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"This is our Universe, our museum of wonder and beauty, our cathedral."

– John Archibald Wheeler

CAA Public Events 2019

Young Observer at C16

A young observer peers through the CAA's vintage Celestron 16 telescope.

PUBLIC EVENTS

The CAA hosts at least 12 Saturday Public Observing events featuring a guest speaker that is followed—weather permitting—by celestial viewings through telescopes at the facility. During viewing hours, society members will be available to answer questions and provide everyone with an opportunity to look through the Society's telescopes and those of our members.

This site will be updated through out the year as we assemble our speakers and events.

 Future Presentations

2024 Presentations

  Mar 30 7:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

Title: "Where Do Stars Come From"

Presenter: Professor Steven Spangler - Professor Emeritus - University of Iowa

The night sky is filled with stars, and as we learn astronomy, we find out what incredible objects they are.  They dwarf planets like the Earth, and have power outputs that are hard to describe in normal terms.  But, where do they come from?  How do they form and where?  I will discuss how astronomers have come to the current understanding of star formation, which was really incomplete until about 50 - 60 years ago.  At the present time, there are aspects of star formation that we understand very well, and other aspects that are very far from being understood.  After the talk, if it is clear, we will get to see the object that illustrates star formation in action, the Orion Nebula.  

 

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82263851757?pwd=oA4rfhIBl4Tr5kABaSN5RYGUZOxWO1.1

 

Meeting ID: 822 6385 1757
Passcode: 191545

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Passcode: 191545

 

Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kb0Dnu1dLl

 

 

 

 Apr 27 8:00 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Charles E. Allen III - Vice-President, Astronomical League

 May 25 8:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: TBD

 June 8 8:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Brent Studer, Kirkwood Community College

 Jun 29 8:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Galaxy Supermassive Black Hole Masses from Reverberation Mapping

Presenter: Dr. Caroline Roberts, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa

Reverberation mapping is an observational measurement technique used to obtain the masses of the central supermassive black holes of active galaxies. Supermassive black hole mass scales with other galactic properties, including kinematics of stars in the host galaxy and mass of stars in the bulge, and so accurately determining supermassive black hole masses plays a large role in understanding galactic evolution. In this talk, we’ll discuss the procedure of reverberation mapping and take a look at some results from this method.

 

 Jul 13 3:00 – Solar Saturday This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Carl Bracken CAA volunteer and active member since 1995.

 Jul 27 8:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: TBD

 Aug 31 8:00 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Professor Paul Price - University of Iowa - School of Public Health

 Sep 14 7:30 - InOMN This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Professor Steven Spangler - Professor Emeritus - University of Iowa

 Sep 28 7:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: David W. PeateProfessor of Geochemistry & Department DEO (aka Chair)

Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of Iowa

 

 Oct 26 7:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Jasper S. Halekas, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa

 Nov 23 7:30 This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: TBD

Presenter: TBD

  Dec 7 7:30 * Virtual Event Only

 Title: TBD

Presenter: Scott McIntosh, Deputy Director of NCAR

Scott’s research in the field of solar physics has focused on three main areas: the detection and impact of magnetohydrodynamic waves; the detection and understanding of ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet radiation; and understanding the decadal evolution of the solar plasma.

 

Scott has authored or co-authored over two hundred journal articles since receiving his Ph.D. in 1998 and approaching 10,000 citations – his ‘h-index’ is 47. Those articles include over fifty as first author with eleven in high-profile journals. 

 

 

* Note: Virtual only. Observatory closed due to winter driving conditions.

 

 Past Presentations (2023)

January 14th 7:30 PM - Virtual Event Only

 Title: Winter Stars and a Deeper Exploration of the H-R Diagram

Presenter: Brent Studer, Kirkwood Community College

As Professor Spangler explained at last month’s public event, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (commonly called the H-R diagram) was developed a little over 100 years ago and is a way of plotting stars on a graph according to their inherent brightness and temperature. The diagram is one of astronomy’s most important tools and has been studied by generations of astronomy students. The winter sky features a number of stars that are excellent examples to help us explore different aspects of the H-R diagram and tonight we’ll learn how to find those stars and how their properties are depicted on the diagram. We’ll also see how the diagram can be used to piece together the evolutionary cycles of stars, the ages of star clusters and their distances from Earth, and even the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Don’t worry if you did not attend December’s presentation, it is not required for tonight’s discussion. Any necessary details about the main sequence will be included tonight.

February 11th 7:30 PM - Virtual Event Only

 

 Title: ACEAP 2022: My Amazing and Unexpected Journey to Visit the Research Telescopes in Chile

Presenter: Mr. David Falkner

Synopsis

Dave was one of 10 people selected nationally to participate in ACEAP (Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program). His talk is about his 11-day experience in December visiting and staying at three major US-owned observatories in Chile: Cerro Pachón (home of the Gemini South telescope), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope. While at these facilities, Dave and the other ACEAP Ambassadors received extensive training about the instruments, the science, data products, and communicating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts. The program also introduced the ambassadors to the people and culture of Chile.  Dave is excited to talk about this amazing experience.

Dave Falkner Bio

Dave Falkner has been a life-long lover of astronomy. After retiring from the US Navy, he settled in Minnesota and became a member of the Minnesota Astronomical Society, where he is currently a Board member. In 2011 Dave traveled to Tucson, AZ to view the Transit of Venus at the Mount Lemmon Observatory and visited Kitt Peak National Observatory. In 2017 he traveled to Casper, WY to view the total eclipse of the Sun. He was chairman of the 2018 Astronomical League National Convention. Along with his extensive outreach activities Dave has taught beginning Astronomy classes at a local community college and has published three books; two editions of “Mythology of the Night Sky” and a third book “The Stories of Astronomers and Their Stars.” He is a NASA Solar System Ambassador and an ACEAP Ambassador.

March 11th 7:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Venus: the Earth's Twin (?)

Presenter: Professor Steven Spangler - Professor Emeritus - University of Iowa

There are eight major planets that orbit the Sun, but none of them are very similar to the Earth.  In many ways, Venus is the closest match.  Its orbit is closest to the Earth, and it is nearly the same as regards size and mass.  It also possesses a thick atmosphere.  However, at this point the similarities end.  The temperature on the surface of Venus is 860 Fahrenheit, a temperature that is too hot for robot spacecraft, let along life.  I will describe the overall characteristics of Venus as well as the probable reasons why it is so different.  I will also talk about recent, intriguing suggestions that Venus might have been much more similar to the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago.  We should learn much more after the arrival of three new spacecraft missions planned for the next decade.  Finally, if the skies are clear, we will have the chance to see Venus in the evening sky before the talk. 

April 8th 8:00 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

Title: The Great American Eclipses of 2023 and 2024

Presenter: Brent Studer, Kirkwood Community College

Exactly one year from tonight’s presentation, on April 8, 2024, North America will experience one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events: a total solar eclipse. On October 14 of this year the United States and a small portion of Mexico and the Caribbean will experience an annular eclipse of the Sun. Tonight we will learn about eclipses—how they occur, are related to each other, and how to enjoy these extraordinary spectacles.

 April 22nd 6:00 PM – Sundog Saturday - This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

(Zoom prsentation will start at 8:00PM)

 Title: Comets – Vagabonds of the Solar System

Presenter: Mr. Mark Brown - NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador

Comets are exotic icy travelers from the far reaches of our Solar System. NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, Mark Brown, will discuss what comets are made of and why they behave the way they do. Come and see the makings of a comet brought to life in this presentation. This is an exciting and engaging program where participants can see, touch, and hold a “living” model of a homemade comet nucleus. 

 
Mark Brown is a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador volunteer who actively conducts educational outreach across eastern and northern Iowa. He holds a bachelor's degree in geology from Wright State University and a master's degree in astronomy from Swinburne University of Technology. He is an experienced astronomer and astrophotographer who enjoys imaging the night sky through his telescopes and cameras and is passionate about conducting educational public outreach, bringing astronomy concepts to the human level of understanding. For Mark, the darkness and beauty of the night sky bring light to his day. 
 

May 13th 8:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Extragalactic Astronomy: From the Great Debate to JWST

Presenter: Kevin Hall, Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Iowa

“A common phrase you may hear is "Space is really big".  If you go back in time roughly 100 years, some believed that the Milky Way Galaxy we live in was the total extent of the Universe. As with many human achievements, our technology improved allowing us to expand our view of the Universe. This revealed that our previous definition of "big" was not quite big enough. In this talk, we will walk through both the history of Extragalactic Astronomy and how we can use advanced telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope to study the structure and evolution of the Universe.”

June 10th 8:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Open Questions in High-Energy Astrophysics

Presenter: Matthew Millard, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Research Scholar, University of Iowa

Abstract:  X-ray and gamma-ray radiation comprise the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum and serve as powerful probes of extremely energetic astrophysical objects and events.  The detection of astrophysical X-rays and gamma rays using advanced telescopes has significantly improved our understanding of high-energy astrophysical phenomena. However, many prominent questions in high-energy astrophysics remain unanswered, including those regarding the origin of very energetic cosmic rays, the progenitors of Type Ia supernovae, the growth of supermassive black holes in the early Universe, the explanation for dark matter, and many more. In this talk, I will introduce the current generation X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes that are used to investigate these unsettled topics. I will then give some general background knowledge of these astrophysical enigmas, the mystery surrounding them, some best explanations, and the potential of future observations to help resolve them.

Matthew's research involves studying the 3D structure of the hot, X-ray emitting ejecta in supernova remnants (SNRs) using high-resolution transmission grating spectroscopy from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  Matthew also analyzes the far-infrared ejecta and dust emission from SNRs using data from the Infrared Space Observatory and the Herschel Space Observatory.  Matthew has recently begun studying SNRs at gamma-ray wavelengths using data from the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) to investigate their production of very high-energy cosmic rays.

July 8th 8:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Recent Discoveries from Radio Telescopes: Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and the Center of our Galaxy

Presenter:  Professor Cornelia Lang

Associate Dean and Professor of Astronomy, University of Iowa
 

In this talk, I will review some of the most exciting recent results made by radio telescopes around the world, both large radio interferometers and single dish telescopes. I will review the observations that confirm a new type of low-frequency gravitational wave signal that was recently covered in the popular press. I will also describe observations that have, for the first time, revealed the shadow of the supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxy M87 and the Milky Way. Finally, I will show images of the filamentary and magnetized interstellar medium in our own Galactic center.  For each of these discoveries, I will provide the astrophysical context of these observations and I will also conclude with updates on plans for future radio telescopes from around the world.

 

July 22nd 3-6 PM – Solar Saturday - This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

Program Title: Cycle 25 Ahead of the Curve

Presented by: Carl Bracken CAA volunteer and active member since 1995.

Observatory opens to the public at 3pm

Presentation time 3:30 – 4:30

Snacks and refreshments provided by Cedar Amateur Astronomers

Synopsis:  Cycles of solar activity have been observed and documented for over 400 years. The record shows a clear pattern of activity from the depths of solar minimum with very few observable features to the peak of solar maximum with many large dynamic features rotating across the solar disk. When this pattern is mapped out with the number of sunspots counted in the vertical axis and time in years is mapped out across the horizontal axis a curve is described. The curve or cycle duration is on average around 11 years start to finish.  In 2019 a NASA / NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) sponsored a panel of experts across a wide range is scientific disciplines with the purpose to leverage the latest research in solar physics to develop a forecast for solar cycle 25. Key questions under consideration, how strong will the new cycle be, and when will it hit solar maximum? The official report from the panel forecast a solar maximum in July of 2025 (+/- 8 months) with the average intensity like cycle 24.

As of early 2023 cycle 25 appears to be ahead of the forecast curve in intensity, and timing. In this presentation we will look at some of the latest high-resolution data from a range of terrestrial and orbital platforms keeping close watch on our star.

 

August 12th 8:00 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: Juno’s Extended Exploration of the Jovian System

Presenter: William Kurth Ph.D. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa

Juno successfully completed its primary mission at Jupiter in July 2021. The Juno science team made a case to NASA to continue the mission through September 2025 given that the spacecraft and its science instruments were in very good health.  The nature of the Juno orbit results in crossing Jupiter’s equatorial plane at successively smaller radial distances with each orbit, allowing the extended mission trajectory to include close flybys of Ganymede, Europa, and Io, thereby expanding the focus of the mission from Jupiter’s interior, composition, origin, and its polar magnetosphere, to also include new observations of the Galilean satellites.  This talk will discuss some of the discoveries of Juno’s prime mission, its observations at Ganymede and Europa, and plans for the remainder of the mission including Io flybys. Some of the results from the University of Iowa radio and plasma wave instrument will be highlighted.

September 9th 7:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: The Giant Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way

Presenter: Emeritus Professor Steve Spangler, University of Iowa

When we look at the night sky, it is clear that we live in some huge system of stars. This is particularly striking in early September, when the summer Milky Way is so prominent. Over the past century, astronomers have learned the shape of this system of stars, and how big it is. It is a huge, pancake-shaped system of stars and other types of matter. What is at the center of this disk of stars? This has been convincingly answered in just the last decade or so. At the center of the Milky Way, there is a huge black hole with as much matter as 4 million suns. In this talk, I will describe how we put together our picture of the Milky Way, and how we proved the existence of this black hole. If it is clear, we will be able to go outside afterwards and see the direction to the Galactic Center.


 

 

October 7th 7:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

 Title: To Touch the Sun

Presenter:  Jasper S. Halekas, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa

Description: I will give an overview of the historic Parker Solar Probe mission and describe a few recent scientific highlights. Parker Solar Probe has now traveled far closer to the Sun than any human-made object, 20 times closer to the Sun than the Earth, and 6 times closer than Mercury. This orbit allows us to measure the early acceleration and evolution of the solar wind, a stream of hot plasma that flows outward from the Sun at speeds of a million miles an hour. It also allows us to see the birthplace of space weather events that eventually impact the rest of the solar system, including our home planet. 

 

 

October 14th - Annular Eclipse Celebration. Free Solar Eclipse glasses! - This event will be in person only

10:30 am - 1:30 pm

 

Nasa's Live feed 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlY79zjud-Q

 

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/eclipses/home/

 

 

Global Event: Annular Solar Eclipse
Local Type: Partial Solar Eclipse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Begins: Sat, Oct 14, 2023 at 10:30 am
Maximum: Sat, Oct 14, 2023 at 11:52 am 0.601 Magnitude
Ends: Sat, Oct 14, 2023 at 1:18 pm
Duration: 2 hours, 48 minutes

 

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/cedar-rapids

 

October 21st 7:30 PM – International Observe the Moon Night - This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

Title: The Moon: Queen of the Night and Key to the Solar System

Presenter: Professor Steven Spangler - Professor Emeritus - University of Iowa

 The Moon is the second most obvious astronomical object in the sky.  It changes its position in the sky and its appearance from night to night.  Ancient and prehistoric cultures carefully noted the motion of the Moon, and most cultures adopted a calendar primarily based on the Moon rather than the Sun.  Since the development of modern science in the last few centuries, we have understood the orbit of the Moon, its effects on the Earth, and the fascinating geography of its surface.  Since the early days of the space program in the 1960s, geologists have become active in the study of the Moon, and contributed new insights.  In particular, the Moon provides some of our best information for deducing the earliest history of the solar system.  Today, the Moon is both a fascinating astronomical object to see in a small telescope, and an important source of our knowledge of the origin and evolution of our solar system.  

  

November 4th 7:30 PM – This event will be held in person as well as on Zoom

Title: The Golden Age of Medieval Astronomy

Presenter: Mr. Ahmed Reda, Minnesota Astronomical Society

"Have you ever wondered why most of the visible star names are Arabic ones? How Arabic astronomical concepts like the Azimuth or the Astrolabe came to be key ones in medieval astronomy? While most people are familiar with the Ancient Greek or Renaissance astronomy, most people don’t recognize the vast contributions of the Islamic civilization to astronomy for a millennia. This presentation will touch on some of the aspects of medieval Islamic astronomy, how it preserved the ancient knowledge, and leading a golden age of astronomy." Ahmed is very active in the MAS. Aside from serving on the current Board, he is in charge of booking guest speakers for the MAS monthly meetings, and also frequently helps out at the Eagle Lake Observatory.

 

Friday December 1st 7:30 PM – Virtual Event Only

 Title: ‘Approaching Max’ The first Three Years of Sunspot Cycle 25

Presenter: Scott McIntosh, Deputy Director of NCAR

Bio: Scott McIntosh is the Deputy Director of NCAR. He was the Director of the High-Altitude Observatory from 2014 to 2019. Scott received his First Class Honors Degree in Mathematics and Physics and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. 

Scott’s research in the field of solar physics has focused on three main areas: the detection and impact of magnetohydrodynamic waves; the detection and understanding of ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet radiation; and understanding the decadal evolution of the solar plasma.

Scott has authored or co-authored over two hundred journal articles since receiving his Ph.D. in 1998 and approaching 10,000 citations – his ‘h-index’ is 47. Those articles include over fifty as first author with eleven in high-profile journals.

 

 

 

Jan 13 2024 7:30 * Virtual Event Only

 Title: Odd Radio Circles and Even Odder Radio Cubes

Presenter: Lawrence Rudnick - Professor Emeritus - University of Minnesota

 We'll start 50 years ago when this budding astrophysicist lost his way in the sky, then jump to some present day glimpses from the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope precursors.  MeerKAT in South Africa and ASKAP in Australia are testing out some of the new technologies and making some really fun discoveries.  We'll look at two ongoing projects. First, the mysterious "Odd Radio Circles" that have been discovered in the last few years, and a new technique I'm developing to visualize radio structures in three dimensions.

 Professor Rudnick taught at the University of Minnesota for 42 years, and conducted research using radio, X-ray, infrared and optical telescopes on the ground and in space.  He worked in many venues promoting the public understanding of science, including training K-12 teachers, appearing on public television's Newton's Apple, and helping build the Bell Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in the Twin Cities.  He is an Honorary Member of the Minnesota Astronomical Society.

 

 

 

Feb 10 7:30 * Virtual Event Only

Title: Smartphone Astrophotography and Citizen Science

Presenter: Mr. Mark Brown - NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador

Have you ever wanted to capture night sky images with your smartphone? This presentation will focus on the use of smartphones and their ability to capture images of the night sky – recording celestial objects and/or light pollution. We will discuss how you can contribute to NASA Citizen Science by addressing light pollution and how teachers, students, and the public play a role in collecting, analyzing, and sharing data as Citizen Scientists with the use of smartphones, smartphone apps, and web apps that bring awareness to a global problem. 
 
Bio: 
Mark joined the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program in Iowa in 2019, where he successfully planned and implemented dozens of community-based events. In 2023, Mark transitioned to Kansas, where he currently teaches Space Science and is the Director of the Peterson Planetarium and the Science and Math Education Center at Emporia State University. Mark is also the outreach lead for the Department of Math and Sciences, working closely with the Outreach Director, where he continues to bring his enthusiasm and passion for astronomy/space science to the University and surrounding community. Mark is an avid photographer and astrophotographer who takes pleasure in observing and imaging the night sky through his telescopes and cameras. He is passionate about conducting educational public outreach and bringing the concepts of astronomy and space science down to the human level of understanding. For Mark, the night sky's darkness and beauty bring light to his day.

 

 

 

 

 

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Public observing events are held in the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center at the Palisades-Dows Observatory and Preserve through a generous agreement with the Linn County Conservation Department. For directions, please visit our Map to Pal-Dows page or download a pdf version (276 kB.)

The Cedar Amateur Astronomers, Inc. is a participating member of Night Sky Network.