Connecticut River Valley Astronomer's Conjunction
July 20-22, 2001
FRIDAY NIGHT ACTIVITIES - The Conjunction kicked off with dinner at the Starlight Diner, located on Route 2, about 5 miles southeast of Northfield Mountain.
OBSERVING SESSIONS - Friday night, we were treated to clear skies, mild temperatures, and plenty of company (mosquitoes) at our observing site, Fuller's Pasture, above the Environmental Center. Saturday night started out cloudy, but cleared by 11:30 PM.
A round-table discussion focusing on astronomical vacations to places like Arizona's Lowell, Whipple, and Kitt Peak Observatories and the famous "Meteor Crater," the Riverside Telescope Maker's Conference, and the Royal Observatory in England was presented by Rich Sanderson, Phil Harrington, Scott Tracy, Jack Megas, and John Davis.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON PAPERS
Afternoon talk #1 - "Plumbing the Depths"
Deep-sky observing is a wonderful pursuit for anyone, from beginners with the most modest equipment to experienced observers with behemoth scopes. No matter what size telescope you have, there is always more to see. This talk took a look at some of the best known objects in the sky, each visible through a 60-mm scope or less. Sue then delved into the details of each object (some of which present challenges to those with much larger instruments) encouraging observers to test the limits of their equipment and skills.
Sue French is an astronomy educator, planetarium lecturer, and author of the "Small-Scope Sampler" column in Sky & Telescope magazine.
Afternoon talk #2 - "Einstein's Unfinished Symphony"
Marcia Bartusiak (click on link)
Marcia Bartusiak, author, science writer, and winner of the Science Writing Award for the American Institute of Physics, told the story of the exciting 40-year quest to capture gravity waves, the last prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity yet to be observed directly. These vibrations in space-time will provide the first direct evidence of black holes and allow us to eavesdrop on the remnant echo of the Big Bang itself. Full-scale gravity-wave observatories are at last being built worldwide, the biggest two facilities here in the U.S. She will introduce us to the people, the technology, and the science of this fascinating enterprise, the first new astronomy of the 21st century.
Afternoon talk #3 - "Sunwheels for the 21st Century"
Judith Young, Ph.D. (click on link)
Dr. Judith Young is a Professor of Astronomy at U.Mass., Amherst. She is known world-wide for her studies of star formation in spiral galaxies, having authored over 100 articles and given over 100 talks on the subject. In recent years, she has branched out into public education, and built the U.Mass. Sunwheel, a stone circle calendar located on the U.Mass. campus. She speaks to over 1,000 K-12 students and members of the general public at the Sunwheel each year, and holds sunrise and sunset gatherings on the solstices and equinoxes which are open to everyone.
Afternoon talk #4 - "How Did the Ancient Greeks Know?"
Ron Woodland is a longtime stargazer and astronomy educator, co-founder of the Conjunction, former director of Amherst College's Bassett Planetarium, staff member at Learning Technologies, Inc., and part-time skydiver.
|Why do we enjoy
watching the night sky? Are Spirituality and Science mutually exclusive?
In "The Soul of the Night," Fr Doug McGonagle Ph.D. reflected on how he
climbed a mountain to become an astronomer and how it ultimately lead him
to become a priest.
Fr. Doug McGonagle has had a long association with the Conjunction. While pursuing his undergraduate degree in Astronomy at UMass Amherst in the 80's, Doug became one of the founding members of the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomer's Association and its president for several years. Doug continued his graduate studies at UMass eventually obtaining his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1995. Doug's specialty is the radio observation of nitrogen bearing molecules in space. His present research focuses on observing the molecules NO and NS in comets. After working on the Large Millimeter-wave Telescope Project as a post-doctoral fellow, Fr. Doug entered Pope John National Seminary. He received his Masters of Divinity and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in June 2000.
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