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WE’RE BACK ON AGAIN
Meetings are almost always the second Friday of every month starting at 7 PM
Free and open to the public!
Wildwood School, 11811 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles
Free parking in Wildwood garage on Mississippi Ave. Enter on Mississippi near Westgate (SW of Granville, just NE of Westgate)
Watch this space for exciting news about upcoming speakers!
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JULY 2021 UPDATE: Yes, we >will< be back in person come August!
FRIDAY, August 13, 2021
After a painful absence of almost a year and a half, we’ve put the pot back on the stove and turned the heat up to — well, for now, just to simmer, as we may start off slowly and get ourselves reacclimated and reacquainted with each other. Or acquainted, if newcomers join in (all are welcome)!
We’ll have astronomy presentations as usual, maybe even a guest speaker, TBD. Watch this space for more info once we’re closer to the date. And thank you for waiting. What could be more worth the wait than the cameraderie and intellectual stimulation of good ol’ SamoAstro?
APRIL/MAY COVID-19 ALERT
In case you haven’t noticed, society is in a bit of a pickle at the moment. To do our part, SMAAC has suspended in-person meetings until further notice.
We’ll post here when things are up and running again. Meanwhile, stay safe, and don’t forget to look up at the night sky every now and again if you seek beauty, comfort, amazement, etc. Unfortunately you won’t find any toilet paper up there. You’ll have to settle for the wonder and awe.
Our hearts go out to all who have been hurt by the pandemic, especially those who lost or had to wait for news about loved ones who were exposed. We’re eternally grateful to our first responders, and to fellow citizens for being careful and doing their best to flatten the curve. Here’s wishing all of our members and friends good health, happiness, and clear skies at night.
FRIDAY, March 13, 2020
Shout it from way above the mountaintops — past low-Earth orbit — all the way out to over an AU’s distance. “The Spitzer Space Telescope” is March’s topic, presented by none other than the great Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson), who worked on Spitzer and will give us the inside story. Spitzer just completed its mission and is hot news of late. Infrared hot indeed.
**NOTE: April’s get-together will be pushed to the third week of the month. Save April 17 for more of the usual fast-paced, space-based fun.**
FRIDAY, February 21, 2020
**NOTE: February’s meeting is one week later than usual — please do not show up on the 14th**
Why? Because we are too big-hearted to entice you away from your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, though we know you’re tempted to slake your other burning desires (for scientific inquiry and discovery). Astronomy is awesome, but love has a lot going for it too. UPDATE: This week’s topics: Betelgeuse: About to Blow? • Recent solar news • Rare astronomy bits • and we can only imagine what else may crop up.
**AND ANOTHER NOTE: March’s meeting will return to the traditional second Friday of the month. B u u u t before you fall back into comfortable patterns, be warned: April’s get-together is pushed to the third week of the month as well. Save April 17 for more of the usual fast-paced, space-based fun.**
FRIDAY, January 10, 2020:
We kick off the new year with legendary physicist and club favorite Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson). Tim will regale us with tales, scientifically told, of course, of “Stellar Evolution and the Origin of the Elements.” Longtime club member or supporter? Newbie curious about the world around and above you? The Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club is where you want to be, each and every second Friday of the month.
FRIDAY, December 13, 2019:
In for a treat: One of our most engaging and knowledgeable presenters, Jed Lederman, will give his previously scheduled but we think not-yet-delivered talk, “On the 50th Anniversary Year of Apollo 11: Apollo (I)FAQs: (In)frequently Asked Questions.” And this being December, there may well be a post-meeting holiday get-together after the meeting, happy merry…. Stay tuned — or better yet, show up — for more info!
FRIDAY, November 8, 2019:
Not to worry, we haven’t gone all New Age on you, though November’s topic will indeed be “Crystals and the Search for Life.” We’re talking science here, with Dr. Aaron Celestian (read his blog here), Associate Curator, Mineral Sciences, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles; Adj. Associate Professor, USC Earth Sciences; and Affiliate Research Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Should be fascinating.
FRIDAY, October 11, 2019:
Sure, you’ve seen Hubble imagery before, but what’s really going on in those photos, and what stories about our majestic universe do they tell? Come on down and hear SamoAstro’s very own founder and president, Robert Lozano, take us through “Hubble’s Greatest Hits: A Visual Journey Through the Cosmos.” Science, cameraderie, and what — there are snacks too? What better way to spend a Friday night.
FRIDAY, September 13, 2019:
Dr. Aswin Vasavada, Project Scientist, Curiosity Mars Rover at NASA/JPL, will fill us in on “The Curiosity Mars Rover’s Exploration of Long-Lived Lakes on Ancient Mars.” Come one come all! Keep you posted here as more info trickles in, but for now, click here for some fun background info on Dr. Vasavada.
FRIDAY, August 9, 2019:
Club president Robert Lozano, always in the know, will present “Beyond Pluto: Kings of the Outer Solar System,” a review of the many dwarf planets discovered in the past decade. Another fave speaker and board insider, Jed Laderman, will also give a talk, but his chosen subject is to remain a mystery (sshhh!) until further notice. 8/8 UPDATE: Further notice has arrived! In honor of the big anniversary, Jed’s topic will be “Apollo (I)FAQs: answers to Infrequently (or never!) Asked Questions about the Apollo mission.” 8/9 2nd UPDATE: Jed’s talk to be rescheduled. Wait for it….
**SPECIAL ALERT: The Observer, SMAAC’s trusty newsletter, is back! Benny and Donny Szeghy have done an amazing job taking the reins from Jed. Check out their second edition before or after the meeting by clicking right here, and, if you missed it, last month’s edition h e r e.**
FRIDAY, July 12, 2019:
Duane L. Bindschadler, Ph.D., Deputy Mission Operation Systems Engineer for the Europa Clipper project at NASA JPL, on “The Europa Clipper Mission: Could a Jovian Moon Support Life?” Europa Clipper, set for a June 2023 launch, plans to study the Galilean moon Europa through a series of flybys. We heard about it way in advance, and from one of the mission’s key players!
FRIDAY, June 14, 2019
Apollo 11 Immersive Live Show ticket giveaway at June’s meeting!
Before we talk giveaway, let’s talk the talk: Jeff Rich of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena isn’t just any old astronomer with a doctorate from the beloved University of Hawai’i (coveted for its access to some of the world’s coolest scopes), he’s also Carnegie’s Outreach Coordinator, with abiding interests in galaxy evolution, the interstellar medium, and stellar populations, among other delightful topics — one of which he may well regale our club with tales of. But which of these, or what other, we cannot yet say: Jeff’s topic is TBA as of this writing.
[POST-MEETING NOTE: Jeff’s talk was titled “Astronomy and the Elements.”]
* * News bulletin: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming with news of a ticket giveaway — chance to see the Apollo 11 show, which premieres July 5 in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, for FREE! How will this giveaway work? Come to the meeting to find out. * *
[POST-MEETING: Congratulations to our father-and-son winners!]
APOLLO 11 invites audiences on an epic journey to the Moon and back. The story of the 400,000 individuals it took to accomplish this mission is told through the eyes of Ben, a retired NASA Aerospace Engineer, as he recounts those heady days to his granddaughter Sydney, who finds her eyes turning away from her smartphone and up to the sky as she dreams about the endless possibilities of space. This celebration of one of mankind’s greatest achievements takes audiences of all ages on the ride of a lifetime and inspires future generations to imagine what comes next.
Staged in a groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind venue, APOLLO 11 is a truly immersive live show performed by 20 actors under 40,000 square feet of stunning 360° video projection and brought to life by world-class theater design, a full orchestral score and life-size rockets.
More information: https://apollo11show.com/
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Fascinatingly, although we couldn’t quite tell you the subject of June’s talk, somehow we can peer into the more-distant future and give a heads-up on upcoming speakers:
For July, see above.
Come September, learn about “The Curiosity Mars Rover’s Exploration of Long-Lived Lakes on Ancient Mars” with Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, Project Scientist, Curiosity Mars Rover, at NASA JPL.
Seriously? That much cool stuff is on the way? You better believe it. Come join us!
FRIDAY, May 10, 2019:
Back by popular demand came one of our all-time favorite speakers, retired JPL physicist Tim Thompson, on “Oumuamua, Interstellar Visitor.” Tim’s ability to convey a sweeping range of complex information in an intuitive, entertaining way is unparalleled, though not unparallaxed, unless perhaps you look at him with one eye closed. Check out Tim’s website here. If you missed learning the latest on the swirling debate over whether asteroid Oumuamua is of natural or, as Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb has suggested, perhaps artificial origins, not to worry — Tim (we hope and fervently believe) will return again someday soon.
FRIDAY, April 12, 2019: Last-minute change-up led to a wonderful, surprise presentation about the recent first-ever imaging of a black hole — 55 million light years away, in the galaxy known as M87 — by the Event Horizon Telescope. Supermassive thanks to SMAAC’s own Jed Laderman for saving the day!
FRIDAY, March 8, 2019: We welcomed Paul Warren of UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics. Paul kept things relatively simple by not quizzing us on his recent scientific paper titled “Multistage fluid-driven secondary alteration in an extraordinarily evolved eucrite” — instead, he shared his research on lunar rock samples brought back to earth by the Apollo astronauts. (Whew!)
FRIDAY, February 8, 2019: Our special guest was Martin Kvitky, an engineer/manager who retired in 2012 after 51 years in the aerospace world. Martin’s career started in 1961 at North American Aviation, Autonetics Division. (Autonetics was responsible for building the inertial navigation system for the intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBM], aka Minuteman.) In 1963 Martin transferred to North American Aviation, Space and Information Systems, working primarily on the Apollo program and secondarily on the Saturn program at the Seal Beach facility. Martin also worked in the Primary/Secondary Standards lab responsible for maintaining equipment used to test peculiar ground support equipment (PGSE). PGSE was used to test the Apollo command and service modules built in Downey.
FRIDAY, January 11, 2019: We’re happy to announce a great start to the new year with this month’s talk, “Implications of Interstellar Asteroids,” by geologist Patrick Gisler. A friend of SMAAC member Gary Smolker, Patrick wrote a paper about ultra-high velocity interstellar objects that Gary shared for members to read, and now we’re lucky enough to hear him in person. Gary, thank you very much for introducing Patrick to our club! We really appreciate it.
FRIDAY, December 14, 2018: Let’s give a warm welcome to Jason Utas, graduate student in the Geology Department at UCLA, who will arrive bearing specimens of … drum roll please … meteorites! So you may not be surprised to learn that the title of his talk is “Meteorites,” but you will most likely have a fun, informative time if you join us. The parking lot may be a little more crowded than usual; don’t worry, there’s plenty of space on the streets nearby.
FRIDAY, November 9, 2018: Robert Lozano, our club founder, will talk about Neil Armstrong, world legend, American hero, and subject of the film (in theaters now) First Man, in a presentation called “Journey to Tranquility Base.” All are welcome!
FRIDAY, October 12, 2018: This month’s meeting brings us Krista Sawchuck, graduate student in the Geology Department at UCLA. Her talk will be “Planetary Interiors: What we know about the inside of Earth.” Don’t miss it — come on down!
FRIDAY, September 14, 2018: We welcomed JPL’s Steve Levin, a research scientist who’s won awards for his work on the Juno Team, which supports the awesome Juno mission to Jupiter. What a thrill to hear the latest developments firsthand! More on Steve here (click to read).
FRIDAY, August 10, 2018: Our meeting featured Carla Quintero, currently studying high-velocity quasar outflows at Humboldt State University. Carla’s talk, “Quasars and Their Extreme Outflows,” was sure to fascinate. Click here to read more in this month’s not-to-be-missed bulletin….
**NOTE ATYPICAL DATE** FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018: The July meeting was moved to Friday, July 27, at the usual 7pm starting time.
Our speaker was the amazing Timothy Thompson, who spent many years at JPL. Tim discussed the remarkable discovery, by LIGO, of the gravitational waves from two merging neutron stars, along with the major implications of all of this spectacular scientific work.
FRIDAY, June 8, 2018: Among other things, we featured a short film by our very own club member and budding filmmaker Blake Simon.
His film short is called “Goldilocks,” and yes, it does have an astronomical theme. (You can probably guess….)
This was, without a doubt, a “world astronomy club premiere.” We didn’t have Hollywood celebrities, limos, or a red carpet … but we did have a good time, as always.
FRIDAY, May 11, 2018: Star party (weather permitting) — rooftop telescope observation, plus whatever news updates, special topics, or book reviews our members want to share….
FRIDAY, April 13, 2018: “THE CASSINI MISSION TO SATURN”
Dr. Earl H. Maize from the Jet Propulsion Lab spoke about the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn, the landmark mission that has given us a new window on that magnificent world.
How was this mission put together? What did it take to design and build a spacecraft of a size and complexity that far surpassed previous missions? How did it accomplish its scientific goals? What’s the story behind the breathtaking images and astounding discoveries?
Dr. Maize was Program Manager for the Cassini Mission, and is a speaker in great demand — this was a great opportunity to hear firsthand about the amazing project that has brought new worlds to our doorstep.
More about the talk PLUS astronomy news of the month in April’s newsletter (click here to enjoy)!
FRIDAY, Mar. 9, 2018: “SOUTHERN HORIZONS: AUSTRALIAN AEROSPACE, ASTRONOMY, & SPACEFLIGHT”
Hi, all. We’ll be meeting Friday, March 9, at 7 pm at Wildwood for an exciting talk by aerospace engineer Jim Bartlett about his visit to astronomical facilities in Australia, and about new developments on the ever-changing spaceflight scene.
Jim has worked on many fascinating projects, including the Space Shuttle main engines. He’s a longtime SMAAC member, and we’re very thankful that he also serves on the club’s board of directors.
Spaceflight is in the news in a big way these days, so this month’s talk will touch on several hot topics. We’ll also have updates on astronomical events and happenings — don’t miss this one!
FRIDAY, FEB. 9, 2018: “Water and Oceans Beyond Earth: Oases for Life?”
Our free talk on Friday will feature Dr. Kevin Barnes of JPL speaking on extraterrestrial water and the possibilities of life beyond earth.
You’ve heard about the discovery of liquid water on Mars. But did you know that Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn, has geysers that spout liquid water into space contributing to the formation of one of Saturn’s rings? That Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has both lakes of methane/ethane and an ocean of water deep below its surface? That NASA’s forthcoming Europa mission will probe that icy moon’s sub-surface water ocean for signs of primitive life?
In this talk, Dr Kevin Baines “follows the water” to describe what planetary scientists are learning about the role of water in the atmospheres and ocean worlds of our solar system.
Dr. Kevin Baines received a BA in Physics and Astronomy from Amherst College in 1976. He obtained a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1982 in Physics, developing and publishing the most sophisticated models of the planet Uranus then in existence, based on telescopic observations. Since 1982, he has been a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
CLICK HERE for more details in this month’s bulletin (or browse previous ones). It’s a must-read, as always: You’ll find more information about the program, plus coverage of SpaceX’s wildly successful Falcon Heavy launch, and the search for moons and rings around nearby star Beta Pictoris B.
Thanks to Jed for the bulletin, as always, and to Mona, for helping secure another superb speaker!
Special Event WEDNESDAY, JAN. 31, 2018
STAR PARTY TO OBSERVE TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE!
The Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club is hosting a star party at the Wildwood School (our regular meeting site) to observe the first total lunar eclipse in over two years.
Gathering at 4:30 AM — yeah, you read it right….
Bring your telescope if you like, or use ours!
RSVP required to email@example.com
Free parking in Wildwood garage on Mississippi Ave. Enter on Mississippi near Westgate (SW of Granville, just NE of Westgate)
FRIDAY, JAN. 12, 2018
Our talk Friday, Jan 12, 2018 was on “Cassini’s Grand Finale.” Cassini went out with a great ‘splash’ in September, marking the end of a landmark mission — or was it the end? The discoveries are still making headlines, and more are surely to come.
Our speaker was JPL’s Dr. Bonnie Buratti. You may have seen her interviewed recently, or even have one of her wonderful books. This will be another great talk in our series, so please join us at 7 PM this Friday.
Please CLICK HERE to take a look at this month’s bulletin (you can also browse previous ones). It has more information about the program, plus very interesting news about Saturn’s rings, the great gravitational wave “event of the year,” the most massive stars — and also the upcoming total lunar eclipse.
Dr. Bonnie Buratti is a Principal Scientist and technical manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, with expertise on the structure and evolution of icy moons and other small bodies. She holds degrees from MIT and Cornell in Astronomy. She is currently serving on the Science Teams for both the Cassini and New Horizons missions, and she is also the NASA Project Scientist for the Rosetta Mission to a comet. The author or coauthor of over 200 scientific papers, Dr. Buratti was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, and the International Astronomical Union recognized her work by naming asteroid 90502 Buratti after her. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Her newest book, Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar: A guided tour of the Solar System, was published in 2017.
Thanks to Mona for arranging this month’s program!
Our speaker for Friday, December 8, 2017 was Dr. Jeffrey Rich, a research astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories.
Dr. Rich, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech before arriving at Carnegie, talked about his work on ULGs — ultraluminous galaxies. These exceptionally bright infrared sources, powered by bursts of star formation as well as by active black holes, may represent cosmic collisions on a grand scale, and might reveal to us how quasars and elliptical galaxies form.
Cutting-edge astronomy, deep in the Realm of the Nebulae.
More on Dr. Rich: https://sites.google.com/site/astrojrich/
November 10, 2017 meeting:
Our own fantastic speaker Jed Laderman speaks on the weighty (or should we say massy?) matter of … dark matter.
October 13, 2017 meeting:
Dr. Terese Hansen of the Carnegie Observatories speaks on the chemical evolution of the Milky Way.
Here’s a little more on the Carnegie Observatories and Dr. Hansen:
September 15, 2017 meeting:
Members share their eclipse-viewing stories and photos — several traveled to the path of totality and will report back!
May 11, 2017 meeting
Tim Thompson, formerly with JPL, will give us an “encore talk” on “A Universe of Galaxies” beyond our home in the Milky Way!
February 10, 2017 meeting:
Mt. Wilson Observatory is the birthplace of modern astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, and arguably the most significant observatory in the history of astronomy. Our guest speaker, Tim Thompson, has been associated with Mt. Wilson Observatory since 1981. Tim also worked at JPL for many years, specializing in planetary atmospheres and infrared astronomy. Tim will present a fascinating talk on the history and current status of Mt. Wilson Observatory and its unique status in the field of astronomy — come on down!
January 13, 2017 meeting:
December 9, 2017 meeting:
Holiday Party! Please bring any edibles you would like to share. We’ll also have some astronomy posters and books to give away.
Talk: “Astronomy and the Nobel Prize” We may also preview “Starmen.”
October 14, 2017 meeting:
Updates on a whirlwind of big news stories.
Your guide to upcoming astronomy events!
A busy month for astronomy in L.A.
September 9, 2017 meeting:
Human Space Flight: What’s Next?
There has been a lot of talk and speculation about what the next goal for human space flight should be. Some, like Elon Musk say Mars should be the goal. Others have talked about going to an asteroid. Some few hold out for returning to the Moon. Let’s look at the options. What are the hurdles to each of these efforts versus the rewards? Be ready to examine the evidence and discuss your favorite proposal.
Speaker: Our very own Doug Saxon, PhD in History from UCLA, Retired LAUSD teacher. Currently teaching at West Los Angeles College. Former Fulbright-Hays fellow and Social Science Research Council Fellow.
August 12, 2017 meeting:
July 8, 2017 meeting:
June 9, 2017 meeting:
This meeting is yours—updates, discussion, astronomy talk, planning, Q and A…it’s your call this time around!
May 14, 2017 meeting:
Mt. Wilson, RECON updates, and more!
We’ll hear about the past, present and future of Mt. Wilson at this month’s meeting, as our club makes plans to be a part of the scene at one of history’s greatest astronomical sites.
April 2016 meeting changed from the 8th to the 15th.
We’ll be back to our usual second Friday time slot for all subsequent months this year.
We’ll be hearing from our club members on a variety of topics this Friday, including results from a recently published planetary paper, and updates on RECON!
Hope to see you at 7:30 on the 15th!
February 12, 2016 meeting:
Speaker: Tim Thompson, formerly with JPL
Women in Astronomy and Science
Women have been at the forefront of many an astronomical discovery, though we may not have been informed about them…. In Friday’s talk we’ll hear about some particularly notable contributions to our understanding of the universe. Also, there will be updates on the brightest supernova ever seen, quantum entanglement, and other astronomical news, as well as our new club endeavors.
January 8, 2016 meeting:
Speaker: Matt Ventimiglia (Griffith Observatory)
Eclipse Science — and Travel!
Our speaker for Friday, Matt Ventimiglia of Griffith Observatory, will tell us about the science of eclipses –historical observations, how often they occur, how we predict them — and he’ll talk about the pleasures of eclipse travel. Matt, who has seen 10 total solar eclipses himself, will highlight some upcoming ones, including the August 2017 eclipse that’s starting to generate a lot of excitement here, and he’ll give us pointers on observing them safely. Meeting starts at 7:30 pm!
December 11, 2015
Telescope viewing, weather permitting, and a talk on winter sky objects!
July 2016 meeting — Tim Thompson, formerly with JPL. Multi-Wavelength Astronomy: Ending the Tyranny of the Eye