WAA News

  • WAA April 5, 2019 Lecture (3/12/2019) by lfaltz

    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 FOR MARCH 1st MEETING (2/27/2019) by lfaltz

    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 (2/9/2019) by lfaltz

    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 (1/15/2019) by waa-newsletter@westchesterastronomers.org

    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) by lfaltz

     

    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) by lfaltz

    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) by lfaltz

    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) by lfaltz

    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) by lfaltz

    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.

     

  • September 15 Star Party (9/15/2018) by lfaltz

    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.