From Peyton Hall

Director Rex Parker is traveling. He will be out for December’s meeting

AAAP’s Return to Peyton Hall, Nov 8.  At long last AAAP members met again in person at Princeton University’s Peyton Hall auditorium on Nov 8.  Peyton has been the home of Princeton Astrophysics for over 55 years.

Director Rex pointed to an interesting history of Peyton presented by Prof. Ed Jenkins in Dec 2016 in his column last month. See this link:  

Photo credits: Debra Mayes in person at Peyton & Surabhi Agarwal via Zoom

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From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

AAAP Revisits Peyton Hall on the Campus of Princeton University

The December 2022 meeting of the AAAP will take place IN PERSON on Tuesday, December 13th at 7:30 PM. As usual, the meeting is open to AAAP members and the public.

Hybrid Meeting

You may choose to attend the meeting in person or participate via Zoom or YouTube as we’ve been doing for the past few years. (See How to Participate below for details). Participants who choose to participate virtually will be able to log in to the meeting as early as 7:00 pm to chat informally with others who log in early. We’ve had some security concerns during a past broadcast, so we are re-instituting the Zoom waiting room. Please be patient for the host to recognize you and grant you entry into the meeting. Be aware that you must unmute yourself to be heard by other participants.

For the Q&A session, you may ask your question using Zoom’s chat feature or you may unmute yourself and ask your question directly to the speaker. To address background noise issues, we are going to follow the rules in the table below regarding audio. If you are not speaking, please remember to mute yourself. You are encouraged, but not required, to turn your video on.

Director Rex Parker will be out of town (out of the country, in fact) for December’s meeting, so Assistant Director Larry Kane will guide the meeting.

Meeting EventParticipant Can Speak?Participant Can Self-Unmute?
Pre-meeting informal chattingStart All on MuteYes
Assistant Director Larry Kane’s General RemarksStart All on MuteYes
Program Chair Victor’s Speaker IntroductionStart All on MuteYes
Speaker Presentation: Prof. Prof. Joshua Winn
Exoplanets: Science and Science Fiction
Q&A SessionStart All on MuteYes                               
Business MeetingYesYes
Assistant Director’s remarks/Informal chattingStart All on MuteYes

Getting to Peyton Hall

The parking lots across the street (Ivy Lane) from Peyton Hall are now construction sites, unavailable for parking. We’ve been advised by the administration of the astrophysics department that we should park in the new enclosed parking garage off Fitzrandolph street and walk around the stadium and athletic fields. Here’s a map of the campus and walking routes from the parking garage to Peyton Hall. The map shows the recently completed East Garage. Not shown is an access road Sweet Gum that connects from Faculty Road to an entrance at the lower left corner of the garage. Stadium Road connects from Fitzrandolph Road to another entrance at the opposite corner (and higher level) of the garage.

Recent reconnaissance visits to campus show that the walk from the parking garage to Peyton Hall takes about 15 minutes. We will post small signs marking the path.

“Meet the Speaker” dinners

Along with our return to Peyton Hall, we are re-instituting our “Meet the Speaker” dinners at Winberie’s Restaurant & Bar at One Palmer Square. The restaurant has a meeting room that accommodates up to 30 people.  I have reserved this room for 5:45 pm on meeting night. Please contact me by phone or email if you are planning to attend.

Victor Davis
(908) 581-1780


Featured Speaker: Joshua Winn, PhD

Professor of Astrophysical Sciences
Director of Graduate Studies, Princeton University

Exoplanets: Science and Science Fiction

For centuries, people have wondered whether the stars in the sky harbor planets of their own.  Astronomers began discovering such “exoplanets” in the 1990s, and by this point, more than 6,000 are known.  One reason to study exoplanets is to learn about the process of planet formation; another is to seek planets that might be suitable for life as we know it.  This presentation will concentrate on a less scientific reason: to try ‘confirming’ science fiction.  Does the universe really contain lava-covered planets, planets with two Suns, planets near black holes, and other worlds familiar from science fiction?

Joshua Winn, PhD
Josh Winn’s research goals are to explore the properties of planets around other stars, understand how planets form and evolve, and make progress on the age-old question of whether there are other planets capable of supporting life. His group uses optical and infrared telescopes to study exoplanetary systems, especially those in which the star and planet eclipse one another. He was a Participating Scientist in the NASA Kepler team and is a Co-Investigator and Architect of the ongoing Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission. Over the years, he and his group have also pursued topics in stellar astronomy, tidal evolution, planetary dynamics, radio interferometry, gravitational lensing, and photonic bandgap materials.

How to Participate if you are attending via Zoom:

  • Please make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You do not need a Zoom account or to create one to join the meeting. Nor are you required to use a webcam.
  • Please see below for the link to the meeting, or visit our website.

Topic: AAAP December Meeting-Dr. Joshua Winn of Princeton will speak on “Exoplanets: Science and Science Fiction.”
Time: Dec 13, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting Link  Meeting ID: 837 2225 9102  Passcode: 887836

AAAP webcast:  This month’s AAAP meeting, beginning with Rex’s opening remarks and ending at the beginning of the business meeting, will be webcast live on YouTube and recorded for subsequent public access on AAAP’s YouTube channel. Be aware that your interactions during this segment, including questions to our guest speaker, may be recorded for posterity. 

Join YouTube Live to listen to the speaker using the link below –


YouTube  Dr. Joshua Winn, Exoplanets: Science and Science Fiction.

This session will be recorded and saved on YouTube. Send me an email at if you have any concerns. 

“Unjournal Club”

There is no “Unjournal Club” presentation scheduled this month. As you may know, guest speakers receive a baseball cap with the AAAP logo embroidered upon it as a “thank you” for making a presentation to us. We’re expanding the hat giveaway to members who contribute an “Unjournal Club” presentation to encourage participation.

We hope to make these short presentations a regular feature of our monthly meetings. We’d like to know what members are doing or what members are thinking about in the broad range of topics encompassed by astronomy. A brief ten-minute (or so) presentation is a good way to introduce yourself and the topics you care about to other club members. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either or

A look ahead at future guest speakers:

January 10, 2023
Virtual meeting
Alyssa Pagan, Space Telescope Science Institute Alyssa works to process the JWST images that have been leaving us sockless. She’ll talk about JWST and her work turning its data into images. This meeting will be virtual only, while renovations to Peyton Hall’s lecture hall are completed.
February. 2023Jenny Greene, Princeton University Professor of Astrophysics Jenny recently wrote an article on middleweight black holes for Sky & Telescope. She will discuss the contents of her article.
March 14, 2023Joe DePasquale, Space Telescope Science Institute Joe is Senior Data Imaging Developer in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute. A colleague of Alyssa’s, Joe will describe his work turning JWST data into images.
April 11, 2023Ira Polans, former Program Chair of AAAP Rising nearly 400 feet above the desert floor in a remote section of ancient Anasazi territory in New Mexico is a sacred Native American site that a thousand years ago revealed the changing seasons to Anasazi astronomers. Ira will present a documentary film about the “Sun Dagger” and talk about indigenous people of New Mexico. Note that this film is solely for viewing by in-person members, as copyright restrictions will not permit broadcasting it on the internet.
May 9, 2023Gary Rendsburg, Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers. Prof. Rendsburg will talk about “The Jewish Calendar,” with emphasis on its astronomical connections to lunar months, intercalated month to adjust to the solar year, festival days, and new moon observances.
June 13, 2023Bill Murray, AAAP’s Outreach Director and staffer at NJ State Museum planetarium Bill will give his traditional planetarium show at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.

As always, members’ comments and suggestions are gratefully accepted and much appreciated.

Solar Observing in Millington, NJ
Save the date: April 23, 2023 – Long Hill Township Street Fair.
Each year I set up solar telescopes at the Long Hill Township street fair. This is the town I live in, and although I realize it’s a bit of a schlep for many AAAP members, I’d be delighted to have the participation of my fellow astrobuddies. There are lots of kids with sticky fingers and unhealthy food, and I always have a good time. My participation is weather dependent, so please check in with me if you’re thinking about coming out.

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Minutes of the November 08, 2022, AAAP Members General Meeting (hybrid)

by Gene Allen, Secretary

Director Rex Parker convened the meeting at 1937 in the Peyton Hall auditorium and on Zoom. We are thrilled to have been invited back to the Princeton University campus for the first time since the pandemic. Our hope is to make all our meetings hybrid by Zooming the in-person gathering.

Rex briefly shared his agenda items:

  • Still seeking ideas to celebrate our 60th.
  • Anniversary logos are available on AAAP merchandise.
  • Artemis program overview.
  • Lunar South Pole water ice – challenge

At 1946 Program Chair Victor Davis introduced speaker Dr. Michael Strauss, Professor and Chair, Department of Astrophysics, Princeton University. His topic was The First Black Holes in the Universe: Searching for the Highest Redshift Quasars.

NOTE: The recording of this and other AAAP talks can be found on the AAAP YouTube page at

Dr. Strauss fielded questions from 2045 to 2013.

During and after the break authors Drs. Strauss and Vanderbei held a book signing.

The meeting was reconvened at 2018.

The Lunar South Pole Challenge is even more difficult than originally anticipated

Rex shared his image

Member Tom Swords shared his image and that SkySafari can point to named craters

Rex reviewed some of the sights now in the night sky and demonstrated the miracle that the Optolong L-Extreme filter can achieve with planetary nebulas and recommended them as targets at this time of year. He noted that the Abell catalog of planetary nebulas is included in TheSkyX (and in SkySafari).

Outreach Chair Bill Murray reported that:

  • We opened the observatory on Saturday October 15 to host some 120 scouts. Their leaders metered the boys through very effectively, so we were never overwhelmed.
  • About a half dozen AAAP members took scopes to offer a star gazing evening to a couple dozen campers in Mercer Meadows on October 29.
  • He found skies as dark or darker than Cherry Springs when attending the Almost Heaven Star Party in West Virginia but pointed out that it is a camping-only venue.

Recommended viewing is the 2016 Ed Jenkins presentation on the history of Peyton Hall:

Recommended reading:
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
The Making of the Atomic Bomb

One can follow the work and writings of Avi Loeb, or speaker last month, on

Dr. Jim Green, recently retired from NASA, spoke to us here in Peyton Hall in 2016. He has authored a paper recommending a framework for evaluating and reporting evidence of extraterrestrial life. The abstract is available for free at, but he responded to my correspondence with a copy of the full article. Please email if you would like a copy.

We will hopefully meet here again in December.

The meeting was adjourned at 2200.

We had 60 attendees in the room and 40 online.

Our membership currently numbers 191 of which 53 have joined this calendar year, 27 since the June meeting. We have had 107 renewals while 55 have allowed their membership to expire, giving us a 66% retention rate.

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Lunar occultation of Mars, December 7 and 8, 2022

by Bill Murray

I wanted to alert those interested that there is a potentially spectacular observing event on the evening of Wed. Dec. 7th.

On that evening:
1. The Moon is full at 11:08 PM
2. Mars is at opposition less than 2 hours later at 12:36 AM on the morning of the 8th.
3. The two will be very, very close – about 11 PM the Moon will skim 1′ (about 5 Mars diameters) above Mars.
4. This is a very rare occurrence. For most of the country Mars will actually be occulted by the Moon but unfortunately not here in NJ. The Moon and Mars are very high (71° altitude) so if you can see straight up you should be able to see them.

    We can meet in person (at the observatory) to view this event or since is late in the evening midweek we can set up a virtual EAA session to view it. Either way, we will send information out to members once the Observatory Chair decides.

    Credit: Dominic Ford/
    Credit: Bill Murray

    Now, all we need is clear skies.

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    The ARIES Telescopes

    by S. Prasad Ganti

    Very powerful ground based optical telescopes are found mostly in Chile and Hawaii. Some in the Canary Islands. There is an observatory nestled in the foothills of Himalayas in an Indian town called Nainital. Called ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute of Experimental sciencES) and located about 7000 feet above sea level, getting about 200 clear nights a year on an average, it is a good site for optical astronomy. Thanks for the pointer which Surabhi has provided, I did not know of this scientific institution before. 

    Named for Aryabhatta, an Indian astronomer and a mathematician who lived in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Aryabhatta lived before the Islamic golden age when the mantle of mathematics was carried forward by the Arabs. Incidentally, India’s first satellite launched in 1975 was also named in Aryabhatta’s honor. 

    The observatory was established more than fifty years back on Manora peak near Nainital. Starting with smaller telescopes, bigger ones were set up as time progressed. Due to the increasing light pollution as the town of Nainital grew, the new location about 15 miles away as the crow flies, about 35 miles away by road, Devasthal (meaning God’s place) was developed. Two such latest telescopes are established in Devasthal. Both these facilities, along with their telescopes, are managed by ARIES.

    The 3.6 meters reflector telescope called DOT (Devasthal Optical Telescope) saw the first light in 2016. It is considered as the largest reflector telescope in Asia. The optics has been built in collaboration with the Belgian firm Advanced Mechanical and Optical System (AMOS). It features an optical spectrograph, a CCD imager and a near-infrared spectrograph. The telescope also has active optics containing a wavefront sensor and pneumatic actuators which compensates for small distortions in the shape of the 4.3 tonne mirror due to gravity or atmospheric aberrations. The picture shown below, courtesy ARIES, shows the DOT housed in a dome. 

    Second telescope is the 4 meter International Liquid Mirror Telescope (ILMT). It saw its first light recently in May 2022. It has a dish containing a reflecting liquid metal, which is essentially mercury. This dish sits on an air bearing. I never heard of such a liquid based telescope before. Given below is the picture, courtesy ARIES, of the liquid dish with a protective cover.

    This telescope is ​very ​useful ​for ​gravitational ​lensing ​studies ​as ​well ​as ​for ​​extragalactic ​objects like quasars, supernovae, galactic clusters etc. The picture given below, courtesy ARIES, shows a few galaxies with NGC 4274 in the top right corner. Gravitational lensing means that an object behind a massive object will present itself as a displaced image like a ring around the foreground object, or shifted to the right or left of the foreground object. Gravity bends the light coming from the background object and causes these distortions.

    Although these telescopes pale in comparison with the 8-10 meter telescopes of Chile and Hawaii, there is a clear progression towards bigger and sophisticated telescopes. The future does bode well. Given the international collaborations happening with ARIES, consortiums could build bigger telescopes in the Himalayas. The altitude and the geography are comparable to Hawaii and Chile. And another place to add to my bucket list to visit !

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    From the Lens of Lisa

    by Lisa Ann Fanning

    This months “From the Lens of Lisa” is largely Lunar! 🙂

    11/2/22- A fun feature to look for the day after a First Quarter Moon is “Rupes Recta” or “the Straight Wall.” This is a linear fault located in Mare Nubium and is over 100 km long! With its prime location near the terminator in this phase, it is fun to see with optics.  In two weeks, it will be visible again, but illuminated from the other direction!

    iPhone 13 through Celestron NexStar Evolution 8 (32 mm eyepiece)

    The Moon and Jupiter 2 degrees apart (10/4/22), making for a beautiful conjunction between these two bright objects.

    📷: Canon PowerShot SX70 HS
    💻: Composite photo stacked in Bazaart for iOS

    Widefield – conjunction setting over the Atlantic in Cape May, NJ

    Images of the eclipsing Full Moon taken on November 8, 2022 from 4:00 AM ET – 5:45 AM ET.

    iPhone 13 through Swarovski Optik 65mm Spotting Scope

    Assembled in Bazaart for iOS

    Close to totality

    November post full Moon

    I was looking through my photos of 2022’s full (and close to full) Moons, which included 2 Lunar Eclipses and (the “squished”) “Super Moon” and realized it was a whole range of gorgeous colors.

    The moons represented here are from February, March, May (eclipse,) June, September, October and November (eclipse.)

    I had fun arranging them in an eye-pleasing palette using the program Bazaart for iOS.

    Wishing everyone clear skies!

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    David Captures Moon With Birding Lens

    by David Kaplan

    Last night (Nov. 5) I noticed an almost full moon, and how clear the sky was. I recently purchased a Nikon 500mm lens for birding, which is another hobby of mine. I figured I’d give the lens a spin at not quite astrophotography, which I have never tried.

    The lens was set up for birding: f5.6, small group exposure reading, ISO 1250, auto white balance and handheld.

    Initially the image looked overexposed, the moon almost white. I put the image through Adobe Elements. Increasing contrast and lowering brightness.

    I was quite surprised at the final image. I’ll try again when the moon’s phases bring out more detail and the camera is on a tripod.

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    Vanderbei did it again!

    Here’s the picture of the Andromeda Galaxy that Bob Vanderbie took during the AstroVideo Live event on November 22, 2022.

    Telescope:   10” Ritchey-Chretien
    Camera:      ZWO ASI2400MC-Pro 
    Image Capture Software:   SharpCap
    Exposures:   30 seconds automatically aligned/stacked and saved every 5 minutes.
    Total Exposure Time:   75 minutes

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    compiled by Arlene & David Kaplan


    James Webb Space Telescope uncovers origins of distant planet A team of astronomers have used the James Webb Space Telescope to establish how a distant planet was formed. The University of Leicester team formed part of a Nasa-coordinated study based on observations from the new telescope…more

    -Univ. of Alberta

    Life on Mars? Australian rocks may hold clues for Nasa rover Rocks in the Australian Outback dating back 3.5 billion years may help scientists work out whether there has ever been life on Mars. Researchers studying the Australian rocks say only ancient microbes could have shaped them the way they are…more


    Water on the Moon could sustain a lunar base Having dropped tantalising hints days ago about an “exciting new discovery about the Moon“, the US space agency has revealed conclusive evidence of water on our only natural satellite. This “unambiguous detection of molecular water” will boost Nasa’s hopes of establishing a lunar base…more


    The Ethiopian scientist on the search for water on the moon Without water there can be no life. Whether humans are on the Earth or elsewhere in the universe, that axiom remains the same. Nasa’s Artemis 1 rocket was finally launched this week – the start of an ambitious space exploration programme that is designed to take humans back to the moon and beyond…more


    Requiem for a Telescope When the giant Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed in December 2020, it punched a hole in astronomy. For half a century Arecibo was the mightiest telescope on the planet. One thousand feet wide, it listened to radio signals from the stars — as well as from pulsars, planets, asteroids and more — for any hints of intelligent life…more


    House-Hunting on Mars Has Already Started The neighborhood is a wild card, and moving there is bound to be expensive. But one of the best options for shelter when humans finally make it to the red planet will be subterranean caves. These rocky hollows, which exist in droves on both Earth and the moon, are natural buffers against the harsh conditions of Mars…more


    ‘Good Night Oppy’ Review: Life (Kind of) on Mars NASA’s Opportunity Rover landed on Mars in January 2004 and chugged along for more than 14 years before giving out. (In February 2019, NASA declared the mission over.) Opportunity’s anticipated time in service — a span that Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for the mission, is heard likening in “Good Night Oppy” to a warranty…more


    NASA’s Webb Catches Fiery Hourglass as New Star Forms NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed the once-hidden features of the protostar within the dark cloud L1527, providing insight into the beginnings of a new star. These blazing clouds within the Taurus star-forming region are only visible in infrared light, making it an ideal target for Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam)…more


    James Webb telescope’s ghostly ‘Pillars of Creation’ Why satisfy yourself with one course when you can have a double helping? The US space agency Nasa has issued a second image of the famous “Pillars of Creation” taken by the new super space telescope, James Webb. This week we get a rendering of the active star-forming region as seen by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)…more

    Posted in December 2022, Sidereal Times | Tagged , | Leave a comment