Meetings: Past and Future

Category : Uncategorized



Meetings are almost always the second Friday of every month starting at 7 PM


Read on for details, and check back for updates 

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)

We’re hybrid: Join on Zoom or in person! See above for in-person location and parking instructions

Prefer to Zoom? Contact us at [email protected] ahead of the meeting. Once we vet you (vetting is different depending on whether you’re a human being or another kind of animal, but either way, we promise to be gentle), we’ll send the link

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Friday, July 12, 2024, 7 PM
Our rocket scientist club treasurer extraordinaire, Jim Bartlett, will tell us what’s really happening with the astronauts who went up on Boeing’s Starliner. Hint and teaser: it’s NOT what you think, if you’ve been following the usual news reports.
We may have a few words on the “Blaze Star,” T Cor Bor, and how the SMAAC and Wildwood WISRD families intend to be credited with the global discovery, if it erupts … probably….
Also, we’re going to make final plans for the August White Mountain trip (see below).  This is a month when a lot of people scatter, of course, but try your best to be online (or better, in person) if you are planning to go!

AUGUST special trip: We have a reservation at White Mountain Camp Norris Group Campground for August 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7! If you’re interested in going, let us know ASAP. There’s a limit to the number of vehicles we can accomodate at the campsite. (We’re allowed up to 50 people and a dozen vehicles, which should be plenty.) Interested in making the trek? Contact us here.

To join the meeting via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above. We’d love to see you, if you can be there! 


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Friday, June 14, 2024, 7 PM
Great meeting planned: Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson), speaker extraordinaire, will present “The Scale of the Universe.” Tim had gotten requests for an updated version of this talk and was kind enough to make it happen!
We’ll also feature reports from the recent Grand Canyon Star Party attended by SMAAC’s own beloved, stalwart leader and educator, Jed Laderman. While there, Jed remembered to look around as well as up … and spotted past club members, enjoying a bittersweet reunion as everyone shared memories of stargazing with late club founder Robert Lozano.


Friday, May 10, 2024, 7 PM

Dr. Robert Zellum of JPL/Caltech will speak about 1) exoplanets and 2) the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which will be the sucessor to the Hubble, with special new features…. Join us to learn more!

Friday, April 12, 2024, 7 PM

Our meeting will be devoted to, what else, sharing eclipse stories! So many silver linings despite the cloudy forecasts along much of the eclipse path.

And Yeshe from Bhutan will be at the meeting IN PERSON! If there’s any way you can make it in person, give it a go. It would be wonderful to have you meet her and great to have a big showing at the meeting. Whatever you can do, of course, but it’s guaranteed to be a special experience to meet and talk to Yeshe, our much-appreciated guest from the other side of the globe.
This is a chance for our club to participate in something unusual and special — can’t think of other clubs that have done a collaborative project quite like the one happening with Bhutan.  The folks in Bhutan are looking for guidance and advice as they embark upon a larger involvement in science, astronomy in particular.

For May, we have a tentative talk on exoplanets. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 8, 2024, 7 PM
Our friends from Bhutan are going to share some of the exciting space projects they are working on.  Mysterious? Yes, but that’s all the info we have. You’ll just have to pop in and find out more for yourself.
Our club is involved in yet another exciting project, and we have a chance to be in on the beginning of a new chapter in science as it takes on a local flavor in a new land.

Saturday, February 10, 2024, 1 PM

NOTE DIFFERENT DATE AND TIME. We’ve got yet another world-famous speaker lined up for you: We’ll hear via Zoom from the one and only

***Dr. Avi Loeb***


With thanks to Wikipedia, here’s some background:

AbrahamAviLoeb (born February 26, 1962) is an IsraeliAmerican theoretical physicist who works on astrophysics and cosmology. Loeb is the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He had been the longest serving chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy (2011–2020), founding director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative (since 2016) and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (since 2007) within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Loeb is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. In July 2018, he was appointed as chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA)[7] of the National Academies, which is the Academies’ forum for issues connected with the fields of physics and astronomy, including oversight of their decadal surveys.

In June 2020, Loeb was sworn in as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at the White House.[8][9] In December 2012, Time magazine selected Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space.[10] In 2015, Loeb was appointed as the science theory director for the Breakthrough Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Loeb has published popular science books including Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth (2021) and Interstellar: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars(2023).

In 2018, he suggested that alien space craft may be in the Solar System, using ʻOumuamua as an example.[11] In 2023, he claimed to have recovered material from an interstellar meteor that could be evidence of an alien starship,[12] claims some experts criticized as hasty and sensational.[13]

We are on a “SETI roll” [Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute spoke to the club in May ’23 and Professor Jean-Luc Margot of UCLA’s SETI research team was with us for our January 2024 meeting].

Friday, January 12, 2024, 7 PM
Our speaker was UCLA’s Jean-Luc Margot. This remarkably versatile astronomer, highly accomplished in a number of different branches of the subject, told us about UCLA’s own Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. Dr. Margot writes:
Humanity is engaged in the search for life in the universe by seeking evidence of extraterrestrial life or technology. Both strategies have merits, and I will argue that the search for technosignatures is a compelling strategy that may yield unambiguous evidence of life elsewhere in our lifetime. Since 2016, UCLA SETI has been conducting a search for radio technosignatures with the largest fully steerable telescope on Earth. We have sampled over 55,000 stars to date and are eager to scale up the effort to survey millions of stars. This research program is tightly integrated with the annual SETI course at UCLA and our ongoing collaboration ( with 30,000 volunteers to identify promising signals.
Those who had a chance to meet him at a previous club appearance know he’s a wonderful speaker.

Friday, December 9, 2023, 4 PM (not the usual 7 PM)

Unfortunately, Dr. Avi Loeb had to reschedule; he is now going to be speaking to us in February 2024. 

After hearing from a number of club members who had counted on December’s meeting’s moving to Saturday, we decided to stick with the schedule shift.  To make up for it all, we hope a lot of you can drop by, and we’ll go out to dinner afterward!
So we meet Saturday, December 9 at 4 PM. Topic: the 100th anniversary of Hubble’s great find that we live in a universe of galaxies, rather than just one….

FRIDAY, November 10, 2023, 7 PM

For our November meeting, world-leading expert on meteorites and geochemistry Alan Rubin from UCLA Meteoritics will be our guest. Dr. Rubin is also a noted speaker who has visited our club before — always with a wonderul collection of meteorites! He’ll share the latest on meteorite studies at UCLA and elsewhere: what we’ve learned, its significance, and more!
Of course, other updates too. Upcoming events, star report…. All the usual goodies. To join the meeting via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above…
…but you’ll have to be there in person to handle pieces of the cosmos that made their way to Earth and will get passed around. : )

FRIDAY, October 20, 2023, 7 PM

Club fave the great Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson) returns with another sure to be amazing talk, this one grandly titled, “What Is Gravity?” If anyone can make a dent in a topic of that magnitude, it’s Tim.
Why the third Friday of the month rather than our usual second Friday? Because some club members have made plans to view the annular solar eclipse on the 14th, which here in L.A. will peak at around 70% coverage of the solar disk. As yet there’s no organized club viewing session planned, but watch this space — we’ll post if that changes.

To attend the meeting from the comfort of home via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above, and note that this month we’re meeting one floor down, in the school library rather than the auditorium. 

FRIDAY, September 8, 2023, 7 PM

Sad news…. As some of you may have heard, club member Don Berry has passed away. Don and his wife, Lynne, were the two first people to walk through the door when the late and also beloved Robert Lozano started this astronomy club forty-two years ago (November, 1981).  They encouraged him to keep at it and pursue his dream, even when it looked as if The Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club might not be much more than the three of them.  
Don has been just about everything in this club — president, vice president, treasurer…. And for decades he remained its most spirited, eager, enthusiastic booster. Those of you who knew Don before he and Lynne moved up north and could no longer attend in person will remember his amazingly outgoing, fun-loving personality. The astronomy club meant the world (and more) to Don, and for a long time, the place he and Lynne had in Westwood was the social center of our group. Don has been part of so many adventures with the group ever since.
Our September 8 meeting seems an appropriate time to talk about where the club has been (everywhere), both as a tribute and as a look toward making future plans for the group. Speaking of looking forward, we will also discuss the upcoming eclipses!  There are two such events, one in October and one in April. (Why ARE they six months apart?) We also have a few items relating to our amazing hosts at Wildwood.  And there is much more to say.
Hope you can attend. Prepare to be amazed and inspired.
Don, Lynne, Robert
(Photo:  Don, Lynne, Robert at the Getty Center, following our tour of the UCLA Plasma Physics Lab)

To attend the meeting from the comfort of home via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above.


August 2023 — Summer hiatus! See you in September : )


FRIDAY, July 14, 2023, 7 PM

Ian Norfolk, a WISRD student who has spoken to us before, has (with the help of equipment the club donated to Wildwood) obtained a farily detailed spectrum of the star Vega, which, as everyone knows from the movie Contact, was the gateway to a series of wormoles built by an ancien… sorry, got carried away! This is very exciting. And it opens a whole new avenue of involvement for the club: real research possibilities. Wow!
How do we know about the composition of the stars? And about the actual, physical conditions “out there”? How did we develop this knowledge? Where do we look next with this powerful technology? What secrets are hidden in the spectrum of a star — including the closest one? Come to this month’s meeting and learn all about it.
Our speaker will be there live to answer questions about how he did it and what might come next!

FRIDAY, June 9, 2023, 7 PM

We’ve seen dramatic events lately — exploding launch pads, unconventional visitors to the ISS — with big consequences for NASA’s ambitious Artemis Program, the program that will take humans back to the moon after all these years. And there have been dramatic announcements about the program itself. Hear all about it from our own resident space expert and rocket scientist extraordinaire, Jim Bartlett, Program Management Senior Specialist at Aerojet Rocketdyne. We’re lucky to have a club insider fill us in, so join us to hear about where we are heading (“Out There”) in the coming months and years.


SATURDAY, May 13, 2023, 6 PM

**Note different day and time, one time only, for a special in-person appearance**

—Watch this space for updates—

We’re jumping up and down to announce that none other than world-renowned Dr. Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View and Director of the Institute’s Center for SETI Research, will address our club in person — though you can also watch on Zoom. His talk: “Science Searches for the Extraterrestrials.”

Frequently interviewed for radio and TV, Dr. Shostak has been seen or heard on Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, History Channel, the BBC, Nightline, The O’Reilly Factor, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Coast to Coast AM, NPR, CNN News, and National Geographic Television. He is the host of a one-hour weekly radio program on astrobiology entitled “Big Picture Science.”

Dr. Shostak has edited and contributed to nearly a dozen books. His first popular tome, Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life (Berkeley Hills Books), appeared in March 1998, followed by Cosmic Company (Cambridge University Press) in 2002. He has also co-authored an astrobiology text, Life in the Universe (Pearson), and his latest trade book is Confessions of an Alien Hunter (National Geographic). In 2004, he won the Klumpke-Roberts Award for the popularization of astronomy.


The perfect combination of serious science and serious fun: Of course you can just come to the meeting at 6 PM as usual, no fuss no drama, but younger guests are encouraged to drop by after 5:15 to partake of a creative gathering in celebration of human imagination contemplating the prospects of life on other worlds: Kids can feel free to wear costumes or bring art to share that shows their vision of what intelligent life elsewhere might look like…. There will be snacks and awards (thanks, Viki!) for the most creative contributions.


FRIDAY, April 14, 2023

At our club meeting Friday, April 14 at 7 pm, the great Jeff Rich of the Carnegie Observatories will join us again! His glowing topic: “Pulling Back the Dusty Curtain on Luminous Infrared Galaxies.” What do these phenomenally brilliant sources of energy have to do with the evolution of stars in the cosmos, the feeding habits of superluminous black holes, the chemical evolution of the universe — and our own distant past? You’re invited to join us and find out all about it.

Dr. Rich, an expert on this subject, received his undergraduate astronomy degree from USC and his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii.  A Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech and now a researcher at Carnegie Observatories, Dr. Rich is involved in both cutting-edge research and, fortunately for us, outreach. Dr. Rich, a noted speaker who has regaled us with several wonderful talks, can now tell us about the very latest observations as infrared astronomy enters a new era. We’ll have a star report, an update on news and events, and time to meet and greet.

To attend the meeting from the comfort of home via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above. 


FRIDAY, March 10, 2023

At our March meeting Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson) will be speaking on “Stellar Evolution and the Elements.”

Tim is known for his many wonderful talks to our club over the years. He’s been a great friend to the group, and we’re eager to hear what he has to say about how gaseous stars have contributed the very substances that make up our rocky world. As they say, we are “starstuff” — be sure to join us and find out all about it!

We’ll also present a star report and updates on astronomical news and events, with time enough to meet and greet before the treat of Tim’s fleet-footed talk (how sweet). 


FRIDAY, February 10, 2023

Where is the world’s largest optical telescope? Depends on how you look at it! But right in our own backyard, atop Mt. Wilson, sits the CHARA Array: Six 1-meter telescopes connected to simulate — in terms of their ability to distinguish detail — a mirror over 13,000 inches across. It is the world’s leading such instrument, and has produced a long list of remarkable discoveries.

Our February speaker is Dr. Gail Schaefer, Director of the CHARA Array. She will tell us how this groundbreaking instrument can actually produce images of stars, and will let us in on some of its recent discoveries — as well as how it will help shape the future of astronomy. 

FRIDAY, January 13, 2023

Our club is thrilled to be connected to the brilliant work of WISRD (Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development), originally via our friend and fellow member Joe Wise and now thanks to the fantastic Megan Noel. WISRD members have been working on astronomy projects for several years and are eager to share their work with the club this month. And perhaps get inspiration from the collective intelligence of the club — heads up, bring your brain on Friday!
Sophomore Shayna Berman will discuss her RECON occultation work, senior Allyson Sterling will talk about her radio telescope project, and junior Lukas Perttula will share his cosmic ray project, mounted in conjunction with Quarknet and Pedro Ochoa, our speaker from last month. The aforementioned Joe Wise will share details on his building of the Wildwood Rooftop Observatory along with info on data acquisition and analysis on each project.

FRIDAY, December 9, 2022

Attending in person? Look for us not in our usual spot but instead on the lower level in the library. ‘Tis the season when students are putting on a holiday show, so we were given a different room. : )
December’s honored speaker is Pedro Ochoa, an astrophysics professor at UC Irvine, who will kindly regale us with (suitably academic) stories and fascinating information about neutrinos, those elusive denizens of the universe.

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**STAR PARTY!** in honor and loving memory of Robert Lozano, SMAAC’s founder and president

Saturday, November 19
4 PM short 2-mile hike
6 PM set up telescopes

Potluck food: possibly pizza, tacos, burritos

Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu
2577 Encinal Canyon Rd.

Interested? Contact us at [email protected]


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FRIDAY, November 11, 2022

See above for info on an upcoming **STAR PARTY** in memory of late great SMAAC founder Robert Lozano. All are welcome!
At this month’s meeting, aerospace Program Management Senior Specialist at Aerojet Rocketdyne (and core SMAAC team member) Jim Bartlett will give us an update on the latest space happenings! We also encourage club members to share any astronomy news they’ve been following.

FRIDAY, October 9, 2022

It is with a heavy heart that the Santa Monica Amateur Astronomy Club announces the passing of our beloved founder, Robert Lozano. Robert provided the foundation, the framing, and many of the finishing touches on the structure of the club. He was up on the latest developments in astronomy but also ever curious, and, knowing that many Santa Monicans and Los Angelinos shared his curiosity, spent countless hours building an organization — your astronomy club — where people could gather monthly to hear from and ask questions of some of the most brilliant and accomplished people around, from NASA, JPL, the Carnegie Observatories, UCLA, etc. As well as to hear from and spend time with each other, fellow science and astronomy aficionados all.

Robert served as club president for many years. He was a warm and sunny presence at every meeting and star party outing, encouraging input from all attendees and making everyone feel welcome and appreciated…. We’ll miss you, Robert, but not to worry, we’ll make sure your club thrives in honor of your memory and in gratitude for all you gave us. Sic itur ad astra. 

Or, to quote both (“Mirror”) Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek: “One man cannot summon the future.” “But one man can change the present!” Infinite thanks to inimitable SMAAC founder Robert Lozano for the gifts of passion and kindheartedness that went into changing our present by making this club a very special place in space.

FRIDAY, September 9, 2022

The terrific Tim Thompson (formerly with JPL and Mt. Wilson) returns with September’s presentation, “James Webb Space Telescope: Conquering the Observable Universe.” We’ve heard about preliminary results from JWST, but a lot has happened in a month! Tim has been scouring the latest publications as the astronomical world continues to be shaken by the stunning observations of JWST.
To attend from the comfort of home via Zoom, write us at [email protected]. To attend in person, see instructions above.

FRIDAY, August 12, 2022

Our topic: the incredible JWST images setting the world of astronomy abuzz. See the latest, and hear about the implications of the startling discoveries already made in just the first weeks of operation. We’ll also have a chance to talk about our plans for SMAAC moving forward — and to just say hi to each other.

FRIDAY, July 8, 2022

Hope everyone is having or will have had a great 4th and will be ready for a big Friday at SMAAC: We’re excited that Dr. John S. Mulchaey, Science Deputy, Carnegie Institution for Science and Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and Director, Carnegie Observatories, will be talking about the famous Hubble Deep Field. The Webb may be muscling its way into our conversations, but Hubble has been and remains a trove of treasures. Not to be missed!
We’ll meet on Zoom again this month, but in-person gatherings may soon resume, pending discussion at this month’s meeting.

FRIDAY, June 10, 2022

What astronomical joy awaits us for June? Prepare ye for the reappearance of our good friend Tim Thompson (formerly of JPL and Mt. Wilson), whose talk, “All About Black Holes,” will reveal the real reason you can’t escape from a black hole, along with other fascinating insights into these mind-bending oddities of spacetime. Please join us via Zoom, as Tim, in his always-engaging style, takes us to the ultimate horizon — and beyond.

FRIDAY, May 13, 2022

“From the Moon to Black Holes!” At our 7 PM meeting we have exciting news to share: the first image of our Milky Way’s central black hole, courtesy of the Event Horizon Telescope! A major, formal announcement is slated for Thursday, 5/12 and can be watched here if you’re reading this before then. We’ll also hear about this Sunday’s total lunar eclipse, and our regular Star Report feature will make its merry return. All this, plus space news, notes about exciting upcoming programs, and more.

FRIDAY, April 8, 2022

In a grand return to form, we’ve got a guest speaker this week! Andrew MacGregor [CV to come] will cover “The Quantum Physics of Stars.” About the biggest small topic you can imagine, or maybe the smallest big one…. 

FRIDAY, March 11, 2022

Yes, we’re e-meeting again, while inching ever closer to an in-person reunion. What’s up this month, your humble webmaster queried. The reply: “Speaker not yet confirmed, so I guess it will be a surprise :).” Who doesn’t love surprises?
Join us. Email samoastronomy @ if you’d like the link. If you seem legit  — the bar will be low, don’t sweat it — we’ll email it to you.

FRIDAY, February 11, 2022

We’ll be talking up the incredible success of the James Webb Space Telescope to date, and touching on some big discoveries: What do all the star-forming regions in our area have in common? What’s remarkable about the newest view of the Milky Way’s central regions?
We’d also like to discuss ideas about what the club will tackle next, so please join and give your input about plans and ideas for 2022!  

FRIDAY, January 14, 2022

Brief meeting of the minds to plan future meetings. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything heavenly if you weren’t there.

FRIDAY, November 12, 2021

Does anybody really know what time it is? Why do birds sing so gay and lovers await the break of day? What will be this month’s meeting topic? All questions for which this writer has no definitive answers. You’ll just have to roll the dice, click the link above at 7 PM on the 10th and hope you don’t get snake eyes. 
Good news: Odds are you’ll roll lucky seven. Even our last-minute topics tend to be a blast.

FRIDAY, November 12, 2021

Update: Tim Thompson’s topic has landed! It’ll be the James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch December 18 after years of delays — the story of its physical construction, the far-out capabilities of its instruments, and the mission’s science goals: to boldly see where no one has seen before. Tim’s CV includes stints at JPL and Mt. Wilson, and, after having presented to the club so many times, maybe SMAAC is on there too.
Side note on the topic from club officer and favorite Jed Laderman, who merits applause (always for something; this time, for securing Tim’s appearance): “We all know [getting to first light with JWST is] going to be a nail-biter for months, and the Lucy Mission is a real reminder that space is still difficult….”
Will the most advanced telescope humanity has ever produced launch successfully, start up smoothly, and blow our socks off as hoped?

FRIDAY, October 8, 2021

How does everyone feel about a roundtable discussion on the topic “2021: A Big, Record Year in Space Exploration”? Good? Good. Cherry on the sundae, it’ll be moderated by our very own beloved/beliked (depending on how well you know him) founder and president, Robert Lozano.

And we’ve got early news about November, when our guest speaker will be huge club favorite Tim Thompson (JPL, Mt. Wilson). 

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’ll start off slowly and get ourselves reacquainted with each other. Or acquainted, if newcomers join in (all are welcome)!

We’ll have astronomy presentations as usual, including an update from Joe Wise and his team on the wonders of WISRD (Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development) and some of the shall we say stellar work they’re doing in astronomy research, in particular RECON: The Mission to Study Asteroids and Small Solar System Objects using Stellar Occultations.

Thank you for waiting all these months for activities to resume. What could be more worth the wait than the cameraderie and intellectual stimulation of good ol’ SamoAstro?

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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’re too big-hearted to entice you away from your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day. A SMAAC meeting on V Day might tempt you to slake your other burning desires, those for scientific inquiry and discovery, at the expense of your relationship. 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 strictly talking science 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 uplifting even without the incense or chance to realign your chakras.

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, bonhomie, 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:

* * *

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!

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….


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)!


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


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 protected]

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:

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:

“The Analemma” and other neat demonstrations!
Plans for the coming year… DIY astronomy… and a tribute.

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:

Trina Ray, of JPL, will be speaking on “Cassini at Enceladus.”  One of the great discoveries of the Cassini Mission, the icy jets emerging from Enceladus make this small satellite a prime target in the search for life beyond the earth.

July 8, 2017 meeting:

The Invisible Universe, Revealed:
From Glowing Dust to Spinning
Stellar Corpses
Your eyes are powerful: they can distinguish a vast range of
colors, from reds to greens to purples. However, these
“visible” colors are just a tiny fraction of the light in the uni-
verse. To reveal the rest, astronomers build telescopes, like
the Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope in space and the Very Large
Array (VLA) of radio telescopes in New Mexico. These artifi-
cial “eyes” have opened windows to invisible phenomena like
glowing interstellar dust and the spinning corpses of massive
stars. In this talk, you will learn about some of the celestial
objects and violent events that light up the universe in all its
invisible colors, as well as the telescopes used to reveal them.
Speaker: Anna Ho (Caltech)

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.


July 2016 meeting — Tim Thompson, formerly with JPL. Multi-Wavelength Astronomy: Ending the Tyranny of the Eye

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, 7:30 pm

Telescope viewing, weather permitting, and a talk on winter sky objects!


Our knowledge of the earth’s ecosystems has been dramatically advanced by observations from space.  NASA now has a suite of satellites observing our atmosphere, oceans and weather systems.  Many of these satellites are built and operated nearby, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Deborah Vane, our featured speaker for this Friday, October 9, has worked on the Mars Viking Lander Mission Imaging Team, and has served as Scientific Assistant for the JPL Chief Scientist.  As mission manager for Cloudsat, she has been involved with climate observations from space.  At this Friday’s meeting, she will tell us how these observations are helping us to better understand our planet’s climate–and its potential for change in the coming years.



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