Author Archives: Damian Allis

Distant Worlds: What We Know About Extra-Solar Planets And Their Potential For Habitability

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

I’m pleased to announce that CNYO is co-sponsoring a lecture with the Cazenovia College Science Cafe Committee on one of the great achievements in observational astronomy in the last decade – the discovery and characterization of extra-solar planets (exoplanets). If so inclined, feel free to RSVP on our event page. Details below:

Distant Worlds: What We Know About Extra-Solar Planets
And Their Potential For Habitability

Speaker: Dr. Leslie Hebb, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Date: March 1, 2017

Time: 6:30 to 8:00 pm

Parking: Free on campus after 6:00 p.m., available on Lincklaen, Seminary, Sullivan, and Nickerson Streets

Location: Morgan Room, basement of Hubbard Hall, Cazenovia College

Since the first extra-solar planet was discovered around the star 51 Pegasi, there has been an explosion of research aimed at discovering and characterizing planets around other stars. With the launch of NASA’s Kepler mission, the number of known exoplanets has grown to nearly 5000 including almost 500 multi-planet “solar systems”. Through these and other discoveries, we have learned that exoplanets are ubiquitous throughout the Galaxy, and many planetary systems look very different than our own Solar System. This research has radically transformed our thinking about how our own Solar System in particular and solar systems in general form and evolve. I will discuss how exoplanets are detected and characterized, the current exoplanet census, and our current understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve. I will also discuss how we identify potentially habitable worlds and what future missions are designed to identify and characterize habitability.

NASA Space Place – Solar Eclipse Provides Coronal Glimpse

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 February, 2017.

By Marcus Woo

2013february2_spaceplaceOn August 21, 2017, North Americans will enjoy a rare treat: The first total solar eclipse visible from the continent since 1979. The sky will darken and the temperature will drop, in one of the most dramatic cosmic events on Earth. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime show indeed. But it will also be an opportunity to do some science.

Only during an eclipse, when the moon blocks the light from the sun’s surface, does the sun’s corona fully reveal itself. The corona is the hot and wispy atmosphere of the sun, extending far beyond the solar disk. But it’s relatively dim, merely as bright as the full moon at night. The glaring sun, about a million times brighter, renders the corona invisible.

“The beauty of eclipse observations is that they are, at present, the only opportunity where one can observe the corona [in visible light] starting from the solar surface out to several solar radii,” says Shadia Habbal, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii. To study the corona, she’s traveled the world having experienced 14 total eclipses (she missed only five due to weather). This summer, she and her team will set up identical imaging systems and spectrometers at five locations along the path of totality, collecting data that’s normally impossible to get.

Ground-based coronagraphs, instruments designed to study the corona by blocking the sun, can’t view the full extent of the corona. Solar space-based telescopes don’t have the spectrographs needed to measure how the temperatures vary throughout the corona. These temperature variations show how the sun’s chemical composition is distributed—crucial information for solving one of long-standing mysteries about the corona: how it gets so hot.

While the sun’s surface is ~9980 Fahrenheit (~5800 Kelvin), the corona can reach several millions of degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers have proposed many explanations involving magneto-acoustic waves and the dissipation of magnetic fields, but none can account for the wide-ranging temperature distribution in the corona, Habbal says.

You too can contribute to science through one of several citizen science projects. For example, you can also help study the corona through the Citizen CATE experiment; help produce a high definition, time-expanded video of the eclipse; use your ham radio to probe how an eclipse affects the propagation of radio waves in the ionosphere; or even observe how wildlife responds to such a unique event.

Otherwise, Habbal still encourages everyone to experience the eclipse. Never look directly at the sun, of course (find more safety guidelines here: But during the approximately 2.5 minutes of totality, you may remove your safety glasses and watch the eclipse directly—only then can you see the glorious corona. So enjoy the show. The next one visible from North America won’t be until 2024.

For more information about the upcoming eclipse, please see:

NASA Eclipse citizen science page:

NASA Eclipse safety guidelines:

Want to teach kids about eclipses? Go to the NASA Space Place and see our article on solar and lunar eclipses!

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

Caption: Illustration showing the United States during the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, with the umbra (black oval), penumbra (concentric shaded ovals), and path of totality (red) through or very near several major cities. Credit: Goddard Science Visualization Studio, NASA

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

SU College Of Engineering And Computer Science Summer Research Internship Program

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

This in from the TACNY listserve – note the March 3rd deadline.

SU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science encourages current high school juniors from CNY to apply for our Summer Research Internship Program. This is an exciting opportunity for students interested in STEM fields!

The College of Engineering and Computer Science, with funding from alumni Thomas and Linda McCausland, have created engineering research opportunities for five talented rising high school seniorswho reside locally. This six-week non-residential program is an opportunity for students to work directly with SU research professors, graduate and undergraduate students on a discrete hands-on research project as part of ongoing research specific to each faculty mentor.

All laboratories will focus on the following learning outcomes for participating interns:
* participate in laboratory safety training
* learn laboratory and college level library research techniques
* develop a research plan
* maintain a laboratory notebook or equivalent
* analyze data
* display and present data in a poster form and explain poster information during an annual poster symposium

Interns will be selected through a competitive application process and receive a generous stipend for successfully completing the program and its requirements

Detailed information regarding the internship, applicant eligibility and requirements including the on-line application can be found on our new website: Completed applications must be submitted by 5:00 PM Friday, March 3, 2017.

For more information, please feel free to contact Carol Stokes-Cawley, Program Coordinator Summer Research Internship Program, at

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