Dr. Robert Leamon: The Termination Event: The Death of Solar Cycles

We shall talk about our nearest star, the one that will not be visible during the prime time of the  star party, but provides the energy required to sustain life on Earth and drive our planet’s atmospheric circulation.

Over the past few years a new picture to describe solar variability has developed, based on observing bands of magnetism that belong to the Sun’s *22-year* magnetic activity cycle (the Hale Cycle), and migrate from high latitudes towards the equator. Those activity bands appear to be anchored deep in the Sun’s convective interior and governed by the rotation of our star’s radiative zone.

One of the most important events in the progression of these bands is their death, or “termination,” at the solar equator that signals a global increase in magnetic activity that becomes the new solar cycle. Their death is NOT dragged out, but VERY abrupt; indeed, the triggering of growth in the new solar cycle is almost immediate. This termination of the last vestiges of solar cycle 24 is imminent.

These Hale Cycle Terminator events reset the Sun’s fiducial clock and present a new portal to explore the Sun-Earth connection, better than the canonical “max” and “min,” including ham radio propagation, geomagnetic storms (“space weather”), and even drive climatic changes with real world consequences, such as hurricanes and agriculture.  Along the way we will discuss how I got to looking at crop prices, meandering through scientific disciplines, around the world, and through academia and government service.

Sunspots are a canonical marker of the Sun’s internal magnetic field which flips polarity every ~22 years. The principal variation of sunspots, an ~11 year variation, modulates the amount of the magnetic field that pierces the solar surface and drives significant variations in our star’s radiative, particulate, and eruptive output over that period. We show that the landmarks of sunspot cycles can be explained by considering the evolution and interaction of the overlapping activity bands of the longer-scale variability and also show how the activity band model can explain shorter cycles of activity.

Dr. Leamon is a Research Scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and (prior to the pandemic) spends most of his days in the Heliospheric Physics Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Previously he was in the NASA HQ Science Mission Directorate helping run the Living With a Star Program.  His Ph.D. thesis became a seminal paper on magnetic fields in the solar wind, and made predictions that will (can only) be confirmed by Parker Solar Probe when it gets close enough to the sun.

The overarching theme of his 20 years’ experience as an active solar, space weather and sun-climate scientist has been the acquisition, ingestion, processing and correlation of disparate large inter-disciplinary datasets, across the breadth of the whole Sun-Earth system. His main current research efforts include Solar activity cycle evolution and prediction, geo-effective Space Weather prediction, and solar effects on terrestrial climate (El Niño).

A native of Swansea, Wales, UK, Dr. Leamon obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, and his undergraduate degree from Imperial College, London.

Bill Arden: Celestial Navigation for Astronomers

Bill Arden is a CPO member and an astrophotographer. He’s also a sailor, and learned Celestial Navigation when he was sailing on Lake Superior.

Description of talk:

Talk summary: Celestial Navigation for Astronomers. How did Shackleton get his crew to safety after their ship was wrecked in Antarctic ice? We’ll tell the story, then dive into the techniques of navigating by the stars. This talk will focus on the astronomy behind the methods and demonstrate the use of a marine sextant.

Carol Hundal: Supervolcanism on the Red Planet

Carol Hundal is a Planetary Science PhD student at Brown University. While earning her undergraduate degree in astrophysics, Carol interned at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). After graduating with honors, Carol was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow for one year, independently traveling to several countries across the world to live and work in planetary analog landscapes with rural and indigenous communities. Since starting at Brown, Carol has spent significant time working on her research remotely from the Sahara Desert near the Moroccan-Algerian border. Carol grew up in State College, PA, and fondly remembers the many times when her family went to the Black Forest Start Party. 

Description of talk:
Volcanism is the underlying filament linking all aspects of Martian history, from the construction of its crust to the geochemical makeup and habitability of its surface. However, an important key to understanding more about Martian Volcanism may lie in an unlikely martian geologic unit. In this talk, we present a discussion of how volcanism has shaped the Red Planet and how current research suggests the presence of an as-yet overlooked but potentially revolutionary layer of volcanic ash in the Perseverance Rover’s path. 

Larry McHenry: The Local Group of Galaxies (What are they, and How to Observe Them)

Today, we’ll discuss what I’ve learned during my observing ‘journey’ among the Local Group. We’ll review what are galaxies in general and what is the Local Group and its place in the universe, along with some of the people, both historical and modern, behind these objects, and how to go about observing them.

Larry has been active in amateur astronomy for over 40 years, and is a member of the Kiski Astronomers, and the Oil Region Astronomical Society (ORAS) in Western Pennsylvania. You can learn more about Larry’s astronomical interests online at his webportal: http://www.stellar-journeys.org/