CAS Lectures Spring 2013
The CAS Lecture Series is an opportunity for the general public to learn more about astronomy than the weekly observing sessions permit. The series consists of several talks given by CAS members or outside speakers on a variety of topics in astronomy or space exploration. In the event that the lecture series is not filled, it is complimented with episodes of the Cosmos series hosted by Carl Sagan. The lectures are held on Fridays throughout the fall and spring semesters at 7:00 PM in the first floor classroom at Fuertes. Little or no astronomy background is required. If weather permits, the observatory will be open for public viewing after the talk.
Most of the universe is invisible, almost literally. All of the cloudy nights we have in Ithaca that prevent us from seeing the night sky do not compare to the impossibility of trying to see dark matter with your eyes, a telescope, a microscope, or any other type of scope instrument. Dark matter is not hiding. It makes up over 75% of the mass in the universe and yet we cannot see it. I will talk about what dark matter is, why we think so much dark matter exists, why it is impossible to "see," and the new state-of-the-art attempts to detect dark matter --- something that could happen possibly even in the next few years.
This is NOT Your Parents' Solar System...
Dwarf planets, Kuiper Belt Objects, chaotic orbits, the Crater of Doom, and now hot Jupiters around other stars... Many people long for the Good Old Days(TM) when the solar system was simple: nine planets going around the Sun like clockwork, and just a few comets and asteroi-DUCK! being untidy. Well, how about the REALLY Good Old Days, when there were only seven movable things and a bunch of stars all going around the Earth? The history of planetary astronomy reflects the scientific process: as we get new data, we have to revise how we think about things--and our place in the universe. Join us for a tour of how we learned about the solar system, why the last 50 years has truly been the Golden Age of planetary science, and a bit about current research. As a lab practical (assuming the cloud gods permit us!), we'll observe a few of the planets and asteroids currently visible.
Heaven and Hell
Carl Sagan (in DVD form)
Almost everyone knows the name of famed astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. A Cornell professor from 1971 until his death in 1996, one of his personal projects was the filming of a television series called Cosmos, which originally ran on public television in 1980 and held the record for most widely-watched series on PBS for the next decade. It addressed the history of science, and especially astronomy, throughout the ages, our findings about the universe, and the impact of this knowledge on humanity's past and future. We will be showing the fourth episode of the series, Heaven and Hell, instead of our ordinary Public Lecture this week. This series is really a classic, and well worth watching!
Blues for a Red Planet
Carl Sagan (in DVD form)
Almost everyone knows the name of famed astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. A Cornell professor from 1971 until his death in 1996, one of his personal projects was the filming of a television series called Cosmos, which originally ran on public television in 1980 and held the record for most widely-watched series on PBS for the next decade. It addressed the history of science, and especially astronomy, throughout the ages, our findings about the universe, and the impact of this knowledge on humanity's past and future. We will be showing the fifth episode of the series, Blues for a Red Planet, instead of our ordinary Public Lecture this week. The episode focuses on the planet Mars, from our earliest visual observations through its current (as of the 1990s) exploration and the future possibility of colonization. This series is really a classic, and well worth watching!
Observations on Literature & the Night Sky from a Late-Blooming Star-Geezer
Wallace Watson, a CAS member and retired English professor and dean (Duquesne University, Pittsburgh PA,) will discuss, and show examples of, astronomical references in European and American literature, as well as his own recent ventures into amateur astronomy.
The Development of Rocket Technology
Don Barry, an astronomer working and teaching here at Cornell and a frequent visitor to Fuertes, will be giving a historical overview of the development of rocket technology as a whole, starting with Tsiolkovsky and Goddard, focusing some detail on the 1950s and 1960s, and in particular discussing citizen participation in that early period, when hundreds of people were involved in amateur observations to help in the determination of orbits of those first spacecraft.
This was also CAS's First Annual Yuri's Night Celebration!
CAS member Brecken Blackburn will be giving a lecture this week on asteroid impacts, a perennial favorite of science fiction novels and apocalyptic prophecies alike. But how much do we know about these silent killers? She will be talking about what asteroids actually are, how they have shaped Earth's development, and the technologies that could find and protect us from death from the skies.
ET Phones Home?: Astrobiological Thoughts
CAS President Adrian Poniatowski will be giving a lecture on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, reasonable considerations one can make about such beings, recently discovered exoplanets that could be host to ET, and finally ending with a debate about the philosophical implications of our place in the Universe, be it teeming with civilized life or devoid of it.