Calendar for the Year

Mt Tam Astronomy Program


September 3, 2022: There is no Planet B

We have entered the era of New Space, when private interests have been given the green light and are finally making headway into the commercialization of the final frontier. It's already past the time for tough questions. Will mining asteroids really save the Earth? Can humans avoid extinction by moving our civilization to Earth-orbiting space colonies or terraforming and colonizing Mars? What about the hype over space tourism, or the tens of thousands of internet satellites planned for low Earth orbit? Is any of it even realistic? The speaker will give us her take on the recent developments in space exploration and what it means for all of humanity, now and into the future.

Our speaker, Carolyn Porco is an award-winning planetary scientist and explorer and a popular public spokesperson on science, planetary exploration, and the future of humanity. She is a visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. She was the character consultant on Carl Sagan's 1997 film 'Contact' and the science consultant on the 2009 film 'Star Trek'. Asteroid Porco 7231 is named in her honor.

This talk will be online, via Zoom from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm PDT. The talk will be posted on the MTAP Youtube channel once the event has concluded.

October 1, 2022: An Astronomical Perspective on Globular Clusters, Planet Earth, and the Climate Crisis

Globular clusters have been providing insight into the structure of the Milky Way and the

evolution of stars for more than 100 years. I will describe the role that binary stars play in their fascinating internal dynamics and provide examples of how a cluster's binaries can be revealed using space-based observatories. The unusual perspective that astronomical studies such as these provide on our home planet led to the founding in 2019 of an organization aimed at harnessing this perspective to help combat the climate crisis. The speaker will briefly describe the goals and activities of Astronomers for Planet Earth, which now comprises 1400 astronomy educators, amateurs, students, and researchers worldwide.

Our speaker, Adrienne Cool is an observational astronomer and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at San Francisco State University. She is the director of the SFSU Observatory and Planetarium. She is the co-founder of Astronomers for Planet Earth, an organization established to empower and mobilize the global astronomical community to take action on the climate crisis.

This talk will be online, via Zoom from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm PDT. The talk will be posted on the MTAP Youtube channel once the event has concluded.

Past Events

July 9, 2022: Exploring Caves on the Moon and Mars

Caves have been discovered on the Moon and Mars. Caves on the Moon might contain ice, while caves on Mars might also harbor life. This talk will discuss how robots and humans could soon explore these mysterious underground alien worlds.

Our speaker, Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute, the Mars Institute, and NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He recently led the Northwest Passage Drive Expedition, the subject of the award-winning documentary film Passage To Mars (2016). Dr Lee’s first book, Mission: Mars, won the 2015 Prize for Excellence in children’s science books from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

June 4, 2022: Gravitational Waves: The Discovery that Won the Nobel Prize

On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) received the first confirmed gravitational wave signals. Now known as GW150914, the event represents the coalescence of two distant black holes that were previously in mutual orbit. LIGO's exciting discovery provides direct evidence of what is arguably the last major unconfirmed prediction of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and has launched the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy. This talk will present an introduction to LIGO, gravitational waves and black holes. It will also discuss the gravitational wave detection results reported to date from LIGO and Virgo.

Our speaker, Lynn Cominsky is an award-winning Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Sonoma State University (SSU). She is also the director and founder of SSU's EdEon STEM Learning Center, formerly known as the Education and Public Outreach group.

May 14, 2022: Celebrating 175 years of Neptune: A Story from its Discovery to the Present

Neptune was discovered on 24 Sep. 1846, i.e., ~175 years ago. Since its discovery we have a learned much about the planet itself, its moons and ring system. This talk will present the story of Neptune, from its discovery to the present, using data at visible, near- and mid-infrared, and radio data.

Our speaker, Imke de Pater is a Professor emerita and professor of the Graduate School in the departments of Astronomy and of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the co-author of two books on Planetary Sciences (publisher: Cambridge University Press).