From the Program Chair

by Ira Polans, Program Chair

Featured Speaker The February meeting of the AAAP will be held on the 11th at 7:30 PM in the auditorium of Peyton Hall on the Princeton University campus. The talk is on Parker Solar Probe’s Historic First Passages by the Sun by David J. McComas, Princeton University Vice President for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Professor of Astrophysical Sciences.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission launched 12 August 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission design required the nation’s largest launce vehicle – a Delta IV-Heavy with an additional Upper Stage – and seven Venus flybys to progressively lower its orbit’s perihelion down to within 9 solar radii of the Sun’s surface. After the initial Venus flyby, the first two perihelia pierced within ~35 solar radii, nearly twice as close to the Sun as the planet Mercury or any prior spacecraft. Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites to measure 1) the surrounding density structures from scattered white light and in situ observations of 2) plasma ions and electrons, 3) magnetic and electric fields, and 4) solar energetic particles; this last suite, the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (IS☉IS), is led by Princeton University. This talk summarizes the Parker mission and highlights early results from these various measurements over the first two orbits.

Speaker Biography David J. McComas is Princeton University Vice President (VP) for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, and Associated Faculty in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. As VP, he also serves on the Princeton University President’s Cabinet, President’s Council, and Executive Compliance Committee. Previously he was Assistant VP of the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, and an Adjoint Professor in the joint University of Texas, San Antonio – SwRI graduate program in Physics, which he helped to establish in 2004. From 1998 through 2000 Dr. McComas served as the founding Director of the Center for Space Science and Exploration (CSSE) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Prior to that, he was concurrently the NASA Program Manager at Los Alamos Group Leader for Space and Atmospheric Sciences (NIS-1). Dr. McComas received his B.S. Degree in Physics from MIT in 1980 and Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from UCLA in 1986.

Dr. McComas is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He has received numerous awards and accolades including the AGU’s 2018 Eugene Parker Lecture, the COSPAR Space Science Award in 2014, NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2015, and AGU’s James B. Macelwane Award in 1993.

Dr. McComas is the Principal Investigator for NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP, Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Mission, the Two Wide-Angle Imaging Neutral-Atom Spectrometers (TWINS) Explorer Mission-of-Opportunity, the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS) on Solar Probe Plus and the Ulysses Solar Wind Observations Over the Poles of the Sun (SWOOPS) Experiment; he is also the lead Co-Investigator for the Solar Wind Electron Proton Alpha Monitor (SWEPAM) instrument on the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), the solar wind analyzer for the New Horizons mission to Pluto (SWAP), and the Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) on the Juno spacecraft that will orbit over Jupiter’s poles. At Los Alamos he was also the Principal Investigator for DOE’s series of 10 Magnetospheric Plasma Analyzer (MPA) instruments at geosynchronous orbit. Dr. McComas is Co-Investigator on NASA’s Medium Energy Neutral Atom (MENA) instrument on the IMAGE Midsized Explorer, the plasma instrument for the Cassini mission to Saturn (CAPS), the GENESIS Discovery mission, ISTP Polar spacecraft’s Thermal Ion Dynamics Experiment (TIDE), the Cluster plasma electron instrument (PEACE), and is a team member on the New Millennium Plasma Experiment for Planetary Exploration (PEPE).

10-Minute Member Talk After the break Bill Murray will give a talk on The Past and Future of Astronomy. If you’re interested in giving a future 10 minute talk please either email me at or speak with me during an upcoming meeting.

Meet-the-Speaker Dinner There will be a meet the speaker dinner at 6 PM at Winberie’s in Palmer Square prior to the meeting. If you are interested in attending please email me by noon on February 11 at

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