From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

The December 2021 meeting of the AAAP will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, December 14th at 7:30 PM. (See How to Join the December Meeting below for details). This meeting is open to AAAP members and the general public. Participants will be able to log in to the meeting as early as 7:00 pm, and will be able to chat informally with others who log in early. In previous Zoom meetings, people joining the meeting before 7:30 pm were queued into the “waiting room.” Since the waiting room does not permit hobnobbing among participants, the host will now open access to the meeting as soon as participants log in. For the November meeting, we tried this scheme and it worked out pretty well. The one caution with this plan is that members enter the meeting unmuted. Please be mindful of your mute/unmute status and mute yourself before the meeting starts promptly at 7:30 pm.

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:  Dr. Joleen Carlberg, STIS Branch Manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

The Fiery Fate of Exoplanets

What happens to planets when their stars begin to die? For many of the planets we’ve discovered outside our Solar System, the answer is a trip into the fiery depths of their host star, particularly when that star becomes a red giant. What happens when a bloated star devours a Jupiter is quite different from what happens to a star that devours a Mercury! This engulfment should leave behind some easy-to-identify clues, but only if we know enough about the dying star. In this talk, Dr. Carlberg will share her investigations into what we know (or think we know) about the physical changes a star undergoes during its lifetime and how we can use this knowledge to search for evidence of planetary engulfment. One of her research goals is to disentangle the several processes that affect a red giant’s lithium abundance to identify stars for which “lithium enriched” translates into “ate a planet.”


Dr. Carlberg earned a B.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Villanova University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia. She was a Vera Rubin Postdoctoral Fellow in Astronomy at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where she measured key characteristics of red giant stars in open clusters and verified new open cluster candidates in the Milky Way’s disk. She was a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, studying the origins of lithium-rich red giant stars within open clusters. Currently, she supports users of HST’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). Her research interests include understanding the effects of stellar evolution on a star’s planets, and characterizing stellar properties such as rotation and composition using ultraviolet, optical, and infrared spectroscopy. Toward that end, she’s been awarded substantial observing time on some of the world’s premier telescopes, including HST.

Dr. Carlberg is active in astronomy outreach, leading public observing sessions, presenting in-school and after-school sessions at local schools, and conducting “Astronomy Chats” at the National Air and Space Museum.

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 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 December 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 Zoom link.

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.

Journal Club: Surabhi’s Icelandic Adventure This month, Surabhi Agarwal will recount her very recent experience of observing the spectacle of the Aurora Borealis from Iceland.

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 11, 2022 Robert Williams, former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), will talk about his (at the time) 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, 2022Chris 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.
March 8, 2022Rosanne Di Stefano, of the Center for Astrophysics/Harvard and Smithsonian, led a team who used the Chandra X-ray observatory to search for brightness dips in X-ray binaries. They may have detected a transiting exoplanet in the spiral galaxy M51. To date, all exoplanet candidates (4,000+ and counting) have been discovered within 3,000 light-years of Earth. An exoplanet in M51, 28 million light-years away, would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way.
June 14, 2022Bill Murray, AAAP Outreach Chair and astronomer at the New Jersey State Museum will once again (following a Covid hiatus) give club members a private sky tour at the museum’s planetarium. He’ll show off the refurbished planetarium’s state-of-the-art Digital Sky 2 8K projection system. This is an opportunity to put aside Zooming and commiserate with astro-buddies in the real world.

Thanks to Bill Thomas, Ira Polans, and Dave Skitt for their valuable advice and assistance.

As always, your comments and suggestions are gratefully accepted.

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

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