Category Featured Events

MAS April Monthly Meeting

Theory and Observation in the Pseudo-Annular Eclipse reported near Vienna on 17 June 1433

Prof. Michael Shank

This talk analyzes a solar eclipse that is described as annular, but that other reports and modern calculations show to have been very total. I explore the reasons for this odd state of affairs, since most eclipse observers are impressed by the darkness, not what’s happening immediately around the Sun. I argue that the report comes from a theoretically sophisticated observer with access to a 14th c. annular eclipse report that shaped his observation, which was then used to refute the concentric-sphere astronomy of al-Bitruji, an influential 12-13th century Arab astronomer.

Michael H...

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MAS March Monthly Meeting

Teaching Astronomy and Nineteenth-century American Catholic Higher Education – a talk by Dana Freiburger

Dana Freiburger

Pretend it is 1815 and you are a student at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C., could you, with the aid of a terrestrial globe, determine the latitude and longitude of Washington City? Or maybe the more taxing problem to find the time of the sun’s rising and setting, and the length of the day and night at any place? These and over a hundred other problems awaited you in an 1812 book on the use of the globes and practical astronomy employed at this Jesuit college founded in 1789. Written by the Irish-born Jesuit James Wallace, this volume is one example of how the sciences like astronomy enjoyed a confirmed place in American Catholic colleges in the nineteenth century...

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MAS February Monthly Meeting

The Mysterious Radiation Field in the Milky Way (and Other Galactic Surprises)

Dr. Bob Benjamin

Our Milky Way Galaxy is an “island” of stars, interstellar gas, and dark matter in the vast expanses of intergalactic space. In this talk, I will focus on the interstellar (mostly hydrogen) gas. This gas fills the space between the stars, and some fraction of it is ionized: radiation from the stars has enough energy to remove the electron from the proton. By studying the resulting emission lines from this gas with the Wisconsin H-alpha Mapper, we have discovered that the central parts of the Milky Way are permeated by an unusual radiation field. I describe how we ended up making the discovery and why it is significant...

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MAS January Monthly Meeting

Curiosity Paving the Way for Perseverance

Dr. Rebecca Williams

Understanding the past habitable conditions on Mars is a primary scientific driver for NASA’s Curiosity rover. During the last eight years, Curiosity has traversed across diverse terrain within Gale crater and drilled the martian surface over two dozen times. Dr. Williams will provide an update on the latest scientific findings and share spectacular snapshots from along the rover’s journey. In addition, she will present an overview of NASA’s next robotic mission to Mars, Perseverance, which will land at Jezero crater in February 2021. 

Rebecca M. E. Williams is a planetary geologist who studies the history of water on Mars through orbiter and rover observations in conjunction with field-based analog studies on Earth...

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MAS December Monthly Meeting

MAS Telescope Clinic graphic

MAS’s annual telescope clinic is a chance for people in the Madison area to get their questions answered about telescopes and binoculars. It may also help you with some ideas for the gift-giving season.

Do you have an old telescope that’s gathering dust because you don’t know how to use it?Or are you looking to buy a new one? Whatever the case, join us Friday online and learn something. MAS members will be on hand to answer your questions about your existing telescope or give you ideas for your next purchase.

The December meeting will be a virtual event, hosted with Zoom. Members will receive an email with a link and instructions to join a day or two before the event.

This month we are opening the virtual meeting up to non-MAS members who may want to attend the meeting...

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MAS November Monthly Meeting

Whispers from the Universe: Astronomy with Gravitational Waves

Dr. Patrick Brady, LIGO, November Meeting Speaker

Dr. Brady will talk about the generation of gravitational waves by colliding black holes and neutron stars, and how they are measured here on Earth using the LIGO detectors. He will tell the story of the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015, for which the Nobel Prize was awarded in 2017, through to the exciting observations that are becoming almost routine.

Patrick Brady received his B.Sc. from University College Dublin in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1994 where he studied with Werner Israel. He has held research positions at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Caltech, University of California, Santa Barbara...

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Virtual Moon Over Monona Terrace

8.8 day old moon

FREE Virtual Event

Friday, October 23, 2020
7:30 – 9:30PM


Moon Over Monona Terrace is going virtual! Take a live guided tour of our Moon and other celestial objects in our solar system with members of the Madison Astronomical Society (MAS). Program Highlights:

  • Live Telescope Feed (weather permitting) – Explore the surface of the Moon and other celestial objects through telescopes provided by MAS members.
  • Sky Talk (planetarium simulation) – Explore the night sky and the wonders of astronomy, led by Geoff Holt, Planetarium Director, Madison Memorial H.S.
  • YouTube Channel (informational and educational videos) – Visit the Monona Terrace YouTube channel and select from several videos, presented by members of MAS, to enhance your event experience.

Advanced r...

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MAS October Monthly Meeting

Insterstellar laser-sailing: problems and solutions

October MAS Speaker: Dr. Victor Brar

The October MAS meeting will be a virtual meeting hosted with Zoom.

Speaker: Victor Brar, Van Vleck Assistant Professor of Physics, UW-Madison.

In this talk Dr. Brar will summarize recent efforts that have been put into motion which aim to send spacecraft to Alpha Centauri at relativistic speeds, with a goal of receiving data back within our lifetimes. Those proposed missions hinge on developing laser sail technology, in which a high power (~100GW) laser propels a reflective spacecraft. He will discuss the stringent design parameters that the spacecraft must satisfy, and describe how those parameters can be achieved using recently developed ‘metasurface’ technology.

Dr...

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MAS September Monthly Meeting

Copernicus: A Life on the Frontiers

MAS September Meeting with Dr. Michael Shank

The September MAS meeting will be a virtual meeting hosted with Zoom.

UW Madison emeritus professor of the history of science Dr. Michael Shank will present on “Copernicus: A Life on the Frontiers.”

Description: An unexpected invitation to write a general-audience biography of Copernicus has forced this historian of medieval science to wrestle anew with the founding figure of the Scientific Revolution. I expected the assignment to be quick and easy. Instead, it has driven me back to the sources and completely changed my picture of the man. Copernicus was far more buffeted by Baltic politics and indebted to his late-medieval background than I had ever expected...

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MAS August Monthly Meeting

A Brief History of Time(keeping): Optical atomic clocks and their applications

Image of an optical atomic clock

At the August MAS meeting, our guest speaker will be Shimon Kolkowitz of the UW-Madison physics department (assistant professor). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this meeting will again be held via Zoom.

Optical atomic clocks are now the most stable and accurate timekeepers in the world, with fractional accuracies equivalent to neither losing nor gaining a second over the entire age of the universe. This unprecedented level of metrological precision offers sensitivity to new physics phenomena, opening the door to exciting and unusual applications...

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