BFSP 2016 Speakers


Keynote: Dr. Mike Reynolds – 46 Years of Total Solar Eclipse Chasing

Why do people become addicted to chasing total solar eclipses? What is there about the Sun disappearing in splendid fashion that draws individuals from all parts of the Earth to one place at a specific date and time?  Some state total solar eclipses are the most-spectacular astronomical event or object they ever observed; others note it is almost like a religious experience.

What makes a total solar eclipse so spectacular? Some will say it’s the meteorological changes; others the approaching lunar shadow that foretells totality…planets and stars appearing in what was broad daylight….those mysterious shadow bands…the sunrise-sunset colors around the horizon, the last vestiges of the Sun in the form of the Diamond ring and then Baily’s Beads. The list goes on and on.

Given next year’s total solar eclipse so close to home, how does one assure a successful eclipse viewing? Umbraphiles – as total solar eclipse chasers are often called – talk about serious advance planning. Not only how you are going to observe the eclipse, but where, alternate plans, and even dividing up those precious moments under the shadow to observe different phenomena.

Dr. Mike Reynolds will highlight all of his 18 successful total solar eclipses over a 46 year period, from planning to observing and imaging. Find out why those of us in the continental United States are in for such a treat on August 21, 2017.

Dr. Mike Reynolds has nearly forty years of experience in astronomy and space sciences in the gamut of a high school and university instructor, planetarium and museum director, researcher, and college administrator. He has received numerous recognitions for his work, including the 1986 Florida State Teacher of the Year, NASA Teacher-in-Space National Finalist, and the G. Bruce Blair Medal in Astronomy. Reynolds has written a number of astronomy books and articles, including as an Astronomy magazine contributing editor (as recently as the July 2016 issue). Reynolds has appeared on several Discovery Channel and National Geographic programs, such as Auction Kings.

Dr. Reynolds’ primary astronomical interests are as a solar system astronomer. His studies and research include craters and cratering mechanisms, meteorites, and solar eclipses. He has successfully observed 18 total solar eclipses, the first of which was March 7, 1970.  Mike is a long-time member of the ALPO and serves on the ALPO Board of Directors. He is the Eclipse Coordinator, and currently is the Executive Director of the ALPO.  He is currently a Professor of Astronomy at Florida State College and the Executive Director Emeritus of the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California.


Dr. Sam Finn – Gravitational Wave Astronomy

On September 14, 2015 the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) made the first direct detection of gravitational waves. With the detection of GW150914 astronomy has crossed a divide: before that detection we could know our universe (almost) only through its electromagnetic signs and portents; today – and henceforth – we can listen to the thrum of the engine that powers it. In this presentation we’ll discuss what gravitational waves are, why their discovery is important, and what we have learned from the first three gravitational wave events and triggers: GW150914, LVT151012, and GW151226.
Sam Finn is a Professor of Physics and a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Penn State University. Since completing his Ph.D. in 1987, he has been and remains involved in efforts to detect gravitational waves on the ground, in space, and via astronomical observation; study gravitational wave sources and how gravitational waves propagate through space; and prepare for the use of gravitational waves as a tool of astronomical discovery. An amateur astronomer since grade school, in high school he would take his 4.5” Newtonian camping in Yosemite Valley, spending several nights every year observing at Glacier Point (7200 ft). Following a 30 year hiatus, he returned to amateur observing four years ago, vowing never to leave it again.


Larry McHenry – Obscure Open Star Clusters

Open Star Clusters are great objects to view regardless of the type of telescope you use. Most amateurs have observed the Messier and brighter NGC clusters.  Today we are going to review the more obscurely named open star cluster catalogs – Trumpler, Stock, King, Berkeley, Collinder, and others. We'll learn a little about the individuals behind each catalog, and look at sketches and video-capture image examples of various members of each catalog. Hopefully this presentation will inspired you to search-out and explore these often missed, but very rewarding celestial gems.

Larry McHenry has been active in amateur astronomy for over 40 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, and studying the mythology of the night sky. Larry is currently working on a project to video-observe all 2400 Herschel Objects. You can learn more about his interests, including his video-survey of the Constellations, and his home observatory, online at his webportal:


Dr. Mike Reynolds – Rocks from space

This presentation will overview and introduce the field of meteoritics, with a focus on meteorites and meteorite cratering. In his fast-paced presentation, Reynolds will discuss how to distinguish a meteorite from ‘meteorwrong’, the general classification of meteorites, and show a variety of meteorites; available to handle after the talk. Some of the questions often asked will be covered, such as the chemistry of meteorites, preparation of samples, and cutting to expose the meteorite’s internal matrix. Some of the recent “hot” topics in meteoritics will also be explored, such as Martian and Lunar meteorites, and the asteroid Vesta – Bilanga meteorite fall confirmed connection. Updates on recent falls and recoveries, such as the 2012 Chelyabink fall and new meteorites found in Africa and Antarctica, will also be highlighted.  Finally, how does one know if a meteorite they are purchasing is indeed a meteorite, and not some gravel picked up along the road? How are meteorites priced; why do some go for $1,000 a gram and others $1 a gram?