NOVAC Public Meeting, 3/12/23, 7:30 PM EDT

Join NOVAC as we welcome Pete Gural and learn some of the basics on how we know and determine distance in astronomy.   Get ready to brush up on your parsecs, AUs, and light years – we’ll tackle them all!

This NOVAC meeting will be held both in-person at George Mason University as well as live-streamed via Google Meet.  Pete will be in-person at GMU for the talk.  Here is information for both ways to connect.

In Person Option:

Meet at George Mason University, Exploratory Hall, Room 3301.  Check GMU web site for nearby parking options.  Some lots or garages do charge for parking.  Room will be open as early as 6:45pm.

Virtual Option: Join using Google Meet

Video call link:
Or dial: ‪(US) +1 484-430-1468‬ PIN: ‪486 839 001‬#
More phone numbers:

Presentation Details:

Title: The Cosmic Distance Ladder – How Astronomers Measure the Universe

Abstract: Knowing the distance to various familiar astronomical objects that we all love to regularly observe, does not involve a simple matter of laying out a yardstick or using a laser survey instrument. The process involves a bootstrapping technique to first estimate near Earth objects, solar system bodies, close proximity stars, more distant star clusters, variable stars and supernovae. The talk will cover basic measurement lengths used in astronomy, and how they are combined in overlapping ranges to build up a distance ladder starting from estimating the Earth’s diameter to the megaparsec ranges of the most distant galaxies.


Pete Gural is currently a pseudo-retired, software and imagery analysis consultant, working on fun projects for various organizations. He continues to support his former full-time employer Leidos Corporation, on advanced image and signal processing as their needs arise. He is currently working with both the SETI Institute and the University of Western Ontario on meteor detection hardware and software development for real-time meteor tracking and emission line spectroscopy analysis.

In the past year, while honing his skills at pickle ball, Pete has dived deeply into supporting TransAstra Corporation’s asteroid mining development efforts. Specifically, he provided the image processing software suite on a NASA NIAC phase II project, designed to detect very small 10 meter sized asteroids in close orbital proximity to Earth. Why is this important? A subset of those objects will be carbonaceous chondrites that would provide water resources at extremely low energy cost to the near Earth space environment.  Pete helped define the prototype ground imaging system to detect these so called ISRUs, consisting of a quartet of RASA 11″ telescopes plus fast image processing detection software, that eventually are to be deployed on a space-based survey instrument.

As a meteor and asteroid enthusiast, he is well known and respected by the professional meteor community, which had the IAU bestow the honor of naming asteroid #24301 as Gural.

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