Press Release

Free Smithsonian’s Stars Lecture Series

By SpaceRef Editor
September 17, 2012
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Curious about our nearest star, moon rocks, volcanoes and other wonders of the universe? Come to the Smithsonian’s Stars, a series of 10 lectures by Smithsonian researchers who are exploring the sun, the moon, planets, stars, galaxies and the universe. These speakers will share behind-the-scenes details about how their research is done and technologies that advance new discoveries at the Smithsonian Institution.

Each lecture begins at 5:15 p.m. and is followed by a question-and-answer session. A Discovery Station activity will take place at 4 p.m. prior to each lecture. Stay after the lecture to visit the observatory, weather permitting.

Oct. 6, 2012 — Three Decades of Telescopes for Observing the Sun
Thirty years ago, Smithsonian scientists and engineers began developing a new technique for coating mirrors to look at the sun. The resulting telescopes have driven three decades of new discoveries. Senior Project Engineer Peter Cheimets will discuss the telescopes that have made this golden age of solar observation possible and the breathtaking results.

Oct. 20, 2012 — Mercury: Oh Strange New World
Data from the MESSENGER spacecraft orbiting Mercury shows us just how wondrous and unique the smallest planet in our solar system is. Planetary Geophysicist Michelle Selvans will discuss the complexities that make Mercury so wonderfully unique.

Nov. 3, 2012 — Moon Rocks and How They Became Famous
In the late 1960s, Apollo astronauts collected rocks from the moon and brought them back to Earth. Scientists studied these rocks, curators put them on display in museums around the world and President Nixon gave them as gifts to foreign heads of state. Teasel Muir-Harmony will explore the wide-ranging roles that these rocks played.

Nov. 17, 2012 — The Dynamic Sun
The sun is even more dynamic, mysterious and beautiful than you probably imagine. Astrophysicist Mark Weber will explore this incredible star with observations from some of the most advanced telescopes. Learn what scientists have discovered and what they are only beginning to understand.

Dec. 1, 2012 — A Universe of Data
This century has seen stunning cosmic discoveries. The digital age has given everyone free access to space data; the trick is to turn that data into quantitative science and pictures that tell a story. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell will use images from the Chandra Space Telescope to help explain how astronomers study space in the computer age.

Dec. 15, 2012 — The Mission of the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity
Since landing on Mars in early August 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover has returned an array of stunning data that is being used to evaluate whether Mars may have harbored habitable environments. Geologist John Grant will delve into the recent findings from Curiosity.

Jan. 5, 2013 — Trees in the City
Tree cover is an important element of the urban environment that plays an increasingly larger role in ecosystem processes. Geographer Andrew Johnston will discuss how satellite data is used to make reliable observations about urban tree cover variability, why it matters to urban residents and how these same data are used to map changes in tree cover.

Feb. 2, 2013 — Volcano Breath
Join Global Volcanism Program Director Liz Cottrell for a lecture about volcanoes on a global scale. Learn how the gaseous contents of volcanoes propel their explosions and impact our climate. Hear the latest about volcanic gas research and explore the latest discoveries about how the deep Earth is recycling the air we breathe.

Feb. 16, 2013 — Venus: 50 Years After Mariner 2
Fifty years ago Mariner 2 flew past Venus, becoming the first space probe to explore another planet. But Venus, our nearest neighbor, still holds many mysteries. On Feb. 16, 2013, Geophysicist Bruce Campbell will discuss what is known about Venus, including how it differs from Earth, and how future explorers may provide crucial clues to understanding this hot, dry world.

March 2, 2013 — Robots and Humans Unite
The universe is far older and vaster than anyone imagined a century ago. To help scientists map the structure and evolution of the universe, a special instrument called a Hectospec was needed. A Hectospec uses the precision technology of optical fibers placed by delicate but very fast robots. Senior Physicist Dan Fabricant will discuss how the Hectospec was developed, how it works and how it is used by astronomers for scientific discovery.

For more information about the Smithsonian’s Stars Lecture Series, visit

Questions about this lecture series should be directed to the visitor service line at 202-633-1000.

The Smithsonian’s Stars Lecture Series is made possible by a grant from NASA.

SpaceRef staff editor.