars’s atmosphere such as water (both H2O and HDO), carbon dioxide, and methane. Searches have been conducted for other organic gases, such as ethane and propane, but up to now, only methane has been positively detected. Since January 2017, Br. Novak has taken data to measure these gases during Mars’ early northern winter (January 2017, Mars Year 33), mid-northern summer (MY 34), mid-northern winter (MY 35), and early northern spring (MY 36). He will discuss the detection and variation of these gases in the course of a day, from season to season, and from one year to the next.

Br. Robert Novak was Chair of Physics at Iona. He works with the NASA Astrobiology group at Goddard Spaceflight Center, and has published a number of important papers on the Martian atmosphere and evidence for an ocean on Mars in the distant past.