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HAL Meetings in 2021

HAL General Meetings (Open to the Public)

2021 General Meeting Topics / Speakers
Jan. 21

Thursday, January 21st, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: NOAA'S Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS)

Presenter: Ted Leoutsakos, NASA - JPSS Deployed Systems Team Senior Engineer

Ted Leoutsakos

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is the nation's new generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system. JPSS is a collaborative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its acquisition agent, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). JPSS provides critical environmental satellite data to support NOAA's ongoing mission to understand and predict changes in the weather, oceans and climate.

Feb. 18

Thursday, February 18th beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Presenter: Dr. Harvey Tananbaum - former director of Chandra XRAY Center

Dr. Tananbaum served as Director of the Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) at the Smithsonian Astrophsycial Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. from 1991-2014. The CXC is responsible for operating the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in orbit, for supporting the broad community of scientists who observe with Chandra, and for disseminating the Chandra science results to the public.

Dr. Tananbaum received his B. A. in physics from Yale University in 1964, and his Ph.D. in physics from MIT in 1968. He began his career as a Staff Scientist at American Science & Engineering, Inc., and has been an Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) since 1973. He directed SAO's High Energy Astrophysics Division from 1981 through 1993. Dr. Tananbaum has been involved with a number of space science missions in the high energy/X-ray field, serving as Project Scientist for the UHURU (SAS-A) X-ray Satellite (1969-1973), as Scientific Program Manager for the first imaging X-ray telescope, the HEAO-2/Einstein mission (1972-1981), and as Principal Investigator and Director of the Einstein Data Center (1981-1994). In 1976, he and Riccardo Giacconi led the team which proposed to NASA to initiate the study and design of a large X-ray telescope that was launched 23 years later, in 1999, as the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. He was the team leader for SAO's Chandra mission study and mirror development efforts, and he organized and led the team which was selected competitively in 1991 to develop and operate the science center for the Chandra mission. Dr. Tananbaum has been working in X-ray astronomy since his graduate days at MIT. His thesis research was on a mysterious, highly variable cosmic x-ray source. Later, when he was project scientist for the Uhuru X-ray Satellite, observations by the satellite were instrumental in showing that this source - Cygnus X-1 - was powered by matter falling into a black hole. Dr. Tananbaum received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1980, the NASA Public Service Award in 1988, and the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership in 2000. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served on numerous NASA and National Research Council advisory committees and as a Vice-president of the American Astronomical Society.

In 2004, he was awarded the Bruno Rossi prize of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, along with Dr. Martin Weisskopf the Chandra Project Scientist, for ", dedication, and leadership in the development, testing, and operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory." In 2005, Dr. Tananbaum was elected as a member to the National Academy of Science, considered one of the highest honors that can be awarded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Dr. Harvey Tananbaum
Mar. 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Gravity: The Force of Creation

Presenter: Dr. Benjamin Schumacher, Professor of Physics at Kenyon College

Dr. Benjamin Schumacher

Dr. Benjamin Schumacher is Professor of Physics at Kenyon College, where he has taught for 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1990. Professor Schumacher is the author of numerous scientific papers and two books, including Physics in Spacetime: An Introduction to Special Relativity. As one of the founders of quantum information theory, he introduced the term qubit, invented quantum data compression (also known as Schumacher compression), and established several fundamental results about the information capacity of quantum systems. For his contributions, he won the 2002 Quantum Communication Award, the premier international prize in the field, and was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Besides working on quantum information theory, he has done physics research on black holes, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. Professor Schumacher has spent sabbaticals working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and as a Moore Distinguished Scholar at the Institute for Quantum Information at California Institute of Technology. He has also done research at the Isaac Newton Institute of Cambridge University, the Santa Fe Institute, the Perimeter Institute, the University of New Mexico, the University of Montreal, the University of Innsbruck, and the University of Queensland.

Apr. 15

Thursday, April 15th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: How is radio astronomy different from optical astronomy?

Presenter: Sue Ann Heatherly, Senior Education Officer Green Bank 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.

Sue Ann Heatherly
May 20

Thursday, May 20th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Sharing Coolest or Most Interesting Astronomy Moments and Experiences

Presenter: Phil Whitebloom and Members

Phil Whitebloom

Sharing Coolest or Most Interesting Astronomy Moments and Experiences

See details from President Phil.

June 17

Thursday, June 17th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: The Great North American Eclipse of 2024: Part 1 - The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Solar Eclipses

Presenter: Jim Johnson

The Great North American Eclipse of 2024 is our next readily accessible opportunity to witness first hand one of the most grand of all astronomical phenomena, a total solar eclipse. As it is less than three years away and careful planning is required for a successful experience, now is a great time to start getting ready. As April 8, 2024 approaches there will be much said about the eclipse in the press, on social media and in discussions among amateur astronomers like us. This talk will provide the foundational material for interpreting this coverage and for formulating travel and observing plans by exploring how and why solar eclipses occur, and what an observer can expect to see. This will be the first in a series of topics on the 2024 eclipse.

Part 2 of this topic will revisit The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017: The Collective Experience of the Howard Astronomical League presentation to explore how HAL members and guests prepared for the eclipse and traveled to eclipse viewing sites, the problems that they encountered, what they learned four years ago, and how those lessons might be applied to preparations for the 2024 eclipse. For Part 3, the ultimate goal of this series, a similar presentation will be prepared that documents our collective 2024 eclipse experience.

Jim Johnson's presentation (Part 1): (PPTX 9.4MB) (PDF 1.25MB)

Jim Johnson
July 15

Thursday, July 15th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: Exoplanets: Finding Life in the Galaxy

Presenter: Robert Zellem

Dr. Robert Zellem

Description: Join Dr. Rob Zellem, an exoplanet astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who will be talking about his work on characterizing exoplanets, planets outside of our own Solar System, with the ultimate goal of finding life.

Rob is an exoplanet astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on ground- and space-based observations of the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets outside of our Solar System. Rob is a member of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope's Coronograph Instrument (CGI; an instrument that will directly-image exoplanets) Project Science Team and is the lead of developing its Science Calibration Plan. He is the JPL Commissioning Lead of NESSI, a new multi-object spectrograph at Palomar Observatory that will study tens of these alien worlds. He has been involved in benchmarking the performance through simulations of NASA and ESA exoplanet-dedicated missions such as CASE, the NASA contribution to ESA's ARIEL mission, and the Astro2020 missions Origins Space Telescope and HabEx. He is also the Project Lead of Exoplanet Watch, a citizen science project that will aid in the characterization of exoplanets.

Rob was born just outside the Philadelphia city limits but grew up in Hendersonville, TN. He went to Villanova University where he graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics, minoring in Physics, Mathematics, and Classics, and getting an Honors Concentration. His love of travel and learning about other cultures brought him to University College London in England where he got his MSc in Space Science. He then moved out west to Tucson, AZ, where he received his PhD in Planetary Sciences from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. He is currently staff at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. When he's not observing exoplanets, he enjoys jazz piano, cooking, trying not to kill all his plants, brewing beer, playing ice hockey, and fantasizing about retiring to work at Disney.

Aug 19

Thursday, August 19th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: An overview of the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) Instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Presenter: Nick Dutton, Johns Hopkins University / Applied Physics Laboratory

The Mini-RF Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) has a long and interesting history. Originally designed and flown as a technology demonstration aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in 2009, it continues to provide useful science information about the lunar surface and subsurface. This talk will give an overview of the instrument and its science objectives, as well as a detailed discussion on the bistatic SAR Lunar image formation process. In addition, we will describe a novel approach to estimating lunar surface composition using machine learning on the Mini-RF data.

Nick has degrees in Aerospace Engineering, Astronautical Engineering, and Physics. From 2013-2018, Nick was the chief engineer and co-founder of Clear Aspect Solutions (CAS), LLC. In 2018 Nick left CAS to join JHU/APL in pursuit of more scientifically oriented work as Senior Professional Staff in the Space Exploration Sector.

Sept 23

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Note this will be the 4th Thursday of Sept. (rather than the usual 3rd Thursday).

Topic: Observing the Next Galactic Supernova

Presenter: Dan Milisavljevic

Dr. Dan Milisavljevic

Description: The catastrophic deaths of massive stars--supernova explosions--are among the most powerful and important events in the cosmos. Supernovae strongly shape the structure and chemistry of their host galaxies; they produce a variety of exotic objects including neutron stars, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts; and, perhaps most importantly, supernova debris ejected into interstellar space is chock full of the heavy elements that make planets and life possible. Dr. Milisavljevic will provide a vivid description of historical supernovae that occurred in our own Milky Way galaxy, and outline plans for a coordinated global response to the next "Big One." Particular emphasis will be drawn to the special role that American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) members will have in responding to an alert from the Supernova Early Warning System (SNEWS), which is a network of neutrino detectors around the world designed to rapidly provide the first announcement when the next once-in-a-century Galactic supernova occurs.

Dr. Dan Milisavljevic is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University. He completed his undergraduate degree in liberal arts at McMaster University; masters degree in philosophy at the London School of Economics, under a Commonwealth Fellowship; and PhD in physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He's held research positions at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Milisavljevic's research interests include multi-messenger signals of astrophysical transients discovered via time-domain surveys; autonomous AI-directed coordination of global observing facilities; the explosion mechanisms, progenitor stars, and compact object remnants of supernovae; massive star mass loss; and the formation and destruction of dust and molecules.

Oct 21

Thursday, October 21st, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

No Speaker.

Nov 18

Thursday, Thursday, November 18th, 2021 beginning at 7:00PM

Topic: New Horizons and the Kuiper Belt

Presenter: Dr. Carey Lisse, Johns Hopkins University / Applied Physics Laboratory

Quick Zoom Link

Shortly after its July 15, 2015 flyby of Pluto, NASA approved Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 486958 Arrokoth as a secondary target for the New Horizons spacecraft. This KBO was not discovered until eight years after the spacecraft was launched, and it was the first object to be targeted for a flyby after the exploration spacecraft had already been launched. This talk will explore the development of the New Horizons mission, the spacecraft and it's instruments, preparations for the January 1, 2019 Arrokoth encounter, and the results of the flyby. As the New Horizons spacecraft retains significant scientific capacity and approaches the farthest reaches of the outer solar system, potential future work for this spacecraft will also be explored.

Dr. Carey Lisse is a planetary astronomer, stellar astrophysicist, and infrared spectroscopist at The Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory. He studies the formation and evolution of solar systems, including our own, from their beginnings through the formation of life. With backgrounds in chemistry, physics, and biology, he does this mainly through studying the clues left behind during their growth - the comets, asteroids, KBOs, gas, and dust left orbiting around stars as they age. The work for which he is best known is manifold, and includes the Nobel prize winning Cosmic Background Explorer Mission that characterized the radiation from the Big Bang; the 1996 discovery of X-ray emissions from Comet Hyakutake and Carbon star LSF1 in 2001; the Comet ISON and Comet Siding Springs Observing Campaigns; exosystem detections of terrestrial planet formation in the HD 113766 star system; a giant planetary impact in the HD 172555 system and a Late Heavy Bombardment in the Eta Corvi system; observations of interstellar objects 1I/Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov; and member of the New Horizons Pluto/MU69 flyby science team studying how Kuiper Belt objects formed in the infant solar system. Dr. Lisse hold MS and PhD degrees in Physics from University of Maryland at College Park.

Dr. Carey Lisse
Dec 16

Christmas LightsChristmas Lights Christmas Lights

Thursday, December 16th, 2021 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM

HAL's First Hybrid Holiday Party!

Quick Zoom Llink (Passcode: party).

You have the option to join us in person at Robinson Nature Center or on Zoom.

This will be both an in-person event at Robinson Nature Center and a Zoom call. It will be the first time doing a hybrid event and I will work to make the technology part go smoothly. I will have some prepared topics that I am looking forward covering with all of you. If you have some astronomy items you would like to giveaway, sell, or swap, bring them with you to Robinson Nature Center. There will be tables setup for you to display the items. If you are attending on Zoom, bring them with you on the call and you will have the opportunity to show and describe to all. (Note: It works best if you don't have a virtual background when trying to show items live).

We are going to remain COVID cautious. If you plan to attend in-person at Robinson Nature Center:

  • This will be a social gathering.
  • Masks are mandatory at all times.
  • There will be no food this year. Do not bring food with you, it will not be allowed in the meeting.

Send Phil your astro images:

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Last modified: January 09, 2022 @ 16:35 EST