February 11, 2015 CAS Meeting

KelseyHeidi Winter Memorial Lecture
Kelsey Johnson, Associate Professor of Astronomy, UVA

Special Note:  The meeting this month will be the second Wednesday of February and it will be conducted at the NRAO Auditorium, just down the hill from McCormick Observatory.  Directions. Meeting starts at 6:45 pm.

August 6, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

caponRob Capon

CAS Member Rob Capon will give a presentation on the latest in amateur observatory automation at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, August 6 starting at 6:45 pm.  His presentation will include a live demonstration of his robotic observatory in action.

September 3, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

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.



October 1, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

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.

November 5, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

SteveSteve Layman, President, Charlottesville  Astronomical Society

Steve Layman will present “Cool Astronomy Stuff on the Internet” at this month’s meeting on Wednesday, November 5th starting at 6:45 pm.



December 3rd, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

Jim MullaneyAstronomy Author Jim Mullaney will be our December speaker

Topic: “Observing Double Stars & The Herschel Objects” based on the two unique star atlases that famed celestial cartographer Wil Tirion and I did for Cambridge University Press – the very first of their kind!

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm at McCormick Observatory.

January 7th, 2015 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

ElisaQuintana2014Elisa Quintana – Research Scientist with the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center and Kepler Mission Research Scientist

Topic: Kepler 186f and Beyond – Video Lecture

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm at McCormick Observatory

March 4th, 2015 CAS Meeting at UVA Astronomy Building

GIR SCOPE PHOTOGreg Redfern, NASA Solar System Ambassador and NoVAC Member

Topic: “The Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater – the Inside Story of America’s Largest Impact Crater”. The world’s 7th largest known impact crater is under the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Charles, VA; hear the inside story

Greg recently retired to Green County he plans to join CAS.

Meeting starts at 6:45 pm at UVA Astronomy Building Conference Room to snow and ice at McCormick Observatory parking lot.

July 2, 2014 CAS Meeting 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).


March 5, 2014 Meeting at NRAO Building!


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.


April 2, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

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.

May 7, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

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.

June CAS Meeting at James Madison University

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.

November 6, 2013 Charlottesville Astronomical Society Meeting, 6:45 pm Start

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!

December 4, 2014 Inaugural Heidi Winter Lecture

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.

January 8, 2014 CAS Meeting at McCormick Observatory

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).

Feb 5, 2014 CAS Monthly Meeting

greg_crusher2Hillside Settlement

Greg Brown, the Education and Space Settlement Representative for the Mars Foundation will be presenting a lecture on the Mars’ Hillside Settlement at UVa’s McCormick Observatory on Feb. 5, 2014 starting at 6:45 pm.

Perseids Watch at Fan Mountain – Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fan Mountain ObservatoryCharlottesville Astronomy Society members are invited to attend a Perseid Meteor Shower Watch this Sunday, August 11, 2013 from 9:00 to 1:00 am with Ed Murphy and the Friends of McCormick Observatory.  Gate to open at 8 pm.  Bring your telescope if you like!

August 7, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory (6:45 pm Start)

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.

Sept, 4, 2013 Charlottesville Astronomical Society Meeting, 6:45 pm Start

Ed Preston“Three Coordinate Systems for Astronomers: How we got them, and how you can use them to find things in the sky.”

CAS Member and Treasurer Ed Preston will be our speaker this month.

October 2, 2013 Charlottesville Astronomical Society Meeting, 6:45 pm Start

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.

Annual VAAS Meeting, October 5, 2013

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


January 9, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

“Thomas Jefferson: His Interest in Astronomy in His Own Words.”

Presented by Dr. Edward Murphy, Associate Professor, UVA Astronomy Department

Thomas Jefferson was an avid astronomer. He conducted observations at Monticello and corresponded with many of the most important astronomers of his day. For the University of Virginia, he include astronomy in the early curriculum, he drew up plans for a permanent observatory, which would have been the first in the western hemisphere, and he proposed painting the night sky on the inside of the Rotunda Dome. In this talk, I will discuss Thomas Jefferson’s interest in astronomy and how it influenced the study of astronomy at the University of Astronomy since its founding.



February 6, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

“Observing at Steward Observatory’s 90″ Bok Telescope on Kitt Peak”

David Whelan, Doctoral Candidate, UVA Astronomy Department

I’ll give you the low down on what it’s like to observe for six nights running in the “bleak midwinter” (a.k.a. the longest nights of the year). The Bok telescope is a world-class, 2.3-meter reflecting telescope on the top of Kitt Peak. Situated in the saddle between two rises, it experiences straight winds across the desert in laminar flow and, therefore, excellent seeing. I’ll show some pictures of the telescope, the instrument I’m using, and then show off some cool science pictures, along with a brief description of what we are investigating.

March 13, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

PaulMartini1_sm“Galaxy Clusters”

Paul Martini – Visiting Professor from Ohio State

Clusters of galaxies have an extraordinarily large number of galaxies in a small region of space. I will describe how these galaxies are different from those found elsewhere in the universe, as well as how the environment of clusters may shape their evolution.

April 3, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

“Mirror & Lens”

John Avellone

Our Speaker this Month – John (pre-Galilean) Avellone, CAS Member

An inquiry concerning the design & performance of possible 16th century (pre-Galilean) telescopes.


May 1, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

Bill PhillipsTelescopes 101

Bill Phillips, CAS Member

We are going to talk about the basic optical principles that come into play when you use a telescope, including, most importantly, the optics of your eye. We will also cover the basic types of telescopes available today and the pros and cons of each. Lastly we will look at the process of imaging with a CCD camera, and how it leads to demands on the optical system that differ from a visual telescope. Fortunately there are some scope designs that do both jobs well.

Sunday, June 2, 2013 Special Meeting at JMU Planetarium!

JMU PlanetariumSpecial Meeting at the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA


Shanil Virani – director of the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison will be our host.

Shanil will provide an overview of the facility, a full dome video and a star talk using the planetarium skyball.  See planetarium website for details and directions.  2 pm to 4:30-5:00 pm.

July 3, 2013 Meeting at McCormick Observatory, 6:45 pm start

The Early History of the McCormick Observatory as Recorded in the News


CAS Member Wes Epperly

A summary and timeline of newspaper articles from the 1870’s and 1880’s about McCormick Observatory, and other significant events of the time.

December 5, 2012 Club Meeting

“Evolution Isn’t Just For Australopithecines -or- How to Blow Up a Star in One Easy Lesson” presented by Richard Drumm

The talk touches on the evolution of stars of various masses, low (up to ~ 4SM), medium (4-8 SM) & high (>8SM).  The talk is mainly about Type II core collapse supernovae.

Rich is the current Vice-President and former President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society.

November 7 Meeting, 6:45 pm at McCormick Observatory

Our speaker this month will be UVA Graduate Student Jake Borish.

“Exploring Galaxy Mergers at Near Infrared Wavelengths”

August 8, 2012 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

Our August meeting guest speaker will be UVA Graduate Research Assistant Meredith Elrod.  Meredith’s topic will be “Saturn’s Magnetosphere, Rings, and Moons”.

Start time is 6:45 pm.

Normally our monthly meetings occur on the first Wednesday of every month at McCormick Observatory starting a 6:45 pm.  This month the meeting was moved to the second Wednesday to accommodate other University of Virginia scheduling.

September 5, 2012 Meeting at McCormick Observatory

Our September meeting guest speaker will be University of Virginia Graduate Student, Guillermo Damke.  The meeting starts at 6:45 pm.

Guillermo will present Astronomy in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically Chile.  He will discuss professional observatories in Chile, what telescopes/instruments are there, why they were built there (geographical/atmospheric conditions) as well as some of the very interesting astronomical objects that are only accessible from the Southern hemisphere.  He will present  pictures that he has taken from some telescopes while observing there plus pictures of different observatories.  He will also show some amateur observatories that are run by municipalities that attract thousands of tourists per year. All of this is possible because of the exceptional conditions of the night skies. Finally, he will discuss the efforts made by observatories and government to keep the darkness of the skies by enacting a lighting law.