Location: Research Hall, Room 163
Speaker: Dr. Michelle Thaller
Topic: A Solar System of Surprises
It’s mind-blowing to think how much our understanding of our solar system has changed in the last 40 years since the launch of the Voyagers. Today, we have robotic explorers surveying asteroids, plunging around Jupiter, and rolling around on Mars. The Cassini mission’s spectacular finale gave us clues about the origin of Saturn’s rings, and later this year we will arrive at Bennu in preparation to return a pristine sample of an asteroid as well as fly by a Kuiper Belt Object for the first time. The things we have learned have surprised and shocked us; Earth is now in fourth place for the amount of liquid water it contains, and we now have evidence that Jupiter may have moved around the solar system billions of years ago, possibly destroying the first generation of planets. Come along for a journey through the solar system, as we look for evidence of life outside the earth and try to piece together our own history.
Bio: Dr. Michelle Thaller is the Deputy Director of Science for Communication at NASA Headquarters. Michelle has a Bachelor’s in astrophysics from Harvard, and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. After a post-doctoral research fellowship at Caltech, Michelle became particularly interested in public outreach and science communication and served as the public outreach lead for the Spitzer Space Telescope at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory before moving to Goddard Space Flight Center, where she was the Assistant Director of Science for Communications for 6 years. Michelle is one of the regular hosts of Discovery Science Channel’s “How the Universe Works,” and also hosts the podcast “Orbital Path” on public radio. She has received several high-profile awards for online science journalism and science leadership. In her current role, Michelle represents all of NASA’s science themes, from Earth science and climate change, the Sun and space weather, solar system exploration, all the way out to cosmology and the deep universe.
NOVAC’s general meetings are open to club members and the general public alike, and are held on the campus of George Mason University (directions) in Fairfax, Virginia. Research Hall is easily identified by the observatory attached to the side of the building. Paid parking is available in the Shenandoah parking structure. Some members have also chosen to park across the street in the far reaches of the Patriot Center’s parking lot, then walk up the path to Research Hall.
Meetings start at 7:00 PM, generally on the second Sunday of every month (with the exception of May, when we meet earlier or later to avoid a conflict with Mother’s Day). If you come earlier you can do a little socializing. The first part of the meeting is club business, during which the officers make reports about their activities and areas of responsibility. The next part of the meeting usually includes:
- Show and Tell, where members share gadgets, books, techniques, etc.
- The Observing Report, describing the astronomical events for the next month.
- Q&A, where beginning astronomers are encouraged to ask questions to be answered by more experienced members.
- The Sky Tour, describing what’s where in the sky for the next month.
The final part of the meeting is a program, usually by one of the members, but sometimes by “outside experts”. We’ve had presenters from all aspects of Astronomy. Here is a listing of upcoming speakers, a listing of past speakers, their lecture topics, and copies of slideshow presentations and video coverage where available.
There’s a good deal of socializing before and after meetings, allowing members to put faces with the voices they’ve heard in the dark.
Whether you’re an longtime club member, a new or prospective club member, or simply an interested member of the public, you’ll be warmly welcomed at our meetings.
Please Join Us For Dinner!
Meeting attendees (and their guests) are invited to come out for our informal pre-meeting dinner. The pre-meeting dinner will be held at Red Hot and Blue located at 4150 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030 at 5:30 p.m. The pre-meeting dinner is an excellent way to meet club members, welcome newcomers, and renew old friendships.
If you’d like to join us, stop by the restaurant at 5:30 PM. See you there!
PARKING is available at the Shenandoah parking deck (enter via Sandy Creek Way) for $3/hr, up to a daily maximum of $14. Though the club recommends the use of the paid parking deck, we’ve also had members report success parking in Lot A (a permit-only lot also associated with the Patriot Center) without trouble on Sunday evenings (tickets are $85, however, so assess your own risk tolerance before considering this option).