- WAA Lecture February 1st: MARS (1/15/2019)
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 (12/8/2018)
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.
- December 7th Lecture: Gravitational Waves (11/4/2018)
Friday, December 7th, 7:30 PM, Lienhard Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville map
Dr. Andrew MacFadyen, New York University
This meeting is also the official Annual Meeting of WAA. New officers will be elected.
Free and open to the public
- November 2nd meeting: Prospects for Building Telescopes on the Moon (10/6/2018)
We are privileged to present Dr. Jon Morse. CEO of the BoldlyGo Institute, who will discuss the possibilities of returning to the moon to build scientific facilities. 7:30 pm at the Lienhard Hall 3rd floor conference room, Pace University, Pleasantville. Free and open to the public.
The increased interest by NASA, international space agencies and private sector companies in returning to the Moon with robotic and crewed missions during the next decade and beyond opens up new possibilities for conducting scientific investigations from the lunar surface. Pros and cons will be discussed in this context regarding establishing lunar-based observatories to study the cosmos and how such facilities might work in concert with future ground-based and free-flying space-based telescopes.
Dr. Jon Morse is CEO of the BoldlyGo Institute. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience in space missions, space-focused organizations, and science and innovation policy. His academic appointments include Professor of Physics at RPI and Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy at ASU. He served as Director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA HQ from 2007-2011, overseeing the launches of Fermi, Kepler, WISE, Hubble Space Telescope (HST) SM4 and other missions. Prior to that he served as a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy with a portfolio encompassing physical sciences and engineering at NSF, DOE, NASA and NIST. Before moving to ASU in 2003, he served as Project Scientist for the HST Cosmic Origins Spectrograph while at the University of Colorado. He is a Harvard graduate and earned his PhD from the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- October 13th Star Party (9/17/2018)
The next star party is scheduled for Saturday, October 13th. Go to the Star Party page for general information and directions.
- October 5th Meeting: AI and Astronomy (9/17/2018)
We are pleased to have Dr. Satya Nitta, an expert on nanotechnology and artificial intelligence speak on AI and Astronomy at 7:30 pm at the Lienhard Hall 3rd floor conference room, Pace University, Pleasantville. Free and open to the public.
The AI Revolution and its Applications to Astronomy
The recent re-emergence of the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) from a long period of dormancy (commonly referred to as the AI winter), promises to transform several fields of human endeavor and change our relationship with computing in a profound manner. Using current approaches to AI, which are mostly based in probabilistic and statistical techniques, recent advances have demonstrated that computers can achieve close to a human level recognition of speech as well as images and a better than human level ability to understand language and answer questions, among other things. While these are deeply impressive feats that seem to hint at a future where machines may have better than human levels of intelligence, the reality is far more prosaic. In this talk, Satya Nitta will introduce the field of AI broadly, explore the current state of the art, discuss the limitations of the field and contrast AI capabilities with those displayed by biological intelligence. He will discuss some of the current uses of AI in astronomy today and speculate on some possible new applications in space exploration that might advance our understanding of exoplanets. He will also briefly discuss the fascinating intersection of AI and computing hardware and discuss some emerging techniques such as approximate computing that are being used in modern radio astronomy.
About Satya Nitta
Dr. Satya V. Nitta is in the midst of a hopeless lifelong love affair with science, technology and science fiction. When he isn’t spending quality time with his two daughters or forlornly dreaming of space exploration, he is busy trying to figure out how to use computing to advance humanist causes. He believes the most interesting problems are at the intersection of different fields. He is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of an AI and hardware startup company. Previously, he had an 18 year career at IBM Research where he held several leadership roles in AI and nanoelectronics at IBM’s T J Watson Research Center. He holds a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has over 150 patents and 40 publications to his name. He was named the IEEE ACE Innovator of the Year, one of the 50 makers and shakers of education technology worldwide and has won the IEEE Ace technology of the year award for his work on on-chip airgap interconnects.
- Star Party (9/15/2018)
The star party on Saturday, September 15th at dusk will take place at the usual spot: the Meadow Parking Lot at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, Cross River, NY. map
The summer sky is full of wonderful celestial objects: the Milky Way, open and globular clusters, double stars and nebulas. Sunset is at 7:03 pm; the sky will be dark enough for observing by 7:45.
The event is free and open to the public. Bring your own telescope or view through members’ instruments. For more information about star parties, go to the Star Parties page.
- Club meeting and lecture (9/8/2018)
Our next meeting will be on Friday, September 14th at 7:30 pm at the Lienhard Hall, Pace University, Pleasantville. Our WAA tradition is to start the fall meeting series with Members’ Night. WAA’ers present talks on their astronomy travels, equipment, imaging techniques and observing experiences. It’s our most popular meeting and a great way to start off the academic year and to meet fellow club members. We’ll also be giving away some interesting and valuable door prizes!
The October meeting will on Friday, October 5th at 7:30 pm. Satya Nitta of IBM will present a talk on the use of artificial intelligence in astronomy.
More information and directions are on the Lectures page.