WAA News

  • February is Mars Month at WAA (1/16/2022)

    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.


  • January 14th Lecture (12/13/2021)

    On-line via Zoom. 7:30 p.m.

    Building a Gravitational Wave Telescope out of Stars

    Tyler Cohen, BSc
    Graduate Research Assistant, New Mexico Tech

    Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime. A consequence of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, they were first detected from inspiraling black holes in 2015 by LIGO. Now, another observatory is on the verge of detecting gravitational waves of a different sort. Its detector is the size of the Milky Way galaxy and constructed from some of the most exotic stars in the universe. Tyler will discuss how the North American Nano-hertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves uses pulsar timing to search for low-frequency gravitational waves, and the premier radio telescopes that this work has brought him to.

    Tyler Cohen is a PhD student at New Mexico Tech and a tour guide at the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico. A Westchester native and former WAA member, he went on to receive his BSc. in physics and astronomy at Stony Brook University. He has since worked at the Gemini Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii and Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.



  • WAA Lecture December 10, 7:30 p.m. (11/13/2021)


    Massimo Capasso, Ph.D.
    Columbia University & VERITAS Array at Fred Whipple Observatory, Arizona

    Single-photon technologies for ground-based gamma-ray astronomy

     Gamma rays from space can reach energies up to several trillion times those of visible light, in dramatically explosive phenomena that shape the Universe as we know it. At these energies, the observable fluxes so low that very large collection areas or long observing times are needed to reach a significant detection. For both these reasons, space-born instruments are not suited for the detection of Very-High-Energy (VHE) gamma rays; instead, ground-based observatories can exploit the atmosphere as a huge detector to observe VHE gamma rays indirectly. The light that is emitted as a by-product of the interaction of gamma rays and the atmosphere is very faint and very fast (on the scale of billionths of seconds). Therefore, extremely sensitive detectors coupled with fast electronics are the enabling technology for ground-based gamma-ray astronomy.

    In this talk, Dr. Capasso will present an overview of the physics that produces VHE gamma rays in space, of how to detect them on the ground and of the latest single-photon solid-state technology that enables such technique: Silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs).


  • November Meeting: Friday, November 12, 7:30 p.m. (10/17/2021)

    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 (9/28/2021)

    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 (6/13/2021)

    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 waa-programs@westchesterastronomers.org.

    Roman Tytla at WAA Members’ Night



  • June 11 Club Lecture (6/2/2021)

    Via Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/99588774272?pwd=YXBIUXAySDdEZEZtQUo4TmY3UUtHUT09
    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.



  • Tuesday, June 1 7:30 p.m. (5/18/2021)

    Special Event! On-line lecture Tuesday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m.

    What Can We See in the Night Sky? From the atmosphere to deepest space.
    Larry Faltz, Editor, SkyWAAtch and former WAA President

    Click here for more information and Zoom link



  • May 14th Lecture, 7:30 pm (4/11/2021)

    Via Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/99588774272?pwd=YXBIUXAySDdEZEZtQUo4TmY3UUtHUT09
    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 (3/14/2021)

    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 lowell.edu 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.