WAA News

  • 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.



  • March 12, 2021 7:30 pm Lecture (2/16/2021)

    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 (1/17/2021)

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

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

    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.



  • Star Party, October 10th (9/17/2020)

    The September public observing event went very smoothly, so we plan to hold our next scheduled event on October 10th (rain/cloud date October 17th).


  • Star Party, Saturday, September 12, 2020 (9/11/2020)

    As of 7 p.m. on 9/11, the weather looks good. The event will be held in accordance with NY State pandemic guidelines. Screening and contact information will be collected at the entrance to the Meadow Parking Lot. Masks and social distancing are required.

  • March 13th Meeting & Lecture (2/12/2020)


    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.