Previous Meetings (Reverse Chronology) with Guest Speakers and Topics
September 1st, 2020 – Program – Mr. James Renn will make our September presentation entitled “The Vatican Observatory and the Big Bang”.
Mr Renn is a member of the Vatican Observatory Foundation Board of Directors, and is also on staff at the Walker Star Barn Planetarium in Cave Creek. He gives presentations on astronomical topics for both venues.
The presentation begins with a short history of the legacy of the Vatican Observatory, which dates to 1582. It identifys notable members connected to the Observatory, beginning with Christopher Clavius and the 1582 calendar reform, The talk refers to the trial of Galileo as an example of conflict between faith and science, and mentions Angelo Secchi, a founding father of astrophysics. The lecture then discusses Fr. George LeMaitre, who used Einsteins equations to propose a theory of the origin of the Universe we now call “The Big Bang”. This is followed by a short overview of the present state of the Universe and how how the name “Big Bang” was coined by Professor Fred Hoyle in 1949. Finally, the presenter discusses philosophical concepts that personal at the Vatican encounter when they discuss the evolution of the Universe.
August 4th 2020 Virtual Meeting 6:00 pm Arizona time or 6:00 pm PDT
Speaker: Dr. Rosaly M. C. Lopes
Title: “Volcanism in the Solar System”
Dr. Rosaly M. C. Lopes is a Senior Research Scientist at JPL and Editor-in-Chief of the planetary journal Icarus. She obtained a B.Sc. in astronomy and Ph.D. in planetary science from University College London, UK. Her research expertise is on planetary geology and volcanology and she has studied Mars, Io, and Titan. She was a member of Galileo’s Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team from 1991-2003 and of the Cassini Titan Radar Mapper (2003-2019). She is the PI of the NASA Astrobiology Institute project “Habitability of Hydrocarbon Worlds: Titan and Beyond”. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union. She has received several awards including the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society, the Ambassador Award from the American Geophysical Union, and two NASA Exceptional Public Service Medals. Her discovery of 71 active volcanoes on Io led to her being included in the 2006 Guinness Book of World records as the discoverer of the most active volcanoes anywhere.
July 7th Members Only Workshop (ZOOM): John Cline has been busy organizing our clubs records and has put together a very interesting presentation of our clubs history since 1986. Members please check your email for detail meeting information. If you cannot find your emails please contact us at: email@example.com
March 3rd, 2020 – Tentative Program – Guest Speaker – Dr. Melissa A.Morris a Senior Support Scientist with ASRC Federal and NASA. Topic: Dr. Morris will provide an update on the OSIRIS REx Mission. Description: OSIRIS Rex seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the left over debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets. OSIRIS REx will journey to the asteroid Bennu, map it and gather a physical sample and return the sample to earth.
February 4th, 2020 – Program – Our guest speaker is Dr. Thomas Mozdzen (Assistant Research Scientist at ASU and Vice President of East Valley Astronomy Club).
His topic is “Recent efforts at ASU to find evidence of when the first stars formed”. What were those first stars like and when did they form? How did they affect the rest of the universe? Dr Mozdzen will discuss how a new research tool named EDGES will help describe the creation of galaxies, the strength of the X rays from their central black holes, and the interaction with the cold clouds of primordial hydrogen.
January 7th, 2020 – Program – Guest Speaker – Dr. David Williams from ASU
The talk title is: “Exploring Ocean Worlds”
Description: This talk will discuss the evidence for ‘ocean worlds… worlds in our Solar System beyond Earth that appear to have liquid water oceans in their interiors. What do we know about them? What do they imply for exoplanets, and life elsewhere in the Universe? Join Professor David Williams of ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration for all the latest on these enigmatic worlds!
December 3rd, 2019 – WVAC Club Holiday and Business meeting. For more information (Click here).
November 7th, 2019 (Thursday)
Guest Speaker –Dr. Rogier A. Windhorst from ASU; His talk is titled: “New Telescopes that will Expand Hubble’s Frontier”.
Dr. Windhorst is an astronomer and a professor of physics and astronomy at Arizona State University and formally presided over The School of Earth and Space Exploration. His research lies in astronomy, cosmology, galaxy formation and evolution. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, his group at ASU has contributed significantly to unraveling the formation and evolution of distant galaxies. His research has led to new understandings of how the universe first began. He also studies black holes and he is the principal investigator of the Hubble Space Telescope mid-UV bright galaxy survey.
(2019-10-1) – “Radio Astronomy”. Guest Speaker – Dr. Alex Vrenios. Topic – “Radio Astronomy” – Dr. Vrenios is a retired computer scientist who specialized in the design and development of distributed computing systems. He has dozens of technical presentations and publications to his credit, including a book on Linux clusters. His other interests include astronomy, photography and amateur radio. The program begins with a brief history of Radio Astronomy, and then discusses the subjects of Solar Energy, Jupiter’s Radio Storms, Meteor Scatter Communications, Galactic Radio Sources and finally… how to create radio images.
(2019-04-02) “Updates from the Surface of Mars”– Dr. Steve Ruff – ASU School of Earth & Space Exploration
Steve Ruff is a planetary geologist with a focus on the mineralogy of Mars determined via infrared spectroscopy.
Dr. Ruff discussed recent happenings at the surface of Mars concerning rovers and landers and take a look to the future of Mars exploration. Dr Ruff also reported on the final months of the Opportunity rover’s nearly 15 year mission; the recent activities of the Curiosity rover; the new Insight lander mission; and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission.
(2019-03-05) “New Horizon Mission Update” Speaker – Dr. Will Grundy
Dr. Grundy is from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Dr. Grundy is a co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizon Mission which did the Pluto fly-by and just arrived at Ultima Thule (dumbbell looking asteroid) in the Outer asteroid belt on New Years day 2019. Grundy does spectroscopic, thermal, and imaging observations of outer Solar System bodies using numerous large ground- and space-based telescopes including Hubble, Spitzer, Herschel, Keck, Gemini, VLT, DCT, IRTF, and MMT.
(2019-02-05) “Celestial (Stellar) Navigation” Speaker – Allen Edwards
Member/Speaker Allen Edwards spoke on the continuing use of stellar navigation as applied to Space Navigation – A variation on terrestrial celestial navigation was used to help orient the Apollo spacecraft en route to and from the Moon. To this day, space missions such as the Mars Exploration Rover use star trackers to determine the attitude of the spacecraft. Allen presented an INS unit and Sextant for show and tell experience. About the speaker – Club member Allen has a BSEE degree from Univ. of Illionois and a MBA from the Univ. ofPhoenix. He is president of the StellarNav LLC.
(2019-01-02) “Digital SLR Astrophotography” Speaker – Ryan Morrell
Speaker/member Ryan Morrell has collected state-of-the-art DSLR astronomy images from undisclosed desert viewing locations. Ryan resorted to unconventional means to obtain his astonishing photographs. Ryan showed his images as well as discussing his technique and equipment.
(2018-11-07) “Edited Netflix video clip (Edge of the Universe)”
Scientist now see back to just 1/2 million years after the Big Bang. We now have amazing updated concepts about it’s size , shape and ultimate fate.
(2018-10-03) “Asteroids, Ion Propulsion, NASA’s Dawn Mission to Vesta & Ceres”
Speaker: Dr. David Williams – ASU
(2018-04-03) “The Splendors of the Universe with Visual Astronomy” – Speaker: Dr. Paul Knauth
The talk surveys astronomical marvels that can actually be seen with the human eye and discuss how today’s colorful digital images inadvertently distort our human understanding and appreciation of the cosmos.
(2018-03-06) “My work with the Rovers on Mars” Speaker: Dr. Tanya Harrison
Dr. Harrison works on commercial-academic space partnerships and Martian geomorphology research at Arizona State University. She has been deeply involved with all of the Rovers that we have on Mars. Dr. Harrison wrote an article in the July 2017 Astronomy magazine about water on Mars. Her talk is primarily about water – past and present – on Mars.
(2018-02-06) “CCD Photometry from Inside the Light Dome” Speaker – Retired engineer Tom Polakis
Tom is a Contributing Editor for Astronomy Magazine. He has written many stories about the hobby and the profession. Tom has actively pursued photometry with his CCD imaging Equipment in Tempe. During that time, he has determined rotation periods of asteroids, measured brightness and colors of eclipsing binary and pulsating variable stars and created light curves of exoplanets.
(2018-01-02) “Space Physiology” Speaker – Michelle Turner
Our speaker was Michelle Turner, a world traveled expert in the field of human locomotion. Ms. Turner spoke on space physiology based on the Theory of Opposition to Gravity and Locomotion, a paper she presented at the International Conference of Movement and Cognition at the University of Oxford in July 2017. The theory has implications for humans in long term space flight such as in NASA’s upcoming Mars mission.
(2017-11-07) “Are We Alone in the Universe” Speaker – Dr. Laird Close
Dr. Laird Close is an award winning Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The University of Arizona. Dr. Close is the principal scientist of the 6.5m Magellan Adaptive Optics extrasolar planet imager, located in the high Atacama Desert of Chile. He has developed a course available in the “The Great Courses” series entitled “Are We Alone in the Universe” and this will be the theme of his presentation.
(2017-10-13) “An Immigrant’s Journey to the Cosmos” Speaker – Dr. Misconi
Some of Dr. Misconi’s Interests: The Zodiacal light, Interplanetary dust dynamics, Comets and Asteroids colliding with the Earth, Conversations with Buz Aldrin and others, Space science in Florida, Global warming views.
(2017-04-04) “Probe of Earth-Trojan Asteroid – Bennu” Speaker – Carl Hergenrother
Carl Hergenrother has discovered multiple asteroids and minor planets and is on the OSIRIS-Rex asteroid investigation team .
The mission, launched in 2016, will study asteroid 101955 Bennu by scooping up and returning it’s pristine material* back to earth for important scientific study. (*remanents that built the earth) Coincidentally asteroid Bennu also occupies a dangereous near-earth orbit! If successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first US spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid.
(2017-03-07) “Ninth planet in our solar system” Speaker – Kat Volk
There is intriguing evidence for a ninth planet in our solar system says Kat Volk, a post-doctoral researcher in the UA Department of Planetary on this project. If planet nine were to exist, it would have a huge impact on the study of the solar system. The planet is thought to be about 20 times further from Earth than Neptune, the farthest large planet we now know of. The Hypothetical planet would have an orbital period of 665 AU, then the most distant objects would be in simple mean motion resonances with it, Volk said.
(2017-02-07) “Cannibal Galaxies” Speaker – Dr. West
Dr. West is the Deputy Director for Science at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. His research interests include star clusters, galaxy formation and evolution, clusters of galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the universe. He has been Principal Investigator for six Hubble Space Telescope projects to date, and has been awarded time on other major telescopes around the world.
(2016-11-29) “NASA’s Amazing Dawn Mission” Speaker – Dr. Steve Desch
The Dawn satellite is a magnificent scientific achievement. The Dawn mission was launched in September 2007 and has a unique propulsion system using ion thrusters capable of speeds of up to 200,000 MPH. It took the Dawn satellite four years to travel to the main asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system. NASA’s daunting Mission data analysis is ongoing. Dr. Desch will also be showing the latest lifelike computer models of the dwarf planet Ceres.
(2016-10-25) “Primitive Asteroids” Speaker – Dr. Driss Takir.
Dr. Takir is a planetary scientist with the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Az. And is a leading scientist in the research of Outer Main Belt asteroids. He uses telescopic spectroscopic observations of water and carbon rich asteroids of our early solar system to determine the evolution of the many diverse solar systems found in the universe. In his talk he will discuss the implications of his work in linking primitive asteroid samples data returned from two different asteroids. Additionally, finding asteroids on a collision path with the earth will be discussed.
(2016-09-27) “Nano Satellite program on the Moon” Speaker – Dr. Craig Hargrove
Our speaker will be Dr. Craig Hardgrove, from ASU. Dr. Hardgrove is the principal investigator for the LunaH-Map program. His team is developing a small CubeSat satellite used to map the distribution of hydrogen on the moon. These miniaturized satellites, known as nanosatellites or CubeSats, can fit in the palm of your hand. The mission goal will be mapping hydrogen distributions in permanently shadowed regions of the moon’s south pole to better understand planetary development in our solar system.
(2016-04-05) “Astrophotography – My Pictures and Techniques” Speaker – Tom Conner
Consummate Astrophotographer, Tom Conner, will present a selection of his best photos obtained over the last nine years. The photos were taken from various locations in the Sonoran Desert of Southwest Arizona and in Plain Township, Ohio.Tom’s photos were obtained using optical aids ranging from SLR-type camera lenses up to large permanently mounted telescopes. Tom has lectured on astrophotography and his pictures have been on public display in various venues in Ohio in past years.
(2016-03-01) “NASA’s New Horizon’s Mission to Pluto and Beyond” Speaker – Dr. David Williams
Dr. David Williams will present on the topic “NASA’s New Horizon’s Mission to Pluto and Beyond”. He is an associate research professor in ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. His research has included computer modeling of seismic wave propagation through planetary interiors, visible and near-infrared spectroscopy of the lunar surface, planetary geologic mapping of the satellites of Jupiter and the planet Mars, computer modeling of the physical and geochemical evolution of lava flows in a variety of planetary environments, and petrologic study of lava samples from Mount St Helens. He was involved with NASA’s Magellan Mission to Venus and Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He is a Co-Investigator on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter mission, and he was a Participating Scientist on NASA’s Dawn Mission to asteroid Vesta. David is a Past Chair of the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America, has served on several NASA committees including the 2007 Jovian System Observer Science Definition Team, and was a steering committee member of the NASA Outer Planets Advisory Group. He is currently performing research in volcanology and planetary geology, with a focus on planetary mapping, geochemical, and remote sensing studies. The title of his talk will be, “NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond”. He will be discussing the planetary rovers and the planets that we’ve explored with them, from the Moon to Mars, with a look ahead to future missions to moons of the outer planets and the latest results from the Mars Curiosity rover. In July 2015 NASA completed the initial reconnaissance of the Solar System with a flyby of dwarf planet Pluto. What did they discover? Join Professor David Williams of ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration on a journey to the edge of the Solar System, and see the wonders of Pluto revealed!
(2016-02-02) “Mars Mission Update” Speaker – Dr. Steve Ruff
Dr. Steve Ruff will present the WVAC February program on the topic “Mars Mission Update”.
Steve is a planetary geologist with a focus on the mineralogy of Mars determined via infrared spectroscopy, part of an effort to understand its geologic history and potential for past habitability.
Terrestrial field work and lab studies are an integral part of this effort, providing an empirical basis for interpreting data from orbital spacecraft and rovers.
He has been an active member in several Mars missions and a participant in the planning of future missions.
(2015-10-27) “Update – New Horizons mission” Speaker – Dr. Will Grundy
Dr. Grundy is astronomer at Lowell Observatory. Will is a co-investigator on NASA’s New Horizons mission which recently encountered the Pluto system. He heads the mission’s surface composition science theme team. Will’s talk will present the latest results from the amazingly revealing New Horizons mission and will discuss what hypotheses are emerging to explain some of the puzzling features that have been discovered. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system in July 2015, collecting a treasure trove of color and panchromatic images, infrared and ultraviolet spectra, and measurements of the local particle environment. Data from the encounter are still being transmitted back to Earth. The downlink will continue until well into 2016, but scientists have been amazed by the data already received. Pluto is far from a dead world. Its volatile ices interact with the atmosphere on seasonal timescales, creating a fascinating and mysterious diversity of landforms. Likewise, Charon is revealed to have far more complicated geology than the inert, cratered sphere some had expected. Even the small moons have interesting stories to tell.
(2015-03-03) “Evolution of Planetary Systems” Speaker – Sarah Morrison
Sarah Morrison is a PhD candidate in Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona’a Lunar and Planetary Laboratory studying the evolution of planetary systems using orbital dynamics. She received her B.A. in Astronomy from Cornell University calibrating cameras on the Mars Exploration Rovers and exploring the moons of Saturn during the Cassini mission. She currently enjoys observing the often clear Southwestern skies while pondering perplexing planetary puzzles.
Title: Exoplanets Abstract: Join University of Arizona Planetary Science PhD candidate Sarah Morrison as she describes her work studying exoplanets. Summary: Within the last 10 years, we now have much more context for our Solar System with the discovery and characterization of thousands of exoplanet systems. To date, however, most of these systems provide insight mainly for the inner planets since they sample planets that orbit close to their host stars. I will discuss cutting-edge efforts to start looking for outer exoplanets using direct imaging campaigns, as well as through indirect evidence in debris disks and current transit/radial velocity surveys and what these findings mean for our understanding of our own Solar System.
(2014-11-25) “A Smashed Up Universe” Speaker – Dr. Paul Knauth of ASU
Title: A Smashed-up Universe – Abstract: The actual history of nature has clearly been astoundingly chaotic. Collisions at all scales are the dominant process shaping what we see. Examples abound and include why no two galaxies look exactly alike, why the solar system looks the way it does, why Mars is fooling us into thinking it had a warm, wet early history, why we are never going permanently into space, and possibly why we are here instead of dinosaurs. Search for the orderly progression of history if you like, but what we see is a smashed-up universe. Come to Dr. Knauth’s presentation and after reviewing it all, you may want to drive more carefully on the way home.
(2014-10-28) “A New World of Possibilities” Speaker – Jim Ray
Richard and Jim Ray are the first astronomers to ever obtain speckle interferometry images of binary stars using a heliostat (solar) telescope. They will explain what they did and how they did it, as well as the science behind speckle interferometry, e.g., how speckle interferometry lets a telescope easily observe at its resolution limit (not the seeing limit imposed by bad air).
(2014-09-30) “The Clark Telescope Renovation Project” Speaker – Kevin Schindler
Kevin Schindler of Lowell Observatory will be our speaker for the September 30 WVAC Meeting. The topic will be the Clark Telescope Renovation Project which he is heading up. He will share the latest information and show pictures of the project work. The Web has a great run-down and video link of Kevin’s project at: Lowell Restoration
(2014-04-01) “Roving the Solar System” Speaker – Dr. David Williams
Dr. David Williams is an associate research professor in ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. His research has included computer modeling of seismic wave propagation through planetary interiors, visible and near-infrared spectroscopy of the lunar surface, planetary geologic mapping of the satellites of Jupiter and the planet Mars, computer modeling of the physical and geochemical evolution of lava flows in a variety of planetary environments, and petrologic study of lava samples from Mount St Helens. He was involved with NASA’s Magellan Mission to Venus and Galileo Mission to Jupiter. He is a Co-Investigator on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter mission, and he was a Participating Scientist on NASA’s Dawn Mission to asteroid Vesta. David is a Past Chair of the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America, has served on several NASA committees including the 2007 Jovian System Observer Science Definition Team, and was a steering committee member of the NASA Outer Planets Advisory Group. He is currently performing research in volcanology and planetary geology, with a focus on planetary mapping, geochemical, and remote sensing studies.
The title of his talk will be, “Roving the Solar System.” He will be discussing the planetary rovers and the planets that we’ve explored with them, from the Moon to Mars, with a look ahead to future missions to moons of the outer planets and the latest results from the Mars Curiosity rover.
(2014-03-04) “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the 21st Century: Moving Beyond Radio Astronomy?” Speaker – Sara Walker.
Sara Imari Walker is an Assistant Professor in the school of Earth and Space Exploration and the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. She is a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist and received her PhD in Physics from Dartmouth College and has held postdoctoral appointments in the Center for Chemical Evolution at the Georgia Institute of Technology and as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. Her research focuses on the emergence of life, but she is broadly interested in topics as diverse as the structure of information hierarchies in biological systems, astrobiological searches for life elsewhere in the cosmos, the dynamics underlying major evolutionary transitions, cancer biology, quantum mechanics and space exploration. Her topic will be, “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the 21st Century: Moving Beyond Radio Astronomy?”.
(2014-02-04) “Recent Progress at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)”
Our Club Trip: A few years ago our WVAC club made a fascinating trip up 11,000 ft. Mt. Graham to the Large Binocular Telescope. At that time only one mirror was up and running. Now both are operating. The combined 27 ft. diameters of each of the mirrors make this one of the most powerful telescopes yet devised and bettering the Hubble!
Our Speaker: The Chief Instrumentation Scientist on the job and in charge of all the complicated equipment is Dr. R Mark Wagner and he has agreed to speak at our February 4 meeting. The title of his talk is “Recent Progress at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)”.
(2013-09-24) “Mars Rovers” Speaker – Dr. Steve Ruff.
Dr. Steve Ruff was our kick-off speaker at our September 24 meeting. His presentation was titled: “Mars Rovers: Where are they now?” Dr. Ruff is a Mars researcher at ASU in the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s Mars Space Flight Facility and has spoken at the WVAC on numerous occasions over the years. Currently, Dr. Ruff is actively involved in Mars exploration and is an associate team member of the Mars Rover Opportunity. We will hear about recent exciting discoveries by the Rover Vehicles along with high definition pictures taken on Mars using the Rover cameras.
(2013-10-29) “Wonders of the Night Sky” Speaker – Dr. Tim Hunter
Dr. Tim Hunter was guest speaker at our October 29 Meeting. Among his many other notable achievements, he is the president and co-founder of the International Dark-Sky Association. His talk included a discussion and photographs of wonders of the night sky and the preservation of our heritage of dark skies.
(2013-11-26) “Seeing Double: The Joy of Double Stars” Speaker – Richard Harshaw.
The speaker for our last meeting of the year, Nov. 26, was Richard Harshaw. The title of his presentation was “Seeing Double: the Joy of Double Stars”. As you may have guessed his specialty is double stars.
Bio: He has had several articles on double stars published in journals and has published a book with Springer Publishing, the Complete CD Guide To The Universe. He has also contributed about 2,000 measurements of double stars to the Washington Double Star Catalog (his observer code is HSW). He is also the co-author of 16 binary star orbits (with William Hartkopf).