BFSP 2013 Speakers


Keynote: Dr. Carey Lisse, head of NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign

With the much anticipated appearance of Comet ISON later this year, The Black Forest Star Party is pleased to present comet expert Dr. Carey Lisse as this year’s Keynote speaker.  Dr. Lisse is eager to share interesting details on the history and importance of Comet ISON.  This rare type of comet, discovered just last year, will travel well inside Mercury’s orbit and closely approach the Sun in late November before it slingshots back toward outer space.  Dr. Lisse will help amateur astronomers understand how they can meaningfully contribute to the observing and research efforts of the scientific community. He will also explain NASA’s plans to monitor ISON using a variety of ground- and space-based observing platforms, as a way to learn more about Earth’s past, present, and future.  Bring your questions about this exciting astronomical event!

More information about NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign can be found here:

Dr. Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland has been active in the fields of astronomy and physics since 1985, where he began as an instrument scientist at NASA/Goddard on the Nobel prize winning COBE project. He later moved over to planetary studies, writing his dissertation on comets detected in the COBE all sky survey. Since then he has focused primarily on comets, making important discoveries in X-ray emission from comets, and working on the NASA Deep Impact mission from start to finish including using the Spitzer Space Telescope to observe dust excavated from Comet 9P/Tempel 1 by the DI Impactor. He also studies asteroids and x-ray emission from planets and comets, and searches for the presence of asteroids and comets around other stars.


Larry McHenry: The Venus Transit: A Historical Retrospective

Larry successfully observed both the 2004 & 2012 Venus Transits and will share his personal experience along with what he’s learned about the previous 5 transits observed before the modern era, and how the challenge from Edmund Halley launched a world-wide quest for the answer to the most important scientific question of the last 350 years – the value of the AU and the scale of the solar system!

Larry McHenry has been active in amateur astronomy for over 30 years, and is a member of the Kiski Astronomers from Southwestern Pennsylvania, in the Pittsburgh area. His favorite astronomical activities include solar observing, video astronomy, drawing his impressions at the eyepiece and studying the mythology of the night sky.

You can learn more about his interests, including his video-survey of the Constellations, and his home observatory, online at his webportal:

To find Larry’s campsite at the star party, just look for the Wazat! (teardrop trailer).


Steven Frey: The Ultimate Showdown: Gravity versus Dark Energy

Long the king of intergalactic dynamics, gravity now finds itself sharing the same universe with an equally mysterious and even mightier counterforce known as dark energy. What are these weird forces? And what powers them? Why are they locked in colossal cosmic combat with each other? And how will they affect the future, including the science of astronomy? Let’s look into it!

Steve Frey is semi‑retired certified radiation health physicist who calls nearby South Williamsport, PA home. He received a B.S degree in science from Pennsylvania State University and a M.S. degree in radiation health physics at Purdue University. Steve served in radiological science programs ranging from nuclear power to radiotracer manufacturing and finally in high-energy particle physics at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, a prominent “atom smasher” operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy for particle physics and astrophysics research. There, he served in several management capacities including as the site Radiological Control Manager. Steve enjoys astronomy, star parties, and the company of fellow stargazers. He is honored to be participating in this year’s Black Forest Star Party.


Dirk Grupe: The NASA Swift Observatory and the hunt for Gamma Ray Burst

Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic events in the Universe.
GRBs were discovered during the cold war by military monitoring satellites. For many decades they remained one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy.
Today we know that GRBs are explosions of massive stars. Due to their extreme brightness we can discover and observe these event throughout the whole universe. Because of the fast decay in their brightness, GRBs have been a challenge for astronomical observatories. Only with the launch of the NASA Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer Mission was it possible to observe the early phases of these explosions. Swift is controlled by a group at Penn State from State College.  In my talk I will explain GRBs and in particular describe the Swift GRB observatory and what makes this observatory so unique.


April 1996: PhD, University of Goettingen, Germany
1996/1997: Postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin
1997-2002: Research assistant at the Max-Planck Institute for extraterrestric physics
2002-2005: Postdoc at the Ohio State University
2005 – present: Research Associate at the Pennsylvania State University


Rob Teeter:  “From Imitation to Innovation: How the Dobsonian Has Evolved”

Talk Synopsis:Professor Mason Cooley once said, “Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation,” and the same can be said about the Dobsonian telescope, no longer a simple utilitarian instrument but now a bonafide art form and premium product. The basic principal of the Dobsonian has been copied many times, but the innovations to that design are what set products apart and move the industry forward. In this presentation, Rob will walk the audience through how he has seen the industry change and innovate since the advent of the Dobsonian.  In particular, over the last decade since Rob’s company, Teeter’s Telescopes, delivered their first telescope, Dobsonians have gone from long to very short focal length, pushing the boundaries of coma correction, collimation, and optical performance; there has been a transition from Push-to manual systems to Go-to drive systems, including the recent utlization of digital Tablets for wireless control; and, a greater emphasis on management of thermals within the optical tube assembly; as well as several other facets to be highlighted.

Rob Teeter, owner of Teeter’s Telescopes, LLC., has been building custom Truss and Solid Tube Dobsonians commercially since 2002.   Prior to that, in 1998, Rob received 1st Place in the Junior Division at the Stellafane Telescope Making Convention and his telescopes have been featured in various magazines, reviews, websites and star parties.   Ranging from 8″ to 24″, F/3 to F/8, every Teeter’s Telescope has been unique and is custom built to the client’s requests.   Most famous for their Cherry Stain wood finish and Brass Hardware pairing, Teeter’s Telescopes also utilize the industry’s first Boundary Layer Cooling Fan system to mitigate the performance degrading thermals plaguing most Dobsonians.