Department Holiday Party 2019

As usual, our holiday party was a festive event, thanks to the incredible hard work of Linda Shettleworth and the good spirits of students, faculty and families. The food was great, the company was fabulous and a good time was had by all. It is so much fun for the elders to watch the next generation coming along. The pictures say it all!

Mercury Transit Observed at VVO

Hundreds of students, staff and townsfolk joined us on Foss Hill Monday, Nov. 11, to observe a transit of Mercury. The sky cooperated for the most part and we were treated to a gorgeous view of this rare event. Thanks to Roy, Seth, John Sillasen, and all the Astronomy Dept. staff and students who helped out!

Students Speak at Keck Undergraduate Research Symposium

Wesleyan students and faculty attending the 2019 KNAC Undergraduate Research Symposium at Vassar College.

Eight Wesleyan undergraduates presented results of their summer research to the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium sponsored by the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC). This year’s symposium was held on October 5 at Vassar College and attended by 125 astronomy students and faculty, primarily from the consortium colleges (Bryn Mawr, Colgate, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan and Williams). KNAC was founded in 1990 to enhance research opportunities for astronomy students at smaller institutions in the northeast by sharing resources. Today it operates a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation through a grant to Wesleyan. Astronomy majors Mason Tea and Rachel Marino and sophomores Alex Henton and Ava Nederlander gave oral presentations of their projects conducted on campus this summer. In addition, astronomy majors Fallon Konow, Hunter Vannier, Gil Garcia and Terra Ganey gave poster presentations of their summer research. The presenters were joined by an equal number of first and second-year students who went to hear the talks, participate in breakout sessions on various astronomical topics and network with potential future colleagues.

Alex Henton presents his work on asteroids.
Mason Tea presenting results on a gravitational lensing telescope.
Rachel Marino presenting her work on a debris disk.
Ava Nederlander presenting work on a brown dwarf in a debris disk.
Professor Seth Redfield, the PI of the NSF grant supporting KNAC addresses the audience.
Wesleyan students in the audience enjoying a presentation.
Professor Roy Kilgard discusses some research ideas with a student.
Professor Bill Herbst with Alex Henton.
Gil Garcia presented his work on black holes.
Hunter Vannier reported on his work on the interstellar medium.
Terra Ganey (back) presented her work on the development of a spectrometer.
Group photo of attendees at the 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium. Vassar College, Oct. 5, 2019.
Fallon Konow presented her work on the interstellar medium.

Andrea Ghez visits as 2019 Sturm Lecturer

Andrea Ghez, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA and the world’s leading expert on the black hole at the center of our galaxy visited the department for two days this week. She delivered the 2019 Sturm Lecture to an audience of 200+ on Tuesday night and gave a colloquium to the Astronomy Department on Wednesday. She also had breakfast and lunch meetings with astronomy department students and with the Wesleyan Women in Science program. Her visit was co-sponsored by the Center for Integrative Science. Ghez described her amazing studies of the stars orbiting the supermassive black hole in the Milky Way, showing how the work is testing General Relativity and challenging ideas of galaxy evolution.

Roy Kilgard, Anthony Santini and Andrea Ghez
Cassidy Soloff, Michael Henderson, Justin Perea, Katharine Hesse and Andrea Ghez
Bobby Baldocchi, Jonas Powell, Andrea Ghez, Ed Moran and Stew Novick
Andrea Ghez and Bill Herbst
Andrea Ghez meets with members of Wesleyan’s Women in Science program

Astronomy Grad Student Receives Award from the American Astronomical Society

We are pleased to announce that Jessica Klusmeyer, a second year graduate student in our MA program, received a Chambliss Student Achievement Award from the American Astronomical Society at its 233rd meeting in Seattle, WA in January, 2019. The award recognizes her outstanding poster presentation at the meeting and her ability to discuss the research underlying it with professional astronomers who serve as judges. We note that Jessica was competing in the graduate division against many more senior graduate students enrolled in Ph.D. programs around the country. This is a wonderful achievement and we are very proud of her work and deserved recognition. Jessica’s research poster was entitled “A Deep Search for Five Molecules in the Debris Disk around 49 Ceti”. Her research advisor is Professor Meredith Hughes and she had a number of co-authors, including former Wesleyan post-doctoral fellow Kevin Flaherty.

The Seattle Meeting of the American Astronomical Society

It was amazing to see how many Wesleyan folks, past and present, were a part of the 233rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. Here is just a partial list of contributors and attendees I ran into. Apologies to those I missed! Please add additional names and pics below.

Current Staff and Students: Roy Kilgard, Michael Henderson, Allison Quintana, Jessica Klusmeyer, Ismael Mirales, Anthony Santini

Recent Grads: Hannah Fritze, Aylin Garcia Soto, Prajwal Niraula

Recent Summer Students: Karina Cooper, Sadie Coffin, Aleezah Ali, Katie Chapman, Diego Garcia

Alumni: Amy Steele, Nicole Arulanantham, Colin Littlefield, Mark Popinchalk, Marshall Johnson, Emily Leitner, Anna Williams, Ken Rumstay, Taft Armandroff, Phil Choi, Anil Seth, Evan Tingle, Diana Windemuth, Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein, Clara Moskowitz

Former Staff: Vicki Sarajedini, John Cannon

Celebrating Van Vleck Observatory’s 100th Birthday!

On June 16, 2016, one hundred years to the day of the dedication of Van Vleck Observatory, the Astronomy Department hosted a Centennial Symposium and reception. Over one hundred people — about 1/3 alumni, 1/3 current Wesleyan staff and students, and 1/3 community members, including Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford members, attended. The Symposium program is available here. At the reception, we were treated to music of the early 1900’s by the West End String Quartet and Centeni-ale from our master brewer Roy Kilgard. Costumed visitors from the past, including such luminaries as George Ellery Hale and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (played, respectively, by Professor of Physics Lutz Huwel and Professor of Romance Languages Ellen Nerenberg) mingled among us. For more information and pictures visit the University blog.

Wesleyan Astronomy Well Represented at AAS Meeting

Many Wesleyan staff, students and alums attended the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society from Jan. 4-9, 2016, in Kissimmee, FL. Here are a few pictures from the event including research posters by current students Girish Duvvuri and Jesse Tarnas, as well as post-doc Wilson Cauley. Also shown are former students Amy Steele, now in the Ph.D. program at U. Md. and alums Josh Wing, Evan Tingle and Marshall Johnson, who stopped by Roy Kilgard’s poster to say “Hi”. Marshall is just finishing his degree at U. Texas.


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