From the Program Chair

by Victor Davis

The September 2021 meeting of the AAAP will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, September 14th at 7:30 PM. (See How to Join the September Meeting 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. During this pre-meeting period, you have the opportunity to commiserate with other meeting attendees informally either verbally or using the app’s “chat” function. Instructions for using Zoom’s chat function are available at At the conclusion of the meeting’s agenda discussions, we’ll leave the zoom link open until 10:00 pm to allow informal chats among meeting attendees.

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?
Director Rex’s General RemarksYesYes
Program Chair Victor’s  Speaker IntroductionYesYes
Speaker PresentationNoNo
Q&A SessionStart All on MuteYes                                    
5-minute bio breakYesYes
Journal Club presentation (none scheduled)Start All on MuteNo
Business MeetingStart All on MuteYes
Director’s closing remarksNoNo

Only the Business part of the meeting will be locked.

Featured Speaker:  Prof. Emily Levesque is a professor of astronomy at the University of Washington. Her presentation is entitled “The Last Stargazers,” a behind-the-scenes tour of life as a professional astronomer. Spoiler alert: Eyepieces are rarely involved.

Prof. Levesque’s research explores how the most massive stars in the universe evolve and die. She’s observed using some of the most powerful telescopes in the world, and has experienced engaging true stories (and collected tall tales) of the adventures and misadventures that accompany our exploration of the universe: A bird that mimicked a black hole. The astronomer that discovered microwave ovens. A telescope that got shot. And…wait for it…a telescope support engineer who advised, “have you tried turning it off and back on again?”

We’ll learn how professional astronomers collect data using world-class telescopes, meet the people who run them, and explore the crucial role of human curiosity in the past, present, and future of scientific discovery. “The Last Stargazers” is based on her critically acclaimed popular science book of the same title.


Prof. Levesque has also created a course for The Learning Company, “Great Heroes and Discoveries of Astronomy,” which explores the science and heroes behind the great astronomical discoveries of the past few centuries.

Emily Levesque earned her undergraduate degree in physics from MIT and her PhD in astronomy from the University of Hawai’i. She has observed for upwards of fifty nights on many of the world’s largest telescopes. Her research has taken her into the Antarctic stratosphere in an experimental aircraft. Her academic accolades include the 2014 Annie Jump Cannon award, a 2017 Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a 2019 Cottrell Scholar award, and the 2020 Newton Lacy Pierce prize. 

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. 

YouTube live Link:

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

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 September 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: The Zoom site has many training videos. 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.

WANTED: Members with interesting stories to tell. During the past months, we’ve enjoyed interesting and informative talks from AAAP members, and we’d like to keep the momentum going! 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 the club membership. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either or

A look ahead at future guest speakers:

October 12, 2021           Tansu Daylan, TESS postdoctoral research associate in astronomy at Princeton University, will talk about his ongoing projects with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. 

November 9, 2021         Jesus (Jesse) Rivera, Visiting Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Swarthmore College, will discuss radio astronomy and his work researching dusty star-forming galaxies (DSFGs).

December 14, 2021       Joleen Carlberg will talk about her work as a Support Scientist on the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) team.

January 11, 2022           Robert Williams, former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSci), will talk about his controversial and courageous decision to commit about 100 hours of time on the HST to staring at what was at the time considered to be a relatively bare patch of sky, creating what is now known as the Hubble Deep Field.

February 8, 2022           Chris Spalding a 51 Pegasi b postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at Princeton University, will talk about his research to understand planet formation by way of simple theoretical descriptions of planetary dynamics.

In the C where C is D department, I’d like to acknowledge the advice, moral support, and social media wrangling provided by Bill Thomas, Ira Polans, and Dave Skitt. Thanks so much, guys, for all that you do. As always, your comments and suggestions are gratefully accepted.

NOTE: At this time, we do not know when we’ll be invited to return to Peyton Hall for in-person meetings. Based on Rex’s correspondence with the folks in the Princeton astrophysics department, they have established restrictive measures regarding public events on University premises, so it seems our return is not imminent. We expect to be zooming for the foreseeable future, and we are discussing the logistics of zooming even when we are able to meet in person. Several potential guest speakers have expressed a desire to speak to our club only when live meetings are possible, so a sooner-than-expected return to “normalcy” may involve revising our roster of speakers. 


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