Upcoming SFAA Lectures

The following are the dates, topics and speakers for the 2020 SFAA Lectures:

January 15th

“Going Deep: The NGC and IC Project”

Steve Gottlieb, an Amateur – Professional Collaboration

Steve Gottlieb has been an active observer in the Bay Area for over 40 years. For the past 25 years he has been involved with a group of amateur and professionals who have re-examined
the original source material for the for the NGC & IC, and have produced a corrected Catalog that is now incorporated in many software programs. Steve is a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope Magazine.

February 19th

“New Horizons: NASA’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, and the Arrokoth Encounter”

Jeffrey Moore, Research Scientist, NASA Ames

Dr.Moore discuss the New Horizon’s flight above Pluto, and its encounter with the cold, classic Kuiper Belt Object, “Arrokoth”, on January 1st, 2019, and was the first time a spacecraft observed one of the free-orbiting small denizens of the Kuiper Belt. This discovery will help us observe the most primordial building blocks in our world and the worlds around us.

March 18th

Postponed to August 19th

April 15th

Postponed to December 16th

May 20th

“Satellite Galaxies in the Local Group”

Etka Patel, Astronomy Department, U.C. Berkeley

Our Local Group of galaxies is composed or our Milky Way, its twin galaxy, Andromeda (M31) and the dozens of small “satellite” galaxies orbiting around each of them. Dr. Patel will demonstrate how the collective motions of these systems of satellite galaxies can reveal important characteristics of their host galaxies, including properties of their dark matter halos.

June 17th

“Sparkle in the Dark: The Outlandish Quest for Dark Matter”

Maria Elena Monzani, Kavli Institute, SLAC National Accelerator Lab

The nature and origin of dark matter are among the most compelling of mysteries of modern science. For over 30 years physicists have been trying to detect dark matter particles, with little success. The next stage in the search is the LZ detector. It consists of 10 tons of liquified xenon gas, stored in a refrigerated titanium cylinder a mile underground, in a former gold mine.

July 15th

“Did Comets Jump Start Life on Earth?”

Matthew Kroonblawd, Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Recent observations confirming the presence of protein-forming amino acid glycine in comets lend support to cometary impact as a possible source for delivering simple amino acids to early Earth. Quantum-based molecular dynamics (QMD) are a useful modeling tool. Our studies help determine a feasible chemical pathway toward chemicals needed for life on Earth.

August 19th

“Probing Fundamental Physics with Strong Gravitational Lensing”

Simon Birrer, KIPAC, Stanford

Many useful results for cosmological research have come from this phenomena. Dr Birrer will shed more light on how astronomers are utilizing strong Gravitational Lensing to probe the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the dominant yet unknown components of our Universe.

September 16th

“The Formation and Evolution of Binary Stars”

Aaron T. Lee, Professor, Physics and Astronomy, St Mary’s College of California

With nearly 50% of the stars we see in the sky being a part of binary systems, binarity and multiplicity of stars is a common phenomenon in the Milky Way Galaxy. With this percentage measured even higher in star-forming regions, the formation of binaries appear to be part of the star-formation process. This talk will discuss the formation of stars, and will help us better understand binary star systems, and that current observations of stars and galaxies rely on our research on stellar binarity.

October 21st


November 18th

“12 Years of Cosmic Fireworks with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope”

Eric Charles, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory 

A single gamma ray carries millions of times the energy of a single photon of visible light. This means that gamma rays are produced only in the most convulsive environments in the universe; pulsars spinning inside magnetic fields, stars in binary systems devouring their  partners and black holes at the centers of galaxies swallowing gas clouds more massive than our sun. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was launched on June 11, 2008, to measure these extreme astronomical events. In this lecture, SLAC scientist, Eric Charles will describe how we observe astronomical gamma-rays and why we must go to space to see them. Then he will discuss how 12 years of observations from the Fermi Telescope have changed our understanding of the most violent objects in the universe.

December 16th

Why Do Galaxies Die? How Silicon Valley’s “Spectral Revolution” will Solve a 100 Year Old Mystery”

Kevin Bundy, Assistant Professor, UC Santa Cruz

Over one hundred years ago, Edwin Hubble noticed two distinct classes of galaxies; youthful Spirals with ongoing star formation, and “red and dead” smooth, faded and barren Ellipticals.
The MaNGA Survey, which is mapping 10,000 nearby galaxies, will help us understand how all types of galaxies formed in the early universe. We are on the verge of a “spectral revolution”, enabled by nanotechnology and photonics that will transform astronomical instruments.