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"The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons."

– Edwin Hubble

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.

 2021 Presentations

 September 25, 7:30 p.m.

This event will be held in person as well as Zoom

Zachary Luppen – PhD Student of Aerospace Engineering, Department of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University

Developing Reusable Rockets to Reach the Moon and Mars: What It’s Like to Work for SpaceX

Synopsis

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing costs to space access and to enable the colonization of Mars. After launching the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit in 2008, the company has made leaps in bounds in space exploration technology. Applying a vertical integration structure and working towards rocket reuse from the beginning, the company has provided much easier and cheaper access to space. In Spring 2020, the company’s work culminated in the launch of Crew Dragon Demo-2, the first private launch of astronauts to orbit and the International Space Station (ISS).

During Summer 2021, I was invited to intern at SpaceX as part of the core avionics engineering group. My work involved rigorous testing of electrical, electronic, and electromechanical (EEE) components to ensure reusability on multiple missions. In this talk, I will discuss the mission and projects of SpaceX, describe the work I performed (to the extent that I am allowed), and tell you about the company’s fast-track plan to put humans on Mars.

Biography

Zachary Luppen is a PhD student of aerospace engineering at Iowa State University. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, he attended the University of Iowa from 2015-2018, earning degrees in astronomy and physics, with honors. During that time, he participated in a handful of events with the Cedar Amateur Astronomers, including giving past talks at the observatory. At Iowa State, he is currently studying formal methodologies used to specify, verify, and validate space systems. He is expecting to achieve his MS in Fall 2021 and his PhD in Spring 2024. In his free time, Zachary enjoys flying as a private pilot, skydiving, reading, biking, and running.

 

 

Zoom Meeting Information

Topic: Reusable Rockets to Reach the Moon and Mars
Time: Sep 25, 2021 07:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

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 October 16, 7:30 p.m.

Presenter: To be announced

Title: Earth’s Moon: International Observe the Moon Night

 

October 30, 7:30 p.m.

 

Luminous

Astronomy Professor Larry Molnar believes he can find the unfindable – a star that is about to explode!

When Larry and a small team of students stumble across a strange star, they embark on a dramatic journey of scientific discovery, which brings the unlikely team into the international spotlight. But others in the astronomical community are skeptical, and Larry’s professional reputation hangs in the balance. In production since 2014, Luminous, a feature documentary by award-winning filmmaker Sam Smartt (Wagonmasters), follows Larry’s journey to test his unprecedented prediction, knowing that its success or failure will unfold squarely in the international spotlight.

https://www.luminous-film.com/trailer

 

November 27, 7:30 p.m.

Presenter: To be announced

Title: To be announced

 

 

2021 Past Presentations

January 16, 7:30 p.m.

Nancy Atkinson, contributing editor for Universe Today- www.universetoday.com

Eight Years to the Moon: The History of the Apollo Missions

"The stories of 45 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make it possible to land on the Moon. Many of these people have gone unheralded for their work, but their contributions were vital to meeting the challenges of such an audacious project. These are stories from the 1960's that you won't find anywhere else."

February 13, 7:30 p.m.

Charles (Chuck) E. Allen, Vice President, Astronomical League

Cosmic Horizons

Cosmic Horizons explores the limits of human visibility imposed by planetary curvature, photon sensitivity of the human eye, and the speed of light in an expanding universe. We briefly explore the definition of planetary horizons and the role of planetary size in defining them. Next, we examine the faintest astronomical objects we can see with and without optical aid, and the smallest number of photons theoretically detectable by humans. Finally, we discuss the four horizons imposed by time and the speed of light (the Hubble distance, cosmic particle horizon, cosmic event horizon, and future visibility horizon) and consider how these horizons change in an accelerating universe and what effect they have on what we can, or ever will, see.

Chuck Allen

Chuck is currently Vice-President, and also past-President, of the Astronomical League. He founded the League’s 30 year-old National Young Astronomer Award in 1991, received the G. R. Wright Award for service in 1998, and holds the League’s Master Outreach Award with more than 500 public programs to his credit. He is a League Master Observer with 38 programs completed, three of which he coordinates.

Chuck is Program Director for the Evansville Astronomical Society and past President of the Louisville Astronomical Society (1991-94). From 1995 to 2002, he served as Judge, and once as Lead Judge, in earth and space science for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Chuck graduated from Duke University in 1970, served as a U.S. Air Force officer from 1970 to 1974, and graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1977. He was a partner with Kentucky's largest law firm, Frost, Brown Todd LLC, where he practiced for 27 years.

 

March 6, 7:30 p.m.

Tom Field, Field Tested Systems

You can almost touch the stars

Even if you wanted to touch a star, they’re all impossibly distant. Despite these great distances, astronomers have learned an enormous amount about stars. How? The most common method to study the stars is called spectroscopy, which is the science of analyzing the colorful rainbow spectrum produced by a prism-like device. Until recently, spectroscopy was too expensive and too complicated for all but a handful of amateurs. Today, though, new tools make spectroscopy accessible to almost all of us. You no longer need a PhD, dark skies, long exposures, enormous aperture … or a big budget! With your current telescope and FITS camera (or a simple web cam or even a DSLR without a telescope) you can now easily study the stars yourself. Wouldn’t you like to detect the atmosphere on Neptune or the red shift of a quasar right from your own backyard?! This talk, with lots of interesting examples, will show you what it’s all about and help you understand how spectroscopy is used in research. Even if you are an armchair astronomer, understanding this field will enhance your understanding of the things you read and the night sky.


Tom Field

Tom Field has been a Contributing Editor at Sky & Telescope Magazine for the past 7 years. He is the author of  the RSpec software (www.rspec-astro.com) which received the S&T “Hot Product” award in 2011. Tom is a popular speaker who has spoken to hundreds of clubs via the web and in-person at many conferences, including NEAF, the NEAF Imaging Conference, the Winter Star Party, the Advanced Imaging Conference, and other

 

April 3, 7:30 p.m.
Professor Steven Spangler, University of Iowa Physics and Astronomy
O Type Stars in the Night Sky

We learn in school that stars are like the Sun, only very far away.  Or, the Sun is a star which is very close to us.  How similar are the stars in the night sky to our Sun?  A short answer would be that they are similar in kind, but quite different in degree.  They range enormously in mass (amount of matter in them), brightness, and temperature at their surfaces.  The most massive, brightest, and hottest stars are called the O stars.  The term “O star” is a holdover from early astronomical research, but the category contains a set of stars with extravagant properties.  In particular, they are much hotter and much brighter beacons than our Sun.  In spite of this, none of the 26 brightest stars in the sky is an O star.  In this talk, I will explain why this is true, and where you can find stars in the night sky that are these remarkable objects. 

Topic: O Stars in the Night Sky
Time: Apr 3, 2021 07:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
 

May 1, 8:00 p.m.

Presenter: 

Dr. Sadie Elliott, Postdoctoral Research Scholar

University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy

Title:
New discoveries made by the Juno mission to Jupiter

Abstract:
NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter was launched in 2011. Since its arrival at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, Juno has made a number of scientific discoveries. Juno is the first spacecraft to make in-situ measurements of Jupiter’s polar magnetosphere and aurora. Some surprising high-latitude discoveries include observations of highly energetic electron beams, intense broadband plasma waves, and elevated electron densities due to the presence of the Io plasma torus. In this talk, I will present an overview of the Juno mission and the University of Iowa’s involvement. I will also present scientific results from Juno’s prime mission, specifically observations made by Juno’s radio and plasma wave instrument.

  

May 15, 2021

8:30 p.m.

Presenter: 
Rachael Filwett , Ph.D.

Title: Solar energetic particles and their influence on modern society

Abstract:

In our technologically-driven society we have become increasingly reliant on stable power supplies. Similar to terrestrial based weather sources that can be devastating to a region, such as the derecho last year, outer space can produce a variety of weather hazards. I’ll discuss how these hazards vary by terrestrial location, and how they come in ‘seasons’. The number of spacecraft is increasing rapidly, and NASA has plans to return astronauts to the moon and then on to Mars, adding urgency to mitigate space weather risks.  I’ll talk about what space weather is, what we can do about it, and how my personal research plays a small role in this important task.

Virtual Meeting Information:

Topic: Space Weather for a Modern Society
Time: May 15, 2021 08:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

 

June 12, 8:30 p.m.

Presenter: Dr. Charles Kerton- Associate professor of astronomy 

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at Iowa State University

Title: Adventures in Citizen Science or Astronomy for Cloudy Nights

This talk will describe work done by astronomers based at Iowa State University and the Adler Planetarium to understand the nature of thousands of compact, infrared sources identified by the over 50,000 citizen scientists participating in the Milky Way Project. Most of these objects represent an early stage in the evolution of massive stars.Trying to understand why many of these objects were not identified in previous Galactic infrared surveys leads to some interesting insights into how the mid-infrared emission from a massive star-forming region changes as it evolves. I will also briefly describe some of the other active citizenscience projects related to astronomy.

Bio: Dr. Charles Kerton is an associate professor of astronomy in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Iowa State University. His research focus is on observational studies of high-mass star formation and the effect of massive stars on the interstellar medium using infrared and radio data. At Iowa State he also enjoys teaching classes ranging from undergraduate survey courses to specialized graduate seminars. Even though astronomy is his job, he still likes to look at the night sky from time to time just for fun!

 

 

July 10, 8:30 p.m.

Presenter: John Leeson, Cedar Amateur Astronomers Vice President

Title: Observing the Sky for Beginners

If you are somewhat new to trying to observe the night sky with your new telescope or binoculars, or just starting to think about observing the night sky, then maybe we can help get you started. One of the first things beginners want to know is what can I see and how do I find it? That is what we hope to answer here tonight. There is always something to look for whether you are using just your eyes, binoculars, or your amateur class telescope and there are lots of tools to help you figure it out. We will be using printed Sky Maps and Stellarium planetarium software primarily. There is no cost for these tools, the software is open source and free to use and the sky maps can be downloaded and printed for free. With these you can plan your observing night activities ahead of time and also know what you can expect to see, so you will know how to tell if you are successful.


 

 

July 31, 8:30 p.m.

 Presenter: David Falkner

Title: The Mythology of the Night Sky
 
Synopsis:
"Most of the constellations we see from the northern hemisphere have their roots in Greek and Roman mythology. Dave will talk about the history leading up to the naming of the constellations, some of the stories found in the constellations, and how they relate to life in ancient Greece and Rome.

Dave will also talk about the tradition of naming solar system objects based on Greco-Roman mythological characters, one significant deviation from that, and how in more recent times the naming convention has expanded to other mythologies."
 

Biography:

Dave Falkner has been a life-long amateur astronomer. He first became interested in Astronomy as a pre-teen when his father took him to a show at the Holcolm Planetarium in Indianapolis.  He became hooked and has had an interest in astronomy ever since.  As a teenager he ground a 6” mirror and built his first telescope.  As a Naval Officer stationed in Monterey, California he was involved with the Friends of MIRA (Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy) where he conducted outreach to local schools associated with the return of Halley’s Comet.

After a successful 20-year career Dave retired from the US Navy and settled in Minnesota where he became an active member of the Minnesota Astronomical Society. He has served as its President and enjoys performing astronomical outreach often speaking to groups at libraries, nature centers and schools. He is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador and has authored the book “The Mythology of the Night Sky – Greek, Roman and Other Celestial Lore, Second Edition.”

 

 

August 14, 12 noon and 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

 This event will be held in person as well as Zoom

Presenter: CAA Treasurer Mr. Carl Bracken

Title: Our Sun and Solar Activity Cycles

The presentation will be at noon, then the recorded program will be played back at 3pm. Solar observing using the association's solar-filter equipped telescope will follow the presentation and again following the 3pm playback. CAA members will be on-site to give tours of the observatory, assist with telescopes and answer questions. Only specially equipped optical aids can be used to observe the sun without endangering eye damage. CAA has four optical telescopes with solar filters and two sun projection viewers, plus some of the members will bring thier own telescopes with solar filters.

Synopsis:The sun completes one full magnetic field cycle every 22 years on average. The familiar cycle of sunspot minimum to sunspot maximum back to minimum lasts on average 11 years; two full sunspot cycles are part of each solar magnetic field cycle. The Wilcox solar Observatory or WSO near the campus of Stanford University in Northern California has produced daily solar polar field measurements since May 1976 forming a unique dataset of key solar characteristics unmatched anywhere in the world. In this presentation we will look at the WSO dataset to illustrate the dynamic nature of the solar magnetic field.

The geologic record shows us that Earth's magnetic dipole field also shifts over long time frames. Like the sun the geomagnetic field surrounding our planet is complex and has different cycles on vastly different time horizons. The more familiar magnetic pole reversal is thought to have last occurred approximately 780,000 years ago. The geologic record also points to another magnetic pole shift event that occurs on a time horizon of approximately 12,000 – 13,000 years known as a geomagnetic excursion. Unlike the full pole reversal, the excursion event does not permanently change the orientation of the dipole. However, it does introduce a significant reduction in field strength and temporarily changes pole orientation. The duration of the excursion event is thought to last a few thousand years with the poles eventually returning to their original orientation. The geomagnetic field is important for everyday activities such as navigation, and protection from high energy radiation from our sun as well as our own galaxy, and even deep space beyond our Milky Way.

In this presentation we will look at how the dynamic solar magnetic field and the geomagnetic field interact and some of the impacts from the interaction. We will also look at some interesting cold war era history of discovery by the US military studying the impacts on navigation over the geomagnetic North pole during long range bombing missions.

 

 

August 28, 8:00 p.m.

This event will be held in person as well as Zoom

Presenter: Riley Troyer, graduate student, University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy

Title: Northern Lights in Iowa: a discussion about the aurora, their science, common misconceptions, and the possibility of seeing them here

Bio: I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I’ve always been interested in science, but in high school I discovered astronomy and was hooked. This led me to pursue a degree in physics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. While studying physics, I started researching the aurora (northern lights). Living in Alaska, I’ve seen the aurora many times, but understanding how it is formed gave me an entirely new perspective. Once again, I was hooked. Funny enough, I decided to move south to continue this interest as a space physics graduate student at the University of Iowa. I am now in my 4th year as a Ph.D. candidate studying a specific type of northern lights known as pulsating aurora. Outside of research, I have an interest in science policy and helped found the UI science policy and communication student organization (Connecting Science to Society). I am also an avid cyclist and cross-country skier and enjoy a variety of other outdoor activities. However, I’m only now getting used to the hot and humid Midwest summers.  

Synopsis: The aurora, also known as the northern/southern lights, are a majestic and awe-inspiring display of nature that occurs in the far north and south. These green, red, and sometimes even blue curtains of light have been marveled over for as long as humanity has existed in such places. However, our scientific understanding of them is not nearly as old and there is still much we don’t understand. In this talk, I will describe how the aurora are formed and address some widespread misconceptions. Since the sun is becoming more active, which leads to stronger aurora, I will also discuss how to tell when we might catch a glimpse of them here in Iowa and if so, how to best take advantage of that. I’ll also describe my own research area, a fascinating type of northern lights called pulsating aurora and how they differ from “normal” aurora. Finally, I’ll touch on why it is important that we study these lights and the impacts they can have on society.

 

 

 

 

2020 Past Presentations

 

March 21, 7:30 p.m. CANCELED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS

Prof. Steve Spangler, University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Lost Siblings of the Sun

Can we find some of the stars that were formed in the same Star Formation Region as the Sun, 4.5 billion years ago? Incredibly, some sober astronomers think the answer is yes, and published a paper to this effect in the Astrophysical Journal. The star is visible to binoculars and should be up at the time of the March public night.

April 25, 8:00 p.m. CANCELED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS

Dr. Jasper Halekas, University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Parker Solar Probe Mission

May 16, 8:30 p.m. CANCELED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS

Mr. Brent Studer, Cedar Amateur Astronomers

TBA

June 13, 8:00 p.m.

Dr. Raymond Anderson, University of Iowa, Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Manson Meteor Impact Structure and the Decorah Impact Structure

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

July 11, 8:00 p.m.

Dr. Phil Kaaret, University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

X-Raying the Milky Way with HaloSat

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

July 25, 3:00 p.m. -- Solar Day

Mr. Carl Bracken, Cedar Amateur Astronomers

Cycles of Change

Maunder, Dalton, Centennial…Eddy. A look at global impacts from long duration cycles of solar activity to try and understand the historical record and how it might inform us about the next extended activity cycle. What are some of the latest tools being used in the quest for understanding how our star works and impacts life on our planet?

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

August 8, 8:00 p.m.

Dr. Casey DeRoo, University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Exploring Beyond Our Galaxy with X-ray Astronomy

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

August 22, 8:00 p.m. Canceled due to ongoing power/internet outages in Cedar Rapids.

September 12, 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Ahmed Reda (TBC), Minnesota Astronomical Society

Stellar Evolution

Stars evolve from clouds of gas and dust treading different paths depending on their mass. This presentation explores these different paths throughout the stars' lifecycles.

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

September 26, 7:30 p.m. InOMN: Lunar Saturday

Mr. Doug Slauson, CAA Club Member

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

October 10, 7:30 p.m.

Dr. Jasper Halekas

University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

The Parker Solar Probe Mission

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual,

November 7, 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Brent Studer, Kirkwood Community College

Meteorite Morphology: Classifying and Collecting Meteorites

Interplanetary vagabonds such as meteorites can tell astronomers a great deal about their parent bodies and the early solar system. In this talk we’ll learn about the origin of meteorites, how they are classified, and collecting these relics from the formation of the solar system.

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

 

December 19, 7:30 p.m.

Professor Steve Spangler, University of Iowa, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Lost Siblings of the Sun

Can we find some of the stars that were formed in the same Star Formation Region as the Sun, 4.5 billion years ago? Incredibly, some sober astronomers think the answer is yes, and published a paper to this effect in the Astrophysical Journal.

The observatory will not be open, Presentation will be virtual.

 

_______________________________________________

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.