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2019 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
January 17

Speaker: Bob Dutilly

Title: Spacecraft Mission Development

Abstract: This is a presentation on the entire process from a concept through all of the stages that a spacecraft mission goes through to launch.  I plan on quickly discussing each stage for a successful mission.  The scientists can work on the concept stage for a number of years prior to having it approved.

Bio: Bob worked at Goddard Space Flight Center from 1982 until his retirement in 2008. He has experienced all mission stages except for the prelliminary concept stage.

February 21

Speaker, Mark Perry

Title: Ring rain and tar polluting Saturn: a new understanding of the interactions between Saturn and its rings. 

For forty years, calculations based on remote observations indicated that Saturn’s magnetic field carries ions and charged particles from the rings to the mid latitudes of Saturn. In Cassini’s spectacular last few months of life, direct, in situ measurements found that ten tons per second of molecules and particles smaller than two nanometers are streaming along the plane of the rings into Saturn’s atmosphere by another process: atmospheric drag. Saturn’s extended atmosphere reaches the inner edge of Saturn’s rings and extracts neutral particles less than one thousandth the thickness of a human hair by slowing them down until they fall into Saturn. Surprisingly, the flux is a hundred times larger than past predictions, and at least half of the material is hydrocarbon, which comprises less than 5% of the water-ice-dominated rings. Cassini’s data also show that the influx varies at least a factor of four and may be linked to clumps that appeared in 2015 on D68, the ringlet on the inner edge of the rings. These newly discovered particles and processes alter the evolutionary landscape of the rings and provide an exciting, rich field for future research aimed at understanding the origin and history of the rings. 

Short bio:
Mark Perry, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, uses data from in situ mass spectrometry and remote observations such as RF occultations to study the internal structure of rocky planets, the magnetospheres of outer planets, the plumes of icy moons such as Enceladus, the topography of asteroids, and now the interactions between the rings of Saturn and its atmosphere. Before returning to research, Dr. Perry spent fifteen years involved with live-cycle engineering and managing many missions, from deep-space missions such as the MESSENGER mission to Mercury and the New Horizons mission to Pluto, to technology-demonstration missions, the International Space Station, and astrophysics missions such as the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer

March 21

Speaker: Dr. Albert Holm, Retired. Formerly a staff member for OAO-A2, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Title: Out of this World Astronomy: The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-A2 

Abstract: What could be better than a telescope on a high mountain? In 1946, Lyman Spitzer published a paper arguing for the development of a large telescope in space. The technology to do that did not exist then nor in the decades after Sputnik. The Orbiting Astronomical Observatory series provided stepping stones for developing and testing the technologies that eventually would be used for the Hubble Space Telescope, the implementation of Spitzer's dream. 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the December 7, 1968, launch of Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-A2, the first satellite to deliver astronomical data about stars, planets, and galaxies to Earth. This is the story of that mission, its operations, its discoveries, and its legacy. 

April 18

Panel Discussion - Led by Phil Whitebloom
Panelists - Soon to be announced

Topic - Enhancing your observing experiences

Whether you are new to astronomy or an experienced observer, this is your opportunity to get new ideas and/or clarifications from your fellow astronomers. Our panelists will be accomplished observers, imagers, sketchers, artists, and technologists. The weather is getting warmer and hopefully drier. For those of you who have questions from the basic to advanced and for those of you with great experience, please join us for this interactive, educational, and sure to be fun meeting.

May 16

Speaker: Kirby Daniel Runyon, PhD, Postdoctoral Planetary Geomorphologist, Johns Hopkins APL, Visiting Scientist, Johns Hopkins University

Title: "Exploring Planets and Worlds in the Kuiper Belt with New Horizons”

Kirby Runyon is a postdoctoral planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins APL and a geology team affiliate on the New Horizons mission. His scientific interests are in characterizing landscape geomorphology and processes responsible for amazing alien vistas. He is generally a giant space geek and loves sharing his passion for the Cosmos. In 2017 he became widely publicized for promoting the view that the public should ignore the IAU because dwarf planets are planets, too. This view not only enshrines Pluto as a planet independently of anything the IAU says, but also the 125+ similarly sized planets in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune as well as the 19 planet-sized moons in the Solar System. He lives in Columbia, MD, and his cat, Nixie, is named after Pluto’s small moon, Nix.

June 20 Special Topic by President Phil Whitebloom
July 18

Caitlin Ahrens, Ph.D. Graduate Student at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science, University of Arkansas
Topic title: "Pluto: from the Lab to the Maps"
We'll take a tour of how the New Horizons mission data is combined with my Pluto laboratory research to explore Pluto's weird geology!

August 15

Meeting preceeded at 6:15PM by Astro-School lead by Bob Savoy. Same location as main meeting

Speaker: Lou Strolger; STScI

Title: High Redshift Supernovae: Beyond The Epoch of Dark Energy

Abstract: For nearly two decades the Hubble Space Telescope has been heavily used to locate supernovae in the most distant environments, with the primary goal of improving constraints on the nature of dark energy. Along the way we have made surprising observations on the nature of supernovae themselves, and clues to their elusive progenitor mechanisms, some of which are difficult to reconcile with observations at much lower redshift.  From complete volumetric supernova rate histories, we find type Ia supernova delay-time distributions are consistent with white-dwarf merger progenitors, but with the fraction of prompt (t_d < 500 Myr) much less than expected from various ground-based surveys. Core collapse supernova rates trace the rate of cosmic star formation, but require stellar progenitors more massive than has been seen in deep studies of nearby events (M > 20 M_sol). I will also detail our current campaigns on clusters of galaxies, where gravitational lens magnification provides a real potential for locating the first, primordial supernovae, while also providing useful constraints on the mass models of the foreground gravitational lenses.

Bio: Lou Strolger is a scientist at Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD, working in science policy for the Hubble Space Telescope. He is involved in several activities addressing racial and ethnic diversity in astronomy and physics, and served on several panels on diversity for the community. His prominent science has been on supernova cosmology and dark energy, and played an integral role in the Nobel Prize winning work on the accelerating universe. He continues to study supernovae, looking for observational clues on their stellar origins, and testing their utility in further probing dark energy.

Sept. 19

Meeting preceeded at 6:15PM by Astro-School lead by Bob Savoy. Same location as main meeting

Speaker: Dr. Sibasish Laha from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Title: "To the Moon and Beyond... An astronomical journey".

Dr. Laha will show case the NASA Apollo missions and the upcoming Moon mission by NASA (Artemis program). He will then talk about astrophysics in general and discuss the outstanding questions in astronomy. He will end by talking about the JWST mission by NASA. 


2014 Ph.D. in astronomy from Inter University Centre of Astronomy and Astrophysics  (India)
2014-2017..  Research Associate at Queen's University of Belfast, United Kingdom.
2017-2019 (May)..  Senior Research Associate in astronomy at University of California, San Diego
2019(May)- present ... Assistant research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and University of Maryland Baltimore County

Dr. Laha international commitments:

1. Member of American Astronomical society (AAS) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
2. Ambassador of Astronomy award, in 2019, by American astronomical society.
3. International science definition team member of future NASA satellite missions such as "Lynx", and ground based telescopes such as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

October 17

Talk Title: Restore-L: Proving Satellite Servicing

Presenter: Pete Sparacino

Bio: Pietro graduated from the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering.  He started working for the Goddard Space Flight Center as an Electrical Engineer in 2003.  His career highlights include working on Hubble Servicing Mission 4,  developing an optical modem to be used on the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration, and leading the development effort for an avionics unit that will control robot servicing in space for the Restore-L project.

Nov. 21

Talk title:  "Meteor Astronomy from Lawn Chairs to the Digital Age"

Presenter:  Pete Gural

Affiliations:  Sole Proprietor of Gural Software and Analysis LLC;  Consulting Employee for Leidos Inc

BIO: Pete Gural is a consultant scientist supporting meteor related projects at NASA GFSC, the University of Western Ontario, the SETI Instutute and continues to dabble in advanced image processing for Leidos Corporation.
Pete’s interest in astronomy started at a young age in light polluted New York City, especially after the East Coast blackout of 1965. He observed his first major meteor shower while in high school (the Perseids) after a cold front swept through and cleared out the normal summer haze of August on Long Island. While in graduate school in Astronomy, he would drive up to Kitt Peak Observatory with Mark Adams (a fellow meteor enthusiast) and lay out under the stars counting and photographing meteors while the professional astronomers worked their magic in the big domes. Full time employment hindered regular late night meteor observing, until an opportunity to purchase an intensified video meteor camera arose in the mid-1990’s. Having to watch endless hours of star field video tapes the following morning, had launched Pete into the area of computer assisted meteor detection from video tapes, and later doing the same from live video feeds.
His developed expertise in automated meteor and transient detection in video, grew into rubbing elbows with both amateur and profession meteor researchers from around the world. He has been involved in both Leonid meteor storm ground and airborne campaigns (traveling once as far as Mongolia), designed and built new instrumentation for meteor observations, and developed software for end-to-end processing of captured video meteors for the CAMS and spectral-CAMS projects. As an amateur meteor enthusiast, he is well known and respected by the professional meteor community, which decided to bestow the honor of naming asteroid #24301 as “Gural”.

Dec. 19 Holiday Potluck Get Together- there is no formal meeting nor a guest speaker. There will be a short "state of the club" discussion by Phil Whitebloom, a HAL 20th Anniversary celebration, and an astro gear only "swap meet"

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Last modified: December 21, 2019 @ 13:56 EST