Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Students And Educators! Sally Ride EarthKAM Winter Mission Announcement, January 27-30, 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The following announcement came through the NASA Solar System Ambassador email list (for which Ryan Goodson and myself are current SSA’s planning several events for the year. If you or your organization is looking for lecturers, please contact us!). Participants will be allowed to select locations on Earth to take images of using the Sally Ride EarthKAM on board the International Space Station.


If you apply and get some camera time, please grab a snapshot of CNY for us! Details below:

Students and educators are invited to participate in the Sally Ride EarthKAM winter mission scheduled for January 27 – 30, 2015. Guide your students in hands-on research as they program a camera aboard the International Space Station to take pictures of specific locations on Earth. The optional online curricula at the Sally Ride EarthKAM website are targeted at middle school students but are adaptable for other grade levels. All students and educators are welcome, including participants in afterschool programs.
For more information and to register for an upcoming mission, visit the Sally Ride EarthKAM home page at 

If you have questions about the EarthKAM project, please email

CNY Skeptics Lecture On January 21st – The End of Snow: Will Climate Change Melt Our Winters?

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A chance to be skeptical with other CNY’ers is coming up this Wednesday, January 21st. Details below. Those of you of the meetup persuasion can register for the event HERE.

Presentation by Dr. Susan Millar of Syracuse University’s Department of Geography

Sponsored by CNY Skeptics

When: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 7:00 PM

Where: Manlius Library, 1 Arkie Albanese Ave, Manlius, NY 13104 USA

Event is Free and Open to the Public

Light refreshments will be served

Please contact 1-315-636-6533 or email for more information

Presentation Summary:

Temperature records indicate that Earth has warmed an average of 0.85°C during the period 1880 to 2012. That increase, however, has been experienced most significantly at middle and high latitudes, regions that have witnessed as much as 2 degrees Celsius of warming. As New York still reels at the memory of last month’s mammoth snow storm in Buffalo, dumping unprecedented totals in excess of two meters in places, one has to question exactly how anthropogenic warming could possibly be connected. In this presentation, I will explore the atmospheric processes responsible for “snow events”, how snow fall has changed globally, and here in New York, why these changes may well be related to climate change, and what it means for the future of the Golden Snowball Award.

Presenter Bio:

Susan-Millar_6176-704x1024Susan Millar is an Associate Professor of Geography at Syracuse University. Professor Millar is originally from Scotland, and hiking the Munros and Corbetts fueled her research interest in periglacial slope processes in both Quaternary and modern contexts. She has conducted NSF-sponsored research in Alaska, Colorado and New York State, examining connections between microclimate, freezing depth, and soil sedimentological characteristics. An on-going project explores relations between changing snow patterns in Central New York and how these affect soil thermal conditions.

Central New York Skeptics (CNY Skeptics) is a community organization dedicated to the promotion of science and reason, the investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims, and the improvement of standards for science education and critical-thinking skills.

Application Process Now Open For Project ENGAGE On The Syracuse University Campus, Summer 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles (and especially readers who know any female STEM enthusiasts currently in middle school),

CNYO is pleased again to help spread the word about Project ENGAGE, a great two-session summer immersion course on the SU campus designed to introduce middle school girls to real world science and engineering (and practicing scientists and engineers). Details from the program announcement, as well as the selection criteria and application forms, are provided below.

Two weeks, two programs, two life-changing opportunities for the next generation:

Week 1, July 5-10: Sustainability and Alternative Energy (7th grade graduates)

Week 2, July 12-17: Biomedical Engineering: Bridging the Technology-Medicine Gap (8th grade graduates)

2015jan13_projectengageIt is with great pleasure that I invite middle schools throughout the region to nominate up to four middle school girls (two – 7th graders and two – 8th graders) for an exciting opportunity at Syracuse University (SU) this July. Project ENGAGE is a successfully piloted and run engineering immersion program for girls who have a wide range of interests and demonstrated abilities across several academic areas. While living at SU, the participants will explore the breadth of topics engineers address within the focus area, gain important problem-solving skills and benefit from the experience of successful female engineers and other role models. The summer program includes mini-courses, readings and discussion, projects, field trips and hands-on learning alongside accomplished female engineers, college professors, and middle school teachers and college students.

Project ENGAGE is limited to a small number of qualified young women who are selected through a highly competitive process for each of the two program weeks, not all nominated students will be accepted into the program. Please look over the attached criteria before you nominate students. The John Ben Snow Foundation and Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science support project ENGAGE 2015. The cost of the program for accepted students is $400 and full scholarships are available.

Download: 2015 Project ENGAGE Criteria (pdf)

The application package is attached as both a pdf and as a word document formatted to accept typed in answers, and additional information is available through the Project ENGAGE website. Completed applications must be postmarked by March 6, 2015.

Download: 2015 Project ENGAGE Application (docx)

Download: 2015 Project ENGAGE Application (pdf)

For additional information please contact: Project ENGAGE at (315) 443-0466 – The College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University, 223 Link Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244 or E-mail

NASA Space Place – Minor Mergers Have Massive Consequences For Black Holes

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in January, 2015.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceWhen you think of our sun, the nearest star to our world, you think of an isolated entity, with more than four light years separating it from its next nearest neighbor. But it wasn’t always so: billions of years ago, when our sun was first created, it very likely formed in concert with thousands of other stars, when a giant molecular cloud containing perhaps a million times the mass of our solar system collapsed. While the vast majority of stars that the universe forms—some ninety-five percent—are the mass of our sun or smaller, a rare but significant fraction are ultra-massive, containing tens or even hundreds of times the mass our star contains. When these stars run out of fuel in their cores, they explode in a fantastic Type II supernova, where the star’s core collapses. In the most massive cases, this forms a black hole.

Over time, many generations of stars—and hence, many black holes—form, with the majority eventually migrating towards the centers of their host galaxies and merging together. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, houses a supermassive black hole that weighs in at about four million solar masses, while our big sister, Andromeda, has one nearly twenty times as massive. But even relatively isolated galaxies didn’t simply form from the monolithic collapse of an isolated clump of matter, but by hierarchical mergers of smaller galaxies over tremendous timescales. If galaxies with large amounts of stars all have black holes at their centers, then we should be able to see some fraction of Milky Way-sized galaxies with not just one, but multiple supermassive black holes at their center!

It was only in the early 2000s that NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was able to find the first binary supermassive black hole in a galaxy, and that was in an ultra-luminous galaxy with a double core. Many other examples were discovered since, but for a decade they were all in ultra-massive, active galaxies. That all changed in 2011, with the discovery of two active, massive black holes at the center of the regular spiral galaxy NGC 3393, a galaxy that must have undergone only minor mergers no less than a billion years ago, where the black hole pair is separated by only 490 light years! It’s only in the cores of active, X-ray emitting galaxies that we can detect binary black holes like this. Examples like NGC 3393 and IC 4970 are not only confirming our picture of galaxy growth and formation, but are teaching us that supermassive relics from ancient, minor mergers might persist as standalone entities for longer than we ever thought!

Check out some cool images and artist reconstructions of black holes from Chandra:

Kids can learn all about Black Holes from this cool animation at NASA’s Space Place:

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Caption: NGC 3393 in the optical (L) by M. Malkan (UCLA), HST, NASA (L); NGC 3393 in the X-ray and optical (R), composite by NASA / CXC / SAO / G. Fabbiano et al. (X-ray) and NASA/STScI (optical).

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website:

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “The Snowball Earth”

Saturday – January 17, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

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Earth’s climate has changed tremendously over its history. Did you know that the Earth nearly froze solid 2.3 billion years ago and again 700 million years ago? Dr. Junium will discuss how this may have happened, how the Earth warmed after the snowball events and how life survived.

People interested in learning more about global climatic change are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, January 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing by January 14, 2015.


Dr. Chris Junium studies how life and climate interact throughout Earth’s history by analyzing the chemistry of ancient sediments. He is particularly interested in how the concentrations of oxygen have changed in the atmosphere and ocean over time, and how life responds to transitions in Earth’s climate state. His research spans the last 2.5 billion years of Earth’s history, and his research has taken him as far away as the Arctic Circle and as close as Green Lakes State Park. Recently, he spent two months as a scientist aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution to recover sediment cores from the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to better understand the causes of extremely warm climate 50 million years ago.

Dr. Junium received his B.S. in Geology from Dickinson College in 2000 and his Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University in Geosciences in 2010. From there he moved to Northwestern University under an Agouron Institute Geobiology Fellowship. He started at Syracuse University in January of 2012.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit