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2020 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
January 16

Open to Public. Astroschool at 6:15PM. Jim Johson hosts this meeting. His topic is: "Gravity,  I'm not Half the Mass I Used To Be". General Meeting starts at 7PM. Guest Speaker: HAL's own Gary Friskhorn, award winning personal telescope maker. His talk will be preceded by the 2020 Board of Director Elections and the Annual Treasurer's Report (both very short).

Bio: HAL member Gary Frishkorn, now retired, last worked for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as a Software / Systems Engineer.  About 30 years ago he became very interested in amateur telescope making.  His first project was the design and construction of an 8-inch Newtonian telescope, including grinding and polishing of the primary mirror.  His current project is a 4.5 inch, f/16 refractor telescope.  The design of its achromatic objective is now complete and polishing of its elements underway.
This talk will describe his 6-inch aperture binocular telescope and chair mounting.  In 2006, it won first place awards at Stellafane for the mechanical design, craftsmanship, and compound optical performance categories.  The key features of the telescope's conception and design will be covered, followed by a demonstration of its setup and use.

February 20

Open to Public. Doors open at 6PM. Astroschool at 6:15PM. Jim Johnson's topic for Astroschool is: "Gravity: I'm Not Half the Mass I used to Be (Part II)".

General Meeting starts at 7PM. Guest Speaker Marty Cohen of Company 7 will be leading a discussion on the different types of telescopes, what makes them different from each other, and things you should consider when choosing the telescope style that you will get the most enjoyment when using. This is guaranteed to be a lively interactive session that many of you are very excited about. To help with the discussion, if you can bring a small refractor, dobsonian, SCT or other type of easy to bring in and take out telescope, please send an email directly to Victor Sanchez at

New Vice President Victor Sanchez will run the Meeting. He will be talking about; "I gotta find some darker skies". It will be very interesting. Victor is not only our HAL VP, but an accomplished amateur astronomer and imager. 

March 19 Cancelled
April 16

Zoom Video Conference:  An email will be sent out to the membership on Wednesday May 20th with the link.

Guest Presenter: Jim Johnson - Past President of HAL

Topic: How does the celestial sphere work?

May 21

Zoom Video Conference:  An email will be sent out to the membership on Wednesday May 20th with the link.

Guest Speaker:   Dr. Michelle Shinn

Topic:  Star Archeology – the Search for the Oldest Stars in the Universe
Even a casual observer of the night sky will see that some stars shine a different color than others.  Learn how this color was tied to the age of the star, aided by the diligent analyses done primarily by female astronomers recruited by a Harvard professor.  How a modern version of the same techniques, utilized on the largest telescopes, reveals a story of how our Milky Way galaxy sweeps up other galaxies, and in the process, contains some of the first stars that shined in the Universe.

Bio: Dr. Michelle Shinn is an accomplished public speaker on a variety of physics topics such as dark matter and energy, lasers and astronomy. She is an amateur astronomer, beekeeper, and historical musicologist.  Born and raised in Oklahoma, Dr. Shinn received her Physics degrees (BS ’78, MS ’80, PhD ’83) at Oklahoma State University. She has worked at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) as a laser scientist, been an Associate Professor of Physics at Bryn Mawr College and an optical scientist at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab). At JLab she led a group that developed and operated the optical systems for a revolutionary free-electron laser (FEL).  This FEL remains the world’s highest average-power tunable ultrafast laser at any wavelength in the world.

Dr. Shinn is now at the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics where she is responsible for the Small Business Innovative Research Program.  There she works to strengthen ties with industry and the nuclear physics community in order to foster the development of commercial applications arising from nuclear physics research.

June 18 Zoom video conference. An email will be sent out in advance with the Zoom link. Guest Speaker will be Dale Ghent who will be giving a live demo of the N.I.N.A. software and discussing it merits and how to use it.
July 23

The theme for this meeting will be "Comets". What else can it be after such a spectacular visit from Comet Neowise. It will be informative and fun. If you have a comet story you would like to share with the group, bring it on, we are looking forward to hearing it. We are also going to hear a few interesting stories from our own Victor Sanchez who lived in Africa for a while. Although off the comet theme, it is fascinating what other people of the world see when they "look up".

August 20

Topic: How is radio astronomy different from optical astronomy?

Guest Presenter: Sue Ann Heatherly


Senior Education Officer
Greenbank Observatory

Sue Ann Heatherly is the Senior Education Officer at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, WV.  Ms. Heatherly started her career as a science teacher in rural West Virginia, and in 1987 she participated in the first teacher workshop held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 1989 she was hired by the Observatory to expand the education and outreach program.

The Green Bank Observatory is a real technical village—the staff are composed of astronomers, engineers, technicians and software developers, machinists and mechanics and (3 educators).  The observatory's mission is to provide state-of-the-art research facilities for the nation's astronomers. Astronomers from all over the world use the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope there, which is the world's largest fully steerable telescope.

Ms Heatherly's mission is to engage teachers and students in real-world scientific research experiences, and to share the excitement of scientific discovery with the public. Since her tenure began at the observatory she has written several successful grant proposals to the NSF and NASA which have allowed over 1500 teachers and tens of thousands of students to experience scientific research first-hand.

Note: If the 20 meter radio telescope is working, we will collect live data during the meeting.

[Speaker Didn't Show Up]

Sept. 17

HAL's guest speaker for the September meeting will be: Dr. Caitlin Ahrens, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow.

Topic: Weird Moons

Presenter: Dr. Caitlin Ahrens

Caitlin is a return speaker to HAL. Caitlin is a graduate of West Virginia University in B.S. degrees in Geology and Physics/Astrophysics. Her research background includes theoretical seismology (of which she holds a patent in), mineral analysis on the Martian surface, and radio astronomy. In Spring 2020, she received her Ph.D. in space and planetary sciences at the University of Arkansas on her research simulating Pluto conditions in her lab to create various ice phases and researching Plutonian glaciers. Currently, Caitlin is a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center working on lunar ices and impact craters. Caitlin also produces a radio show called “Scratching the Surface” on KUAF 91.3 FM (soon to be a podcast) and a NASA Solar System Ambassador for many forms of astronomy outreach across the nation, earning the award 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Americans. 

October 15

Topic: Pulsar Polarization

Presenter: Haley Wahl

Haley is a 4th year physics PhD candidate at WVU with a focus in astrophysics. She did her undergrad at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. At WVU, she is working with Dr. Maura McLaughlin on pulsars (the super dense, magnetic cores of deceased stars) and is part of the NANOGrav collaboration, an organization that is working to detect gravitational waves by using pulsar timing arrays. Her main focus is in pulsar polarization, or how the light from pulsars is twisted as it goes through the space between us and the pulsar. She is also interested in science communication and worked at WVU’s planetarium for a year and is part of the Astrobites collaboration, which takes scientific articles and summarizes them for the general public. 

Nov. 19

HAL's guest speaker for the November meeting will be: Dr. Sayali Avachat.

Topic: Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)

Presenter: Sayali Avachat, PhD

Sayali has a PhD in Space Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology. Her research interests are active galactic nuclei and the physics behind their jets' formation and evolution. She has a passion for science outreach and communication. Being a STEM education enthusiast, she is involved in writing popular articles on the current research and progress in the field of astronomy. She is engaged in public outreach through her Facebook page named Astronomyn. She has a keen interest in getting middle and high school kids educated in the latest research in astronomy and to inspire and engage them in the subject. She has been co-conducting critical thinking and science workshops online for elementary and middle school students since the Summer of 2020.

Dec. 17

Happy Holidays, HAL! Join our Virtual Party!

Christmas LightsChristmas Lights

Thursday, December 17th beginning at 7:00PM

Zoom quick link. More Zoom options on HAL home page.

We will not have a guest speaker at this month's meeting. We are going to have some fun. It is a pot-luck dinner. So make sure you bring your favorite food and be ready to share it with the rest of us virtually. I have a preference for the meatballs and the desserts.

Do you have telescopes, binoculars, eye-pieces, mounts, or other accessories you want to sell, swap, or simply give away? Bring them to the meeting. Are you looking for any of these items or other astronomical items such as books or memorabilia? Well, come to the meeting. You may find a holiday gift for you or someone else. You will be able to show off your goods or request from someone else. We will heavily use the chat where you will be able to privately work out the details with the giver or givee.

This is the one astronomy event where weather will not be a factor. We can't get together in person this year to share our holiday cheer. But we will get together and have a great time! See you there.

Happy Holidays! Clear Skies! Stay Healthy! -- Phil

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Last modified: December 20, 2020 @ 13:21 EST