Meeting History

Zach“A Supernova in the Lab: Nuclear Research at NSCL”

Zach Constan, Outreach coordinator for Michigan State University’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (Zach is Paul Quenneville’s cousin).

Michigan State University’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) is one of the world’s leading rare isotope research facilities. How do researchers study atomic nuclei that are too small to see, exist for less than a second, and can’t be found on Earth? Simply accelerate them to half the speed of light, smash them, and then study the pieces. The secrets we learn could help explain what happens in exploding stars and the origins of elements in your body. In addition, MSU has begun constructing the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a DOE Office of Science project to design and establish a world-leading laboratory that will push the boundaries of nuclear science.

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm.



whittleUVA Professor Mark Whittle

The Cosmic Microwave Background: A Window on Inflation?

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) has made headline news many times over the past few years, and with good reason. The CMB comes from hot gas that was glowing at a time when the Universe was so young that most of its fundamental qualities were still simple and understandable and, most importantly, visible in the CMB’s subtle patchy patterns. In this CAS talk, I will review why the CMB gives us so much information about the universe, including the recent claims that it has revealed for the first time evidence for the cosmic birth process itself: inflation.

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at McCormick Observatory.

Mat  KaplanMat Kaplan, Host of Planetary Radio

Mat Kaplan,  Host of the popular public radio and podcast series Planetary Society’s Planetary Radio Program will join us via Skype to talk about the serious threat to exploration of our solar system even as we enjoy a golden age of missions and science.  Award-winning Planetary Radio is heard on 150 stations around the world, along with Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Mat has a connection to University of Virginia!  His father, a Norfolk native, came to Charlottesville after WWII for medical school!

Club members and the general public are welcome to attend.  The meeting starts at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.   At the meeting conclusion, we will open the 26″ McCormick Telescope for observing (weather permitting).



Building the New Horizons LORRI Imager:  A 20 cm Ritchey-Chretien for Pluto

Ever wonder how instruments used on spacecraft are built?  Steve Conard, lead engineer for the New Horizons LORRI (LOng Range Reconnaissance Imager) instrument, will make a presentation on how LORRI was fabricated and tested.  He will also give general background information on the New Horizons missions to Pluto, and show images collected during the flyby of Jupiter in 2007.  Meeting starts at 6:45 pm.


Jamie BourlandSenior High Astronomy, Reaching for the Stars?  Speaker Jamie Bourland

At The Blue Ridge School near Charlottesville I have been fortunate enough to teach Astronomy to 11th and 12th grade students for the last 10 years. I’ll speak about how I came to be at Blue Ridge, the curriculum I teach, as well as some of the many challenges students and educators face in the 21st century.

Paul Bogard Bogard_EndofNight_HCAbout The End of Night
by Paul Bogard

A deeply panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left.

A starry night is one of nature’s most magical wonders. Yet in our artificially lit world, three-quarters of Americans’ eyes never switch to night vision and most of us no longer experience true darkness. In THE END OF NIGHT, Paul Bogard restores our awareness of the spectacularly primal, wildly dark night sky and how it has influenced the human experience across everything from science to art.

From Las Vegas’ Luxor Beam–the brightest single spot on this planet–to nights so starlit the sky looks like snow, Bogard blends personal narrative, natural history, science, and history to shed light on the importance of darkness–what we’ve lost, what we still have, and what we might regain–and the simple ways we can reduce the brightness of our nights tonight.

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm on Wednesday, May 7.  The meeting will be at McCormick Observatory, our normal meeting place.  It is not necessary to be member to attend the monthly meetings of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society.

planetarium_blueWP_20130602_005The June meeting for the Charlottesville Astronomical Society will be conducted starting at 2 pm on Sunday, June 1, 2014 at the John C. Wells Planetarium on the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.  The John C. Wells Planetarium is a $2 million, state-of-the-art hybrid facility, the only one of its kind in the world. It hosts both an Evans & Sutherland Digistar 5 digital projection system and a Goto Chronos opto-mechanical star projector that provides visitors with a superior and realistic night sky.  We will coordinate car pooling for this meeting as we get closer to the meeting date.

Tom FieldReal Time Spectroscopy (Rspec)

This will be a Video Lecture from Tom Field in Seattle.

A colorful spectrum can rightly be called a “fingerprint of a star.” Spectra reveal the composition, temperature, and movement of stars. In the past, only professionals had the skill and equipment to study spectra. Recently, the cost and complexity of the necessary hardware and software has dropped enormously. Today, you can easily study the spectra of stars and planets with a minimum of expense. If you have a telescope and a CCD camera (even a webcam or DSLR), then all you need is an inexpensive Star Analyser grating and the RSpec software. It’s an exciting pursuit. We invite you to join the growing number of amateur astronomers who have discovered the thrilling adventure of  spectroscopy!

Ed MurphyDr. Ed Murphy will be our speaker this month to our annual Heidi Winter Lecture.   We will meet at the NRAO building down the hill from McCormick Observatory at 7 pm.  Directions. This will also be the Charlottesville Astronomical Society’s December meeting.

My topic will be “The Winter Sky” in honor of Heidi. Heidi loved going outside and seeing the constellations and hearing their stories, so my presentation will be a tour of the winter constellations, their mythology, star names, and some of the interesting objects to see in the sky this winter. I will include an update on Comet ISON.

Mercury trimmedFor the World has Hollows, and I have Touched the Ice – The Greatest, Latest MESSENGER Findings on Mercury

Join MESSENGER team member Mark ‘Indy’ Kochte as he takes you on a journey to one of the most elusive bodies in our Solar System, where not even the vaunted Hubble Space Telescope can peer.
On March 18, 2011, space exploration history was made when the MESSENGER spacecraft became the first probe from Earth to go into orbit around Mercury. Since that time, it has taken more than 170,000 images and made millions of spectra observations. From all this more has been learned about our solar system’s innermost world than had been dreamed to ask at the onset of the mission. From newly seen impact basins to the surprising status of the magnetic field, from the make up of the exosphere to the verification of water ice at the poles and to the discovery of geologic features not found on any other body in the solar system, MESSENGER’s discoveries at Mercury have reshaped the theories planetary geologists have had on the origins of the solar system’s littlest planet (as an aside, Pluto is king of a whole separate category of objects).

Chet HullStar Formation through Radio Eyes: Probing Magnetic Fields with CARMA

How do stars form?  How can we use radio waves to probe the origins of stars within their cold, dusty natal clouds?  And how do magnetic fields affect the star-formation process?  Come and find out how I use CARMA, a millimeter-wave radio telescope in the Eastern Sierras, to find answers to these questions.  I will begin by discussing the basics of radio astronomy, radio telescopes, and star formation.  I will then talk about the research I’ve been doing on polarization and magnetic fields in forming stars, using the dual-polarization receiver system that I helped install and commission at CARMA.

Chat Hull is a fifth-year graduate student in the UC Berkeley Department of Astronomy.  He hails from Penn Yan, NY, a small town about an hour south of Rochester, in the western part of the state.  In 2006, he graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in physics, shortly after giving his first-ever public lecture to the Charlottesville Astronomical Society in November, 2005!  After graduating he taught for two years in two different high schools: first at Woodberry Forest, an all-male boarding high school (which he attended) about an hour north of Charlottesville, teaching AP and freshman physics; and next at the Centro Comunitario de Educacion Yinhatil Nab’en, a middle and high school in the Mayan highland town of San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala, where he taught math, physics, and music.  In 2008 he moved out to Berkeley to begin his graduate studies, and since then has taken great pleasure being a part of UC Berkeley’s vibrant radio astronomy community, where he has learned the ins and outs not only of star formation, but also of radio astronomy theory and instrumentation.

lichtenbergerUniversity of Virginia Microfabrication Lab and ALMA

Our speaker this month, Arthur Lichtenberger received the B.A. degree in Physics from Amherst College in 1980, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1985 and 1987 respectively from the University of Virginia. Dr Lichtenberger has served on the faculty since 1987 and is presently Director of the UNIVERSITY of VIRGINIA MICROFABRICATION LABORATORY UVML. He has published over 55 technical articles and is a member of the International Union of Radio Science, Eta Kappa Nu, Sigma Xi, and Tau Beta Pi.

The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) will be hosting the 2013 annual meeting of the Virginia Association of Astronomical Societies (VAAS) this fall. It will be held on Saturday October 5th at C. M. Crockett Park near Warrenton, VA and will coincide with our big fall public Star Gaze event there. This will be a free event for all members of the invited astronomy clubs.

The VAAS portion of the day will begin early at 8:30 AM. After a light breakfast for attendees, we will have several presentations in our large tent running up to a catered lunch around noon. During the daylight hours members can enjoy safe solar viewing and at night you can set up your equipment by your cars on the large observing field. VAAS attendees are welcome to stay for our afternoon to evening Star Gaze beginning at 3 PM when we will have more presentations and demonstrations.

This is just a preliminary note to confirm contact information for the member clubs to make sure we can reach you when the formal invitations are sent out next month. I would appreciate it if you would reply back to me so that I have an idea of what is working and what isn’t. Please also let me know of any updated contact information about your club that you think would be useful.

As mentioned, I will be sending out invitations to all the clubs next month. That will provide links to our web site where you can register for the event. As mentioned, this is a free event but registration will help us get a better idea of the expected numbers when planning how to feed the masses!


David Werth
VAAS & Star Gaze 2013 Coordinator