From the Program Director

by Victor Davis

The February meeting of 2021 will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, 9th at 7:30 PM. (See Joining the Meeting with Zoom below for details). This meeting is open to AAAP members and the general public. Due to the number of possible attendees, we will use the Waiting Room. This means when you login into Zoom you will not be taken directly to the meeting. The waiting room will be opened at 7:00 PM. Prior to the meeting start time (7:30 PM) you may socialize with others in the waiting room. The meeting room has a capacity of 100 people.

For the Q&A session, you may ask your question using chat or 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.

Meeting EventParticipant Can Speak?Participant Can Self-Unmute?
Rex’ General RemarksYesYes
Victor’s  Speaker IntroductionYesYes
Speaker PresentationNoNo
Q&A SessionStart All on MuteYes                                    
Journal Club presentationStart All on MuteNo
5-minute bio breakYesYes
Business MeetingStart All on MuteYes
Director’s closing remarksNoNo
Only the Business part of the meeting will be locked.

Featured Speaker: Princeton University postdoc Dr. Guðmundur Kári Stefánsson will speak on Searching for New Worlds with Next-generation Astronomical Instruments.

Exoplanet science has seen an explosion in activity since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system in the 1990s. We now know of over 4,000 exoplanets, and that rocky planets are prevalent in the Galaxy. Is it just a matter of time when we will detect Earth 2.0? In this talk, Dr. Stefánsson will discuss new and exciting discoveries in exoplanet science, and in particular his ongoing research on developing and using next generation technologies to better detect and characterize exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The main science goal of these new instruments is to better detect rocky planets orbiting in the habitable-zone—the region around the star where liquid water could be sustained on the surface of the planet. Dr. Stefánsson will end with a look to the future, discussing what exciting possible science results await with upcoming and future ground- and space-based observatories.

Dr. Guðmundur Stefánsson is a Henry Norris Russell Fellow at Princeton University. His research focuses on developing and using next-generation instruments to better detect and characterize planets outside our solar system. Dr. Stefánsson received his PhD in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University in 2019 as a Fulbright and NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow. As part of his PhD research, he led the development of a new technique employing Engineered Diffusers—low-cost nanofabricated optical devices capable of molding the focal-plane image of a star into a stabilized top-hat shape—capable of delivering space-quality photometric observations of transiting exoplanets from the ground. Dr. Stefánsson contributed to the design, construction, and commissioning of two next-generation planet-finding spectrographs—The Habitable-zone Planet Finder and the NEID radial velocity instrument—designed from the bottom-up to detect terrestrial planets orbiting in the habitable-zone of nearby stars.

January’s Journal Club Presentation: Ira Polans will speak on Johannes Kepler, Parallax, and the Astronomical Unit, describing how Kepler and his contemporaries measured the size of the Solar System.

AAAP webcast:  This month’s AAAP meeting, beginning with Rex’s opening remarks and ending at the break before 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. Here is YouTube live link

Using Zoom: While we are, social distancing the AAAP Board has chosen to use Zoom for our meetings, based our belief that many members have already have used Zoom and its ease of learning. One of its great features is you can choose whether you want to install the software on your computer or use it within your browser.

How to Join the February Meeting: For the meeting, we are going to follow a simple two-step process:

  1. Please make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You do not need a Zoom account or need to create one to join the meeting. Nor are you required to use a webcam.
  2. Please visit our website for the link to the meeting
  3. This session will be recorded and saved on YouTube. Send me an email at if you have any concerns.

NOTE: We plan to open the meeting site 30 minutes to the 7:30 start time. This way you won’t have to rush to join the meeting. A maximum of 100 attendees can join the meeting.

More Information: The Zoom site has many training videos most are for people who are hosting a meeting. If you’re unsure how Zoom works you might want to view the videos on how to join a meeting or how to check your computer’s audio and video before the meeting.

We hope to make these short presentations a regular feature of our monthly meetings. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either or We’d like to keep our momentum going!

Upcoming Programs: Here’s a look ahead at upcoming guest speakers. We’re expecting to conduct virtual meetings for the remainder of this academic year. In an effort to turn necessity into a virtue, we’re casting our recruiting net a bit wider than usual, inviting speakers for whom a visit to Princeton would be impractical or inconvenient. Suggestions for guest speakers for September, 2021 and beyond are welcome.

March 9 – Keivan Stassun: Prof. Stassun is the Stevenson Professor of Astrophysics at Vanderbilt University. He will describe The Life and Death of Stars, the title of a course he delivered for The Learning Company.      

April 13 – Alexandra Kroll Davatzes: Prof. Davatzes is an Associate Professor at Temple University. Her talk will describe Precambrian Meteor Impacts and Implications for Early Earth.

May 11 – Alex Hayes: Prof. Hayes is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and Director of its Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility. He will speak on Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System, plus he will give a brief report on the Mars 2020 mission.

June 8 – Anna Schauer: Dr. Schauer, a new mother, is the NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She leads the team researching what she’s nicknamed the Ultimately Large Telescope, a lunar liquid-mirror telescope that will aim at investigating First Star Formation.

Looking forward to you joining us on Zoom or YouTube Live webcast at the February meeting!

This entry was posted in February 2021, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to From the Program Director

  1. David Kaplan says:

    I’m reading, “ Extraterrestrial, The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, by Avi Loeb.
    Avi Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, where is the longest serving chair in the history of astronomy department, where he directs the Black Hole Initiative and the Institute for Theory and Computation.
    There are passages of his relationship with Freeman Dyson and John Bahcall.
    The book is an interesting read. Perhaps he would consider a Zoom invite as a speaker.

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