Save Our Night Skies Update

Bob Gent

Bob Gent will give an update on the campaign to save our night skies and reduce light pollution.  He will provide real-world examples where communities have passed outdoor lighting ordinances, and successfully put the brakes on the growth of light pollution.  He will also discuss the recent report by the American Medical Association on the need to restrict LED streetlights.  Bob recently served on a local city's outdoor lighting code task force, and he will share the techniques used to update an outdated lighting code.

Bio: 

Lt Col Bob Gent is a retired USAF Space Systems Officer. He worked with space-based telescopes many years before Hubble was launched. From 2007 to 2008, he served as President of the International Dark-Sky Association, and from 2002 to 2006, he was President of the Astronomical League, a federation of nearly 300 astronomical societies. Over the past 20 years, he has spoken to dozens of international, national, state, and local legislative bodies on the problems and solutions of light pollution. In 2000, the International Astronomical Union renamed a minor planet BobGent (10498) in his honor for his work in night sky preservation. In 2015, he won the Astronomical League award for exceptional accomplishments in astronomy. On August 21, 2017, Bob will be celebrating his birthday on the day of the Total Solar Eclipse.

Date: 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 13:45

Location: 

Ballroom

Eclipses and Science Fiction

Dr. Stephanie J. Slater

Across a wide variety of science fiction movies and books, eclipses capture the audiences’ attention. Dr. Slater provides an overview of how eclipses are used by talented authors of science fiction to highlight the human experience in futuristic settings.

Bio: 

Dr. Stephanie J. Slater is the Director of the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research and a Research Professor of Engineering from Capital College. Dr. Slater is a well-known lecturer on the science and socio-cultural aspects of science fiction and an expert on the popularization of science. An author of three books and numerous articles, Dr. Slater connects culture and science as a speaker at conferences around the world.
Stephanie Slater

Date: 

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - 10:00

Location: 

Ballroom

What’s So Hard About Understanding Eclipses?

Dr. Tim Slater

 Of all the wonders of the sky, perhaps the most awesome is that unexpected appearance of an eclipse. Yet, many students encounter unexpected difficulty in explain the physical processes leading to eclipses and their prediction. Recent advances in cognitive science help explain students’ reasoning difficulties and give guidance to amateur astronomers trying to demystify eclipses for the general public.

Bio: 

Dr. Tim Slater is a Professor at the University of Wyoming where he holds the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair for Science Education. As a member of the UW Physics and Astronomy Department and the College of Education, he is recognized as an expert in education and public outreach in astronomy and space sciences. Professor Slater earned his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, his M.S. from Clemson University and he holds two bachelors’ degrees from Kansas State University. He is an author on nearly 100 refereed articles and 11 astronomy textbooks, is the winner of numerous awards, and is frequently an invited speaker on improving public understanding of science.
Tim Slater

Date: 

Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 10:00

Location: 

Ballroom

J. Kim Malville

J. Kim Malville

The talk will summarize the archaeoastronomy of three sites of the ancient world: Nabta Playa in southern Egypt, the earliest known example of megalithic astronomy in the world, Chaco Canyon and its Great House communities in Colorado and New Mexico, and Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Peru. Nabta Playa is in the western desert of Egypt, west of Abu Simbu and was occupied from about 10,000 year BEC to perhaps 2500 BEC when the desert became hyper-arid. Beginning around 5000 BCE, a ceremonial center was built on the western edge of an internally drained lake, providing the nomadic pastoralists water and forage for their herds. They constructed a stone circle, which marks north-south and June solstice sunrise/December solstice sunset. Their most fascinating activity was to place series of megaliths in the sediments of the lake, which are oriented to Arcturus, Sirius, and α Centauri.

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico appears to have been a major pilgrimage center during the period 1000-1100 CE. The first major astronomical event was the December solstice sun rising above Fajada Butte, as seen from a nearby Great Kiva. Other astronomy involves possible petroglyphs of the 1054 supernova, the 1066 apparition of Halley’s comet, and a total eclipse of 1097.  Great Houses were located to provide views of the sun and moon rising above dramatic features on the horizon, such as the moon at major lunar standstill at Chimney Rock.

Machu Picchu is the crown jewel of the Inca empire, encapsulating much of the power and mystery of the astronomy of the empire. The Inca emperor was viewed as the descendent of the sun, and massive ceremonies were established at Cusco and elsewhere to confirm and enhance his status. Evidence of those celebrations are abundant in the archaeological record..


Machu Picchu at June Solstice


The Calendar Circle of Nabta Playa at December solstice sunset


December solstice sun rising above Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.

 

Bio: 

During the International Geophysical Year Dr. Malville wintered over at Ellsworth Station in the Antarctic where he studied the aurora australis. He obtained his BS in physics from Caltech and his PhD in radio astronomy and solar physics from the University of Colorado. He has taught and engaged in research at the Universities of Michigan, Colorado, Oslo (Norway), Sao Paulo (Brazil), James Cook (Townsville, Australia),and The University of Wales Trinity-Saint David (Lampeter, Wales) . At Colorado he served as the Chairman of the Department of Astro-Geophysics, and directed the University’s Honors Program as well as CU’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. His research interests have ranged from the aurora, the interstellar medium, solar physics, and, most recently, archaeoastronomy. For many years he carried out measurements of the corona and prominences at eclipses, enjoying the challenges of running complex experiments in remote parts of the world. In 1997 he was a member of the team that revealed the world’s oldest known megalithic astronomy at Nabta Playa near Abu Simbel in southern Egypt, earlier than Stonehenge by more than a millennium. In 2003 he was involved in the rediscovery of Llactapata, previously lost in a cloud forest near from Machu Picchu. He is presently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado, and Tutor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, UK. Books that he has written or edited include A Feather for Daedalus, Prehistoric Astronomy of the Southwest, Canyon Spirits: Beauty and Power in the Ancestral Puebloan World, Ancient Cities, Sacred Skies: Cosmic Geometries and City Planning in Ancient India, and Pilgrimage: Sacred Landscapes and Self-Organized Complexity. His latest book is coauthored with Gary Ziegler and involves their discoveries and re-discoveries in Peru: Machu Picchu’s Sacred Sisters: Choquequirao and Llactapata. Astronomy, Symbolism, and Sacred Geography in the Inca Heartland.

Date: 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 17:15

Location: 

Ballroom

Pro-Am Collaboration Workshop

Carolyn Collins Petersen, CEO of Loch Ness Productions

Carolyn will be talking about the Pro-Am experiences that she has had including comet and other observations.  She has been involved with the International Halley Watch and will share what she had learned about comets and the solar wind from her observations.

Bio: 

Carolyn Collins Petersen is an award-winning science writer and astronomer. She is CEO of Loch Ness Productions, a unique multimedia production company specializing in cosmically creative content. She has written more than 50 documentaries about astronomy and space science, appearing in domed theaters and observatory exhibits around the world. Her exhibit work can be seen at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she had a short exhibition about climate change at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. In 2013, she co-produced a video about light pollution called "Losing the Dark", for the International Dark-Sky Association, which is showing worldwide on domes and in classrooms. She is currently working on a fulldome immersive show about recent astronomical discoveries. Carolyn is also part of the lecturer team for Smithsonian Journeys, teaching about astronomy and space exploration for selected cruises and land tours. Carolyn is a former editor for Sky Publishing's SkyWatch Magazine and was an associate editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine from 1997-2001. Carolyn wrote "Astronomy 101", a beginner's guide to astronomy. She has also written several books about astronomy including "Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive" and the best-selling "Hubble Vision", about the accomplishments of the Hubble Space Telescope. Her latest book, on the global history of space exploration, is due out in late 2017. Carolyn studied education, astronomy, and physics at the University of Colorado, followed by a stint in graduate school, where she took a Masters' in Science Journalism and Telecommunications Engineering. She enjoys reading science fiction, doing hand crafts, and hiking in the mountains near her Colorado home.

Date: 

Friday, August 18, 2017 - 14:00

Location: 

Tiffany/Champagne Rooms

MMS mission delivers promised measurements of ‘magnetic reconnection

Patricia Reiff, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice

“Space weather is driven by the interactions between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field, and one of the most important of these interactions is ‘magnetic reconnection,’ a fundamental process that occurs when magnetic fields interact with plasmas,” said Rice University physicist Patricia Reiff, co-author of a new paper about MMS results that’s available online this week from the journal Science.

For Reiff and her MMS colleagues, including mission principal investigator and Rice alumnus James Burch, vice president of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, this week’s results are the culmination of a process that began with the initial idea for MMS more than 25 years ago.

Reiff said MMS, a collection of four identical spacecraft that orbit in a pyramid-shaped formation about 6 miles wide, is specifically designed to study region of space tens of thousands of miles above Earth’s surface that is a prime location for magnetic reconnection. This region, known as the “magnetopause,” is where the solar wind — a plasma of positive ions and negative electrons that stream continuously outward from the sun — comes in contact with Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth’s magnetic field.

“Magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process that’s responsible for the aurora borealis and australis and space storms here on Earth, as well as for solar flares on our own sun and analogous stellar flares elsewhere in the universe,” said Reiff, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice who began studying Earth’s magnetosphere more than 45 years ago with instruments left on the moon by Apollo astronauts.

“When two magnets come together, reconnection is the process whereby the magnetic field rearranges itself to link the north pole of one magnet with the south pole of the other,” she said.

Reconnection occurs when the two magnets are not exactly co-aligned. If reconnection occurs in a vacuum or an electrically non-conducting medium like Earth’s lower atmosphere, the process occurs at the speed of light and has no effect on the surrounding medium.

But each medium of space measured by MMS — the solar wind and the magnetosphere — contain a fully ionized plasma that is an excellent electrical conductor. The plasma’s negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions orbit in opposite directions about a given magnetic field line.

MMS mission spacecraft assembly
The MMS mission’s four spacecraft stacked and ready for encapsulation in the launch nose cone at Kennedy Space Center. (Photo courtesy of NASA KSC)
“When the field lines of two different magnetic fields meet in space — as they do at the magnetopause — and try to reconnect, these gyrating particles initially resist,” Reiff said. “Each field line tends to retain its own distinct set of orbiting charged particles. Reconnection occurs when the field lines draw nearer one another than the distance of the ions or electrons orbiting them, and when it occurs, the energy released by the merger is transferred to the particles, which accelerate rapidly, sometimes at nearly light speed.”

This critical distance, known as the diffusion region, is considerably larger for ions than it is for electrons, and MMS is the first spacecraft designed to probe the much smaller “electron diffusion region” where the electrons become decoupled and reconnection actually occurs. The MMS plasma instruments are much faster than any previously deployed to measure the magnetosphere, and are thus designed to catch reconnection “in the act” on its most microscopic scale.

- See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2016/05/12/nasa-probe-results-could-improve-space-weather-forecasts-2/#sthash.FXN5jNS5.dpuf

Bio: 

Professor Patricia H. Reiff is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and was the founding Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University. Her research focuses on space plasma physics, mostly in the area of magnetospheric physics: "space weather". Her research includes study of the aurora borealis, magnetic reconnection, solar wind-magnetosphere coupling (including solar wind control of magnetospheric and ionospheric convection), and magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. She was the first person to prove, using Dynamics Explorer dual spacecraft data, that the aurora is caused by a mid-altitude electric field. She was a Co-I on the "IMAGE" magnetospheric imaging mission (launched March, 2000), Jim Burch, SWRI, P.I., and was the first to propose radio sounding of the magnetosphere, which that spacecraft included as a key instrument. She was a Co-Investigator on the "Peace" plasma instrument on the ESA "Cluster 2" 4-spacecraft suite which were launched in July and August 2000. She is a Co-Investigator for science and E/PO (Education and Public Outreach) on the "Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission" which launched in March 12, 2015. She is instrumental in bringing real-time space weather forecasts and "Space Weather" information to the public. Her "Space Weather" software, which can be found in many fine museums, can be downloaded free from MMS.rice.edu. She is a partner in the "Heliospheric Education Consortium" from NASA, and is developing "iClips", immersive educational clips for use in planetarium domes. She is working on a show on magnetism and will create a clip for the 2017 solar eclipse. She is the director for a major project which has developed an off-ramp for the information highway by "Creating the Public Connection" , bringing real-time earth and space science data to museums and schools (originally sponsored by NASA's Digital Library Technology Program). Over ten million people have interacted with her exhibits and planetarium shows at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and other museums, and another five million with her web sites. Over 300,000 of her educational CD and DVD-Roms and planetarium videos have been distributed through her spinoff company spaceupdate.com. She has also been a leader in public education activities, including being director for four years for teacher education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Eisenhower Foundation, in collaboration with Dr. Carolyn Sumners of the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS). Their latest collaboration is the creation and marketing of "Discovery Domes", portable digital theaters to teach earth and space science, with over 260 installations in 33 countries and 34 states, through her distribution company ePlanetarium. She has guided many scientific tours, including total solar eclipse trips to Canada in 1979, Louisiana (annular), Mexico in 1991, Peru in 1994, the Caribbean in 1998, the Black Sea in 1999, Madagascar in 2001, Libya in 2006, China in 2008 and 2009, Tahiti in 2010, annular in May 2012, Australia in November 2012, transatlantic in November 2013, and an Indonesian trip in 2016. = She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union , where she serves on the SPA Public Education Committee. In 2009, she received the AGU "Athelstan Spilhaus Award" and in 2013 she won the "SPARC" Award (Space Physics and Astronomy Richard Carrington Award) for service in public education. She is the Rice University representative and former Chair of the Council of Institutions of the USRA - the Universities Space Research Association. She has served on advisory committees for NASA, NSF, NCAR, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NAS/NRC and AAU. She tweets at "@discoverydome" and "@PatReiff"and has an outreach Facebook persona "Discovery Dome". She has a Youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/eplanetarium/ that has all her fulldome planetarium shows to view for free. Her educational videos about space science can be found at http://mms.rice.edu/mms/index_multimedia.php. Her MMS Mascot "Trigger" has his own web page, his own "Trigger MMS" Facebook page, and twitter feed "@TriggerMMS"

Date: 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 16:00

Location: 

Ballroom

REAL SCIENCE FOR THE TIME POOR AMATEUR - The study of Double Stars from the Southern Hemisphere

Like many of us I am continually in awe of the skills of the modern day amateur astrophotographer with the huge range of quality CCD astro cameras now available.  If like myself, time at your telescope is limited, I will show how to use this technology to make a real and worthwhile contribution to the science of astronomy.  Join me on journey starting with selection of target pairs, acquiring useable images, through to analysing those images and the publication of your results in the scientific journals you too can contribute, and still be fit to go to work the next morning! Pristine dark skies are not essential and like myself, there is a good chance of discovering new pairs, with your name preserved for posterity! 

Bio: 

Graeme Jenkinson is an amateur astronomer who works and lives with his wife in Oakey, a small country town of 5,000 people in south-east Queensland. He became interested in astronomy after seeing a “shooting star” for the first time as a high school student in the 1970’s and subsequently joined the Astronomical Association of Queensland, Australia (AAQ). Work and family commitments led to a membership hiatus until the Great Leonid Meteor Shower in 2001 re-kindled his passion for astronomy. During his current membership of the AAQ , Graeme has held various positions including Council member, director of the Visual Observing Section, Librarian, and currently Double Star Section director. With a 150mm F8 Synta refractor permanently housed in a Sirius dome he focused his attention on lunar occultation timing before beginning in 2007 multiple star observations in collaboration with fellow AAQ member, Tim Napier-Munn. The 2014 introduction of a 400mm F4.5 Newtonian reflector in a second Sirius dome has resulted in the discovery of 3 previously unrecorded double stars. Since 2014 both these observatories have been included in the professional body, the Astronomical Society of Australia’s list of Designated Optical Observatories (#DO3-45). These are both professional and amateur facilities judged to be valuable resources for research, education or community use. Over the last decade Graeme has designed, built and continues to maintain three observatories in his local area for a group of Japanese amateur astronomers. Two of these are used on a regular basis by visiting group members, with the third facility, a roll off roof design, being remotely controlled from Japan and used primarily for supernova searches.

Date: 

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 10:45

Location: 

Tiffany/Champagne Rooms

Researching the total solar eclipse experience – putting words to the ineffable

Dr. Kate Russo

Dr Kate Russo has been engaging in researching the eclipse experience and eclipse planning for several years, starting with her surveys and interviews with eclipse chasers for her first book Total Addiction:  The Life of an Eclipse Chaser.  She has since surveyed and interviewed hundreds of people about their eclipse experiences.  She undertook detailed research before and after the 2012 total eclipse in her home region of Far North Queensland.  More recently, she undertook a post-eclipse research workshop at the Eclipse Festival in Sulawesi, Indonesia.  Along with trying to put words to the indescribable experience of totality, her research also has real world applications – she undertook detailed post-eclipse interviews with eclipse coordinators in 2012 and 2015 to produce her White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning, which is being used by many communities along the path of totality for the 2017 eclipse.  

Kate is a Clinical Psychologist by profession, and is an expert in Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.  She has taken time out of her psychology career for the foreseeable future to focus on her eclipse research, planning, events and media.  She is planning to relocate to the US in 2017 to do a high profile outreach tour along the path of totality. 

 

Bio: 

Dr Kate Russo is an Australian author, psychologist and eclipse chaser who has lived in Belfast for almost 20 years. Professionally, she is a Clinical Psychologist and academic, formerly with Queen’s University Belfast. She became hooked after seeing her first total solar eclipse from France in 1999, and has since seen ten total eclipses in her 15 years of chasing. As a psychologist, she researches the eclipse experience and has published two books: Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser; and Totality: The Total eclipse of 2012 in Far North Queensland. She has become a leading authority on the eclipse experience, and now helps with planning, events and media on the ground in the lead up to every eclipse. Her message is clear – a total solar eclipse should be enjoyed by everyone – and not just men with beards and telescopes.

Date: 

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 10:30

Nightscape Photography: The Juxtoposition of Earth and Sky

Robert Arn

Explore the world at night through your DSLR camera. Juxtapose wide open meadow, towering mountains, and vast deserts under the Milky Way. In recent years, consumer-level sensor technology has opened the possibility of capturing images in very low-light conditions. We will combine common landscape photograph techniques with those used in more traditional forms of astrophotography to tackle the challenges of imaging the world with the sky at night.

Bio: 

Robert Arn has spent more than 10 years in the field of astrophotography. He synthesizes his love for astronomy and photography into the beautiful world of nightscape astrophotography, the art of juxtaposing the Earth with the night sky. Never was a person happier spending long nights on a secluded mountainside beneath a blanket of stars in subfreezing temperatures with a camera in hand. Robert shares his love of this unique form of photography by his involvement in public outreach. He has hosted astrophotography workshops through AstroArn Photograph and the Loveland Photographic Society and has taught astronomy courses through Colorado State University as well as at a number of outreach events and star parties. He has given numerous astrophotography talks along the Colorado Front Range and central Illinois. Robert's work has been showcased and published in a number of settings, including NASA’s APOD, URSA’s EPOD, Les Cowley’s OPOD. He has also given talks about the mathematics of image and video processing. Robert enjoys the challenge of constantly learning new and more advanced photo processing techniques to add to his growing toolbox for astrophotography, drawing from both the skills he has developed in astronomy and those in photography. In addition to astrophotography, Robert received his PhD in Mathematics at Colorado State University in 2016. He currently works as a Software Engineer at Northrop Grumman in Denver/Aurora, CO. His research is in image processing, video processing, optimization, machine learning, large data analysis, geometric data analysis, and large data analysis. When he is not working, he can be found on the side of a mountain or underneath the stars, trying to capture part of this majestic universe. To explore more of Robert's astrophotography creations, visit his website: www.AstroArn.com

Date: 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 14:15

Location: 

Ballroom

Fine Art of Observing Workshop

David Tosteson

David’s passion is to seek out things no one has seen, and new types of objects fresh from research and professional literature using large reflectors. David will share specific examples of objects he have researched and observed.

Bio: 

Dave is an amateur with over 30 years of experience viewing deep-sky objects. His passion is for researching and observing things on the edge of professional science. He has seen and shared with other observers galaxies in the Hubble Deep and Ultra Deep Fields, brown dwarf stars, a gravitationally lensed arc, quasars with redshifts over 5 and Voorwerps, among others. He enjoys writing about these journeys and has had dozens of articles published in magazines such as Sky & Telescope, Amateur Astronomy, the Webb Society's Deep-Sky Observer, Minnesota Astronomical Society's (MAS) Gemini and local papers. He is a frequent contributor to the Astronomical League's Reflector, and has a regular feature in Amateur Astronomy called "Deep Sky Hunting". He and his wife Monica have traveled to four solar eclipses and have been fortunate to see them all. He enjoys major star parties, particularly the Okie-Tex and Texas Star Parties, where he has spoken several times. He received the Lone Stargazer award from the Texas Star Party in 2002. He has been an invited speaker at the annual convention of the Astronomical League in Des Moines and Chicago, and has presented many times at schools, community events and MAS meetings in the past. He is a Master Observer through the Astronomical League, and stopped at about thirty observing programs. Many thousands of observers have shared views through his reflectors through the years, and the thrill of someone viewing and understanding a spectacular object through a large instrument makes it all worthwhile.

Date: 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016 - 13:15

Location: 

Tiffany/Champagne Rooms

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