Special Colloquium: Stella Kafka (Host: Karen Kinemuchi)
Feb 20 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Special Colloquium: Stella Kafka (Host: Karen Kinemuchi) @ Domenici Hall

The AAVSO Program: A Resource for Variable Star Research

Stella Kafka, AAVSO

The AAVSO was formed in 1911 as a group of US-based amateur observers obtaining data in support of professional astronomy projects. Now, it has evolved into an International Organization with members and observers from both the professional and non-professional astronomical community, contributing photometry to a public photometric database of about 25,000 variable objects, and using it for research projects. As such, the AAVSO’s main claim to fame is that it successfully engages backyard Astronomers, educators, students and professional astronomers in astronomical research. I will present the main aspects of the association and how it has evolved with time to become a premium resource for variable star researchers. I will also discuss the various means that the AAVSO is using to support cutting-edge variable star science, and how it engages its members in projects building a stronger international astronomical community.


Dr. Stella Kafka, is the Director of the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers). Before her tenure at the AAVSO, Dr Kafka held positions at CTIO, Spitzer Science center/Caltech, Carnegie Institution of Washington/DTM and AIP Publishing. The AAVSO is an international non-profit organization of variable star observers whose mission is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy.

Colloquium: Phil Judge (Host James McAteer)
Nov 15 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Phil Judge (Host James McAteer) @ BX102

Using every photon to learn about the physics of solar plasmas

Phil Judge, High Altitude Observatory, Boulder CO.

The Sun has traditionally been the Rosetta Stone that can overcome the gap in regimes between laboratory and astronomical plasmas.   Theories applicable in the laboratory may not readily apply to solar plasmas, and vice-versa. Yet we still face challenges in understanding how the observable plasmas are produced, and why the magnetic field threading and energizing them must globally reverse every 11 years. I will give a general overview of currently pressing problems in solar physics, followed by two specific examples: one concerning the physics of flares through infrared spectroscopy and polarimetry, the other concerning how we might wring every last ounce of information from the emitted photons. Along the way I will introduce the NMSU-operated Dunn Solar Telescope, the new DKIST, Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter, and suggest how we might take advantage of these new facilities to make lasting progress.

Colloquium: Elise Boera (Host: Kristian Finlator)
Dec 6 @ 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm
Colloquium: Elise Boera (Host: Kristian Finlator) @ BX102

Revealing reionization with the thermal history of the intergalactic medium

Elisa Boera, SISSA Trieste

During hydrogen reionization the UV radiation from the first luminous sources injected vast amount of energy into the intergalactic medium, photo-heating the gas to tens of thousands of degree Kelvin. This increase in temperature has left measurable `imprints’ in the thermal history of the cosmic gas: a peak in the temperature evolution at the mean density and a smoothing out of the gas in the physical space by the increased gas pressure following reionization (i.e. Jeans smoothing effect). The structures of the HI Lyman-alpha forest at high redshift are sensitive to both these effects and therefore represent a powerful tool to understand when and how reionization happened. I will present the most recent constraints on the thermal history of the intergalactic medium obtained using the Lyman-alpha forest flux power spectrum at z>5. I will show how these results can be used to obtain information on the timing and the sources of the reionization process and I will discuss their consistency with different possible reionization scenarios.