2018 - 2019 Presentations

Friday, September 21st, 2018:  Dr. Joe Masiero

Asteroids have been around since the formation of the solar system.  They are small, rocky/icy objects that orbit the Sun.  Some have moons of their own and all are unique.  JPL's Dr. Joe Masiero will be on hand to talk about some of these fascinating objects and discuss those that orbit the Sun near the Earth's orbit.

Friday, October 19th, 2018:  Dr. Jason Marshall

Take a journey through 13.8 billion years of cosmic history as we explore the lives of two star-crossed photons that originated on opposite sides of the universe but will soon come together to help humans resolve one of the great mysteries of modern astronomy: what happens when galaxies go through adolescence? The past century of observations have provided promising leads, but the full story remains (literally) hidden beneath unimaginably thick obscuring blankets of gas and dust. With the coming next generation of giant telescopesincluding the (relatively) soon-to-launch James Webb Space Telescopeastronomers will have a new powerful set of tools to peer through these obscuring clouds and see with newfound clarity where our twin protagonist photons came from.

Dr. Jason Marshall received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Cornell University and subsequently worked as a postdoc at JPL and staff scientist at Caltech.  He now spends time teaching about the cosmos at Glendale Community College.  When not teaching, Jason still works with his Caltech colleagues to write data analysis software and journal articles about the light output from starburst galaxies and black-hole-powered active galactic nuclei. He is also a member of one of the 13 Early Release Science program teams selected to make the first round of observations with the new James Webb Space Telescope. When not teaching or researching, Jason can be found on the internet moonlighting as The Math Dude. His blog and podcast about math has received millions of views and listens and remained one of the most popular education podcasts on iTunes since it debuted in 2007.

Friday, November 16th, 2018:  Dr. Susanna Kohler - Black Holes:  Stranger than Fiction

Dr. Susanna Kohler received her PhD in astrophysics from University of Colorado Boulder in 2014. As a researcher, she studied the structure of the extremely energetic jets flung out from supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies.  Susanna now works to communicate recent astronomy research to the public as the editor of the American Astronomical Society’s website AAS Nova.  She moonlights on the side as a leader in various science communication initiatives, including ComSciCon, a science communication workshop series for graduate students.

Stranger Than Fiction: What we know about black holes.  You’ve seen them in books, movies, and TV shows — but the truth about black holes can be even stranger than the stories made up about them! How do we spot black holes? What happens when a passing star encounters a black hole? And what’s all the fuss about gravitational waves? The American Astronomical Society’s Susanna Kohler will answer these questions and more in this overview of what we know about black holes today.

Friday, December 14th, 2018:  Dr. Mark Bowen - The Fermi Paradox.

Dr. Mark Bowen will be on hand to discuss the Fermi Paradox.  What is the Fermi Paradox you ask?  Well, physicist Enrico Fermi wondered why, given the immense scale of the galaxy and the many planets (3906 confirmed as of early December, 2019) within it, there isn't evidence of a single intelligent civilization beyond our's on Earth.  There's so much out there, and so many places life *could* thrive.  Where is that life then?  Good question!  Dr. Bowen will help you figure it out.

Mark Bowen is one of GCC's own:  He's been teaching the wonders of astronomy and physics to GCC students for the past 3.5 years.  Prior to his arrival, Mark was at Humboldt State University, UC Davis, The Berkeley Space Science Lab and the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source.  He holds a Ph.D in Physics Education and will spend the evening educating us on the astrophysics of life in the Universe.

Friday, February 22nd, 2019:  Dr. Evan Kirby - An Archaeological Road Trip with the Keck Telescopes

The Keck telescopes have gone on a virtual archaeological road trip to the most remote neighborhoods of our Galaxy.  These neighborhoods are peppered with mini-galaxies-within-a-Galaxy that are sparsely populated with just handfuls of stars.  Although these galaxies used to harbor supernovae that produced most of the elements in the periodic table, those factories were shuttered long ago.  Keck uncovers the history of these ghost towns--and their defunct manufacturing economies--by discovering what the few surviving stars are made of.

Evan Kirby graduated with a BS from Stanford in 2004 and a PhD from UC Santa Cruz in 2009.  He has been an assistant professor of astronomy & astrophysics at Caltech since 2014.  He specializes in using stellar spectroscopy to measure the content of stars in the nearby universe.  His research gives us insight on where and how the elements of the periodic table are created, as well as how they are dispersed into the universe to make stars and solar systems like our own.  His primary source of data is the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

Friday, March 15th, 2019:  Dr. Igor Andreoni - Look & Listen to the Violent Universe

The ancients considered the Universe unchanging, and had a special name for the planets, which they regarded as “wanderers”.  Any changes in the night sky were seen as portents of doom – and a reason to fear the Gods. The advent of modern astronomy means that we no longer fear changes in the night sky, indeed some of us make our living from studying these fascinating changes!
The story of the modern transient sky, where stars live and die in spectacular explosions, will be the topic of Dr. Andreoni's conversation with the audience.  Today's astronomers can not only look at the violent sky with telescopes, but also “listen” to what happens in the darkest depths of the Universe using gravitational wave detectors.  Riveting stuff and the clearly the makings of a great night of science.  

Friday, April 12th, 2019:  Dr. Matthew Orr - How to Build Galaxies

The Milky Way today weighs about one trillion Suns, of which only a fraction of that - about a few ten billion or so Suns - are the visible matter that you know and love: stars, gas, planets, us, etc.  So, um.  What's up with that?  How did we get to where we now are over the course of 13.8 billion years that the Universe has been in existence? 

Matt Orr, graduating Ph.D. candidate at the California Institute of technology (and a native of La Canada Flintridge!), will explore with you the ways in which galaxies like the Milky Way grow;  from quiescent star formation to massive violent mergers of galaxies.  It's really neat stuff, so don't miss this chance!  You'll also get a sneak peak into how bad galaxies are at their one job (making stars), and how often small galaxies fall into our own galaxy.

Matt Orr attended La Canada High School (Go Spartans!), before receiving a B.S. in Physics from the University of Southern California in 2014 (Yay Trojans!).  He is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, studying how galaxies like our own Milky Way form their stars and evolve through cosmic time, using simulations and theory.  In his free time, he enjoys woodworking and the poetry of the great scotsman Robert Burns (which I guess means this talk should have been scheduled in January...och well)! 

Friday, May 10th, 2019:  Dr. Marie Ygouf:  Observing Alien Worlds

Did you know that astronomers found thousands of planets orbiting around other stars than our sun? Come to the planetarium and explore these alien worlds with Dr. Marie Ygouf!  Together you will learn how exoplanets form, how far away they are, what they might look like, and how we discover them.

Dr. Marie Ygouf is an astrophysicist working on planets that orbit other stars (not our sun). These objects, also called exoplanets, are extremely difficult to image for two main reasons: 1) they are situated further than 10 thousands of billion kilometers from us and 2) they emit several billion times less light than their host stars. Taking a picture of a planet around a star at such distances is equivalent to spot a mosquito close to a lighthouse at a distance of several hundred of kilometers. This requires state-of-the art telescopes that block the light from the star and innovative techniques of post-processing to extract the light from the planet. Marie’s work consists in improving the performance of telescopes for exoplanet science. She is currently preparing observations of exoplanets with the future NASA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project (Hubble Space Telescope successor) that will be launched in space in 2021. JWST will help us to better understand the atmosphere of exoplanets, which is the first step to find evidence of extraterrestrial life.