Past PAS Meetings

Select talks from past PAS meetings, with links to recordings where available.

May
2023
Dark Matter: Our Universe’s worst-kept secret (and why it still bewilders us)
Dr. Jelle Aalbers took us on a journey into the captivating realm of dark matter — an enigmatic substance that continues to baffle modern physics. Did you know that for every pound of ordinary matter such as stars and planets, the cosmos is teeming with over 5 pounds of this elusive material? And good thing it does, too — without the gravitational pull of dark matter, galaxies would not exist, and our Universe would be cold and lifeless. We explored past, present, and future techniques for unraveling the mystery of dark matter, from the subterranean depths of liquid xenon-based observatories to Hubble space telescope images analyzed with artificial intelligence.

Our Speaker
Dr. Aalbers received his PhD Nikhef (Nationaal instituut voor subatomaire fysica) in Armsterdam, The Netherlands. He is currently a Kavli Fellow at Stanford University, at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. He works on fundamental research in the area of detecting dark matter. His key research covers three major areas: building deep learning systems to detect dark matter with Hubble Space Telescope images of strong gravitational lenses; searching for dark matter with LUX-ZEPLIN; developing statistical techniques for rare-event searches with unknown backgrounds. He previously worked on XENONnT, an experiment designed to look for elusive dark matter particles.
February
2023
Lunar Landing Sites Past and Future
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landings, we looked back at the locations we visited with Apollo, review why those sites were selected, and reflected on what we learned there. We then looked ahead to new locations on the Moon for the Artemis program, and what makes them so compelling.

Our Speaker
Brian Day has worked many years at NASA on a number of Moon programs (LADEE, LCROSS). He is currently the Acting Staff Scientist and Lead for Planetary Mapping, Citizen Science and Outreach. Brian is a frequently-requested speaker at local schools and community organizations. As a member of NASA’s Speakers Bureau, he is sent by NASA to give talks on a wide range of NASA missions and research topics. More info: Brian Day bio at SSERVI and NASA SSERVI Home
November 2022Vera Rubin Observatory & LSST Camera
Hannah Polleck, Staff Engineer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, described her work with the largest camera ever constructed: the 3 Gigapixel CCD camera designed for the Vera Rubin Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Pollek gave an overview of the Vera Rubin Observatory as a whole, with emphasis on the construction of the LSST Camera at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. She also spoke about the science goals of the project during its 10 year survey, the nationwide and international collaborations in building it, and the challenges of handling the immense amounts of data that will be taken each night.
For information on the LSST Camera, visit: https://lsst.slac.stanford.edu
For information about the Vera Rubin Observatory, visit: https://www.lsst.org/
October
2022
International Observe the Moon Night
Observe the Moon logoThe Foothill College Astronomy department and the Peninsula Astronomical Society hosted lunar viewing as part of NASA’s Observe the Moon Night on October 1, 2022.
September
2022
Cosmic Alchemy In the Era of Gravitational Wave Astronomy
The source of about half of the heaviest elements in the universe has been a mystery for a long time. Although the general picture of element formation is well understood, many questions about the astrophysical details remain to be answered. Here I focus on recent advances in our understanding of the origin of the heaviest and rarest elements in the Universe.

Our Speaker
Dr. Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz is a Professor and the Vera Rubin Presidential Chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Ramirez-Ruiz is eager to understand our origins and disruptive events in the night sky. He works with computer models to understand the cataclysmic death of stars and recently led efforts to uncover the origin of the heaviest elements in the universe. Ramirez-Ruiz tests out his theories with complex computer simulations that defy the boundaries of human experience and the assumptions we make about the universe. He has authored or co-authored about two hundred and eighty research papers, two dozen in Science and Nature. He has lectured, broadcast and written widely on science and is a highly decorated teacher and research adviser. As the director of the Lamat Institute, he works vigorously to support the promotion and retention of women and historically marginalized students in STEM.
May
2022
Total Lunar Eclipse Party at Foothill Observatory
Lunar Eclipse DiagramThe Peninsula Astronomical Society and the Foothill College Astronomy department held telescope observations of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday, May 15 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. We observed the eclipse using a range of portable telescopes, as well as the Foothill College Observatory.
January
2022
Lick Observatory: Behind the Scenes
Lick ObservatoryPAS Board Member, VP and Lick Observatory Telescope Operator Rick Baldridge has been a Lick Staff Member since 2015 and shared an insider’s view of the observatory, decommissioned telescopes, and other locations on the mountain that are rarely visited or seen by the public, along with local history and other tidbits of information.
PAS Meeting Jan 2022 — Lick Observatory Behind the Scenes (YouTube)
October
2021
International Observe the Moon Night
Observe the Moon logoFoothill College, PAS, and NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute hosted a livestream telescopic view of the Moon from the Foothill College Observatory, using the club’s Meade LX200 16″ telescope. Brian Day of NASA live-streamed a thorough walkthrough of interesting lunar sites, while visitors could also see the walkthrough projected onto a screen outside the observatory. Several PAS members also set up camera-equipped telescopes and screens in the parking lot to give visitors additional views of the moon and its features.
International Observe the Moon Night – With Brian Day at Foothill Observatory (YouTube) | NASA IOTMN Site
September 2021High Resolution Lunar and Planetary Astrophotography
Renowned astrophotographer Gary Varney has been specializing in high-resolution planetary photography and gave us a rundown on the equipment, software and techniques he uses to produce images.
Talk YouTube link | Gary Varney on Flickr
April
2021
Mars on Earth
Dr. Pascal Lee, planetary scientist with the Mars Institute, the SETI Institute, and NASA Ames Research Center, gave a fascinating talk on the NASA Haughton-Mars Project, or HMP, a leading Moon and Mars analog field research project on Devon Island in the High Arctic.
Talk YouTube link | NASA Haughton-Mars Project
January
2021
Memories of Arecibo Observatory
PAS’s own William Phelps shared his experience of a memorable visit to Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Talk YouTube link | Arecibo Observatory Home
August
2020
Lick Observatory in Pandemic times – 1918 and 2020
A talk by Dr. Elinor Gates, staff astronomer at Lick Observatory.
Talk YouTube link | Lick Observatory Home
July
2020
Moon Landing Sites
NASA’s Brian Day walks us through lunar landing sites for Apollo missions and how the locations were selected.
Talk YouTube link | NASA Solar System Treks | NASA Moon Trek