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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series On Sabbatical for 2011-12
Series Returns Fall 2012
October 07, 2011 - October 19, 2011
Archive Story
The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series is on sabbatical for 2011ľ2012 while its venue, the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College, is renovated. The series will return in Fall 2012, according to series founder and Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Andrew Fraknoi. "From time to time, however, we will share other interesting opportunities to hear about developments in astronomy, so that you don't get withdrawal pains during our sabbatical year," Fraknoi said. He has also started a Facebook page with short astronomy news items. It features the latest discoveries, spectacular new images, and even a bit about science fiction with good astronomy. Find it at http://www.facebook.com/Fraknoi. If you "like" the page on Facebook, the system will let you know when there is a news announcement on the page. Between Oct. 29 and Nov. 6, a number of institutions, including the Foothill Astronomy Program, are sponsoring a Bay Area Science Festival, with 100 events during 10 days, including a family fair at AT&T Park. On Saturday evening, Nov. 5, there will be a Bay Area-wide star party with telescopes available to the public at 22 sites including Foothill College. Learn more at http://www.astrosociety.org/events/starparty.html. Past lectures from the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series are available as free podcasts and videos.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series Presents The Many Mysteries of Antimatter
March 10, 2010 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 11th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Helen Quinn, Ph.D., of Stanford University, will discuss The Many Mysteries of Antimatter, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, March 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Antimatter is just like matter with all its properties reversed. But when antimatter meets a matching amount of matter, they destroy each other, both turning suddenly into energy. Scientists think there may have been equal amount of matter and antimatter in the early universe, and yet today we have lots of matter and very little antimatter. How and when that imbalance developed is one of the great mysteries in understanding the underlying properties of the universe. Dr. Quinn, who is co-author of the definitive popular book on antimatter, will discuss the history of our understanding of antimatter and how we use the little bit of antimatter around today to study some of the highest energy processes among the stars and galaxies. One particularly interesting possible source of antimatter is the annihilation or decay of "dark matter" particles, mysterious material that is thought to make more of the universe than regular matter. She will also discuss ongoing antimatter experiments that are helping to put limits on the nature and behavior of dark matter. Dr. Quinn is professor of physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and assistant to SLAC's director for education and outreach. She has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and is a former president of the American Physical Society. Her book, The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter (2008, Princeton University Press), is an engaging introduction to the world of particle physics. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 from yellow dispensers in student lots. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Jan. 20 Lecture Examines New Strategies: The Search for Intelligent Life Among the Stars
January 20, 2010 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 11th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Seth Shostak, Ph.D., of the SETI Institute, will discuss The Search for Intelligent Life Among the Stars: New Strategies, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Jan. 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. A half-century ago, astronomers began trying to "eavesdrop" for radio messages from nearby star systems. This was the start of the scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program, looking for other civilizations in the universe. The discovery of more than 400 planets around other stars--including a number super-Earths--has provided a new foundation for this search. However, today, SETI researchers continue to point their telescopes at individual stars, on the assumption that technically advanced societies will inhabit a watery world like our own. Dr. Shostak will describe these searches, but then ask a controversial question: Are these familiar--and nearby--star systems the only (or even the best) places to look for signals? He will go on to discuss some novel ideas for how we might pursue the hunt for "cosmic company" and why it's possible that we might find evidence of sophisticated intelligence out there within only a few decades. Seth Shostak is senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, and one of the best public lecturers in astronomy today. If you have never heard one of his energetic and humorous talks, you are in for a treat. He appears regularly on national radio and television programs, hosts Are We Alone?, a syndicated weekly radio show, which is broadcast locally on KALW 91.7 FM, and has written hundreds of popular magazine and Web articles. He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University, and a doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. He lectures on astronomy and other subjects at Stanford and other venues in the Bay Area, and for the last six years, has been a Distinguished Speaker for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His most recent book is Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (National Geographic). The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research CenterSETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Nov. 11 Lecture Examines Extreme Environments on Earth & Search for Life in the Universe
November 11, 2009 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 11th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Lynn Rothschild, Ph.D., of the NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss Life at The Edge: Life in Extreme Environments on Earth & the Search for Life in the Universe, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Nov. 11, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. This talk is part of the local events celebrating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Dr. Rothschild has gone from the Bolivian Andes to the Rift Valley of Kenya searching for the hardiest of organisms in the most extreme environments for life. By getting to know life forms on Earth that can occupy the most hostile niches, we can begin to understand the survival requirements for life in general. She will describe her quest for "life at the edge" and how such discoveries shape our search for life in the Solar System and beyond. An astrobiologist, she specializes in evolutionary microbiology and the use of molecular and cellular techniques to understand DNA damage and photosynthesis in nature. As a consulting professor at Stanford University, she teaches the popular Astrobiology & Space Exploration course. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy ProgramNASA Ames Research CenterSETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series areá available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2.á Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series Returns Oct. 7
October 07, 2009 Wednesday, Oct . 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Archive Story
The annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series kicks off its 11th season with Hubble Breakthrough: The First Photos of a Planet Orbiting Another Star, an illustrated, non-technical talk, presented by Paul Kalas, associate professor in the astronomy department at the University of California, Berkeley, Wednesday, Oct . 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free; parking is $2. Seating is first come, first served. This talk is part of the local events celebrating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Kalas was the leader of the team that managed the long-sought feat of taking a photograph of a planet orbiting another star. Before this, all the planets outside our solar system were found by indirect means. He will describe how they achieved the breakthrough using the Hubble Space Telescope and discuss the wide range of planets that astronomers are discovering. He is an observational astronomer focusing on imaging dusty disks around nearby stars, using some of the world's largest telescopes. The lecture series is co-sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Learn more or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: Dark Matter & Dark Energy
May 20, 2009 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 11th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Stanford University's Patrician Burchat will present Dark Matter & Dark Energy, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: Planetary Protection & Hitchhikers in the Solar System--The Danger of Mingling Microbes
April 22, 2009 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Dr. Margaret Race, one of the leading experts on contamination danger and the protection of planets, will discuss Planetary Protection & Hitchhikers in the Solar System: The Danger of Mingling Microbes, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 22, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. This talk is part of the local events celebrating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Scientists searching for life elsewhere have to worry about avoiding harmful cross contamination during the exploration of planets and their moons. We don't want to take Earth microbes to Mars or bring back alien microbes to Earth. In this timely talk, Dr. Race will give a behind-the-scenes view of environmental management planning for solar system missions, and explain the role of the Outer Space Treaty and other related national and international policies. She will also discuss the varied societal issues likely to arise from discoveries about life beyond the Earth-issues about the meaning of life, its future evolutionary trajectory, and environmental sustainability in the universe. Dr. Race is an ecologist at the SETI Institute who works with NASA and the international space community to develop, refine and apply planetary protection policies to missions to the planets. She has organized and edited proceedings for a number of conferences in this field, and served on panels evaluating contamination danger for the National Research Council. She has a strong interest in communicating science to the public, having worked at both the Environmental Protection Agency and KQED Television. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: The Dawn of Creation--The First Two Billion Years
March 04, 2009 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, astronomer Steven Beckwith, the former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs the Hubble Program, will discuss The Dawn of Creation: The First Two Billion Years, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. This talk is part of the local events celebrating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. All the great islands of stars got their start in the first billion years after the beginning of time, the Big Bang. Every deep picture of the sky reveals thousands of these galaxies, each made up of billions of stars like the Sun. The intricate structures of the Milky Way and other galaxies took shape slowly, building up from many pieces in the debris of the initial explosion. This process was governed by the mysterious dark matter that we can sense but still not see. Modern instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope have made it possible to look back to a time when the universe looked very different than it does today. Dr. Beckwith will show some of the deepest images of the universe ever taken and share recent discoveries about the early days of the cosmos. Beckwith is currently the vice president for research and graduate studies for the University of California's 10 campuses. His 30-year research career spans many areas of astronomy, including the formation and early evolution of planets around other stars and the birth of galaxies in the early universe. In 2004, he led the team that created the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image, resulting in the discovery of the most distant galaxies ever seen. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Receives 2009 Hayward Award for Excellence in Education
March 03, 2009
Archive Story
Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Andrew Fraknoi is one of four community colleges teachers to be named recipient of the 2009 Hayward Award for Excellence in Education by the California Community College Board of Governors. The four faculty members were selected from across the state for their commitment to professional excellence in their fields as well as their contributions to their community. In honor of former state chancellor Gerald C. Hayward, the award honors community college faculty members who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to their students, college and profession. Recipients are nominated by their local peers and selected as winners by representatives of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In addition to excellence in teaching, they must have a record of outstanding performance in professional activities as well as a record of active participation on campus. Fraknoi has spent his career improving the accessibility of astronomy to students and community members being served by Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. A resident of San Francisco, he is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award. He was selected as California Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2007. Fraknoi's Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Ask course received the 2005 Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College. "I am honored and grateful for this award," Fraknoi said. "My mission in life has been to share a cosmic perspective and my love of the scientific method with students for whom science has been a challenge. "Many august scientific societies have made official statements on the challenges to our modern understanding of science. But such statements mean nothing to the average student. It's up to those of us in the trenches of modern education--and there are few trenches as full of the nitty gritty of real life as the community colleges--to show students the real power of critical thinking, of evidence-based judgment, and of the skeptical use of their rational minds. This is the challenge I relish every quarter I teach. I thank Foothill College very much for giving me the privilege of teaching there and I thank all of you for recognizing the value in that teaching," Fraknoi said. Foothill students praise Fraknoi's ability to translate difficult concepts into entertaining and conceptually relevant instruction. "You are one of the best teachers I have found in all of my scholastic studies," said Robin Forsberg of Fraknoi. "You share your knowledge, rather than show it off. You provide us with an opportunity to understand and enjoy... You are providing a great service to your students, Foothill College, and the community." "I believe that an understanding of our place in the wider universe and the methods of science are part of the birthright of everyone living on our planet," Fraknoi said. "Yet, the way science is taught in this country can often discourage non-science majors from taking a lifelong interest--or even a course-long interest--in science. My philosophy is to show students that science is engaging, human, and part of our cultural heritage. An example of this is the interdisciplinary Physics for Poets class I have developed, where I discuss and get students involved with Einstein's work using analogies, demonstrations, cartoons, and examples from the student's own experiences, without using an excess of mathematics. Once they internalize the concepts, we read stories and a novel that are illuminated by an understanding of the science--and even play music inspired by Einstein's work." Fraknoi does everything he can to make his classes fun, including using visuals, reading poems, recommending science fiction stories, and even doing a moon-revolution or pulsar-beam dance in front of the class. "I try to communicate science in everyday language, drawing the students in, instead of pushing them away," Fraknoi said. "My astronomy courses stress the larger themes of the vast scales of space and time, varieties of nature, and intricate beauty of the subatomic world. I spend time in each class talking about the history of women and minorities in science, and showing what a waste it is to exclude anyone from the pleasure of science. I am so delighted when students who have not succeeded in science before tell me that, for the first time, they 'get it' and understand why people are excited about science." "I can't tell you how fascinating it was for me to have had the opportunity to learn about stars, galaxies, and the universe from you," said former Foothill student Cathy Stepanek of Fraknoi. "Your excitement about the topic is contagious. Thank you for inviting questions and for your clear and thorough explanations. Your humor, knowledge, and the historical, cultural, and musical references were very much appreciated. I am now in awe of this universe and our ability to understand it. It is a privilege to have been your student." Fraknoi credits his success to the numerous great teachers he himself learned from throughout his career. In fact, he feels so strongly about providing a forum for experienced instructors to share their approaches with colleagues who are new to the field that he developed the Cosmos in the Classroom Symposia, a series of workshops on new ways of teaching introductory astronomy. The first symposium began in 1996, with just a California group of instructors. It has steadily expanded and now meets every three years. The group's last meeting in 2007 brought together nearly 200 instructors from around the country for three days of hands-on workshops and networking. To defray costs, Fraknoi obtained NASA grants for scholarships, so that part-time instructors and those from colleges that serve significant numbers of minority students, but have no travel funding, could also attend. "Every good teacher of astronomy can touch the lives of so many thousands of students over the years and nurturing a new generation of good teachers is something that is very much worth our best efforts," he said. Ten years ago, Fraknoi founded the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, which has grown to be one of the most popular events at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. For many of these free lectures, Foothill's 900-seat theater is filled to overflow capacity with crowds eager to hear current developments in astronomy from world-renowned scientists. The slate of impressive guest lecturers who have presented at Foothill College include the first woman in history to discover a planet, a U.S. astronaut, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, and the discoverer of the dwarf planet beyond Pluto. Radio listeners know Fraknoi as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he currently appears on the Gil Gross Show on KGO Newstalk AM 810, and was a regular on the Jim Eason Show and Pete Wilson Show on the same station. He has also been a regular guest on Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED, and is the astronomer-in-residence on the syndicated Los Angeles-based Mark & Brian Show. Nationally, he has been heard on Science Friday and Weekend All Things Considered on National Public Radio. A prolific author, Fraknoi co-edited The Planets and The Universe, two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books in the 1980s. His children's book on astronomy, Wonderful World of Space, was published by Disney in 2007, and features astronomy puns using Disney and Pixar film characters. The four Hayward Award recipients, each from different areas of the state, are selected and honored annually at the March board of governors' meeting. The candidates are evaluated on their commitment to education; serving students; community colleges, including support for open access and helping students succeed; serving the institution through participation in professional and/or student activities; and serving as a representative of the profession beyond the local institution. A $1,250 cash award and plaque is presented to each recipient. In addition to Fraknoi, the 2009 award recipients are Shasta College Vocal & Choral Music Instructor Elizabeth Waterbury, Antelope Valley College Physics Instructor Christos Valiotis, and Golden West College Counselor Stephanie Dumont. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges is a nonprofit professional organization for the faculty of 110 California community colleges. It serves 60,000 faculty members throughout the state who impact millions of students annually. For more information, access www.asccc.org.
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Astronomy Lecture Series: Prospecting for Water on the Moon-The Upcoming LCROSS Mission
January 21, 2009 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Anthony Colaprete of the NASA Ames Research Center will discuss the LCROSS Mission on Lunar Exploration, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. This coming April, NASA will purposely crash two spacecraft into one of the Moon's polar regions. The impacts should raise huge plumes of material, visible even to smaller telescopes on Earth. Astronomers will search for evidence of water in the plumes to get a better sense of how much frozen water may lay hidden in the deep, shadowed craters of the Moon's North and South poles. This talk is part of the local events celebrating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. Dr. Colaprete, the principal investigator for this intriguing mission, will reveal why scientists believe there is water on the Moon (even though there is no air), and how we might put such water to use in future exploration. He will preview the LCROSS Mission and discuss the campaign to observe the plumes from Earth and space. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: The Latest Results from the Cassini Mission
November 12, 2008 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute will present Saturn's Restless Rings: The Latest Results from the Cassini Mission, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has just entered its fifth year exploring the planet Saturn. Its cameras and other instruments continue to send back to Earth a treasure trove of new information about the planet, its rings, and its large family of fascinating moons. Dr. Showalter will share some of the marvelous pictures from Saturn and take a close-up look at this "lord of the rings". Whereas we once believed Saturn's rings to be stable for millions of years, we are learning that some of the rings can change in appearance over time scales as brief as decades, or sometimes even days. The rings have revealed a variety of surprising phenomena, including "jets", "propellers", "wisps", "spokes", and "braids". We are interested in Saturn's rings not only for their own sake, but also because in them we observe some of the same processes that formed our Solar System out of a cloud of dust and debris long ago. Showalter is a principal investigator at the Mountain View-based SETI Institute, whose research focuses primarily on ring-moon systems. He has been a member of the Cassini science team for nearly a decade, and had a lead role in planning some of Cassini's observations. He is the discoverer of Jupiter's outermost ring, Saturn's moon Pan, and two moons and two faint rings of Uranus. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Astronomy Lecture Series Kicks Off 10th Year with The Black Hole Wars: My Battle with Stephen Hawking
October 01, 2008 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind will present The Black Hole Wars: My Battle with Stephen Hawking, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Black holes, the collapsed remnants of the largest stars, provide a remarkable laboratory where the frontier concepts of our understanding of nature are tested at their extreme limits. For more than two decades, Professor Susskind and a Dutch colleague have had a running battle with Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University about the implications of black hole theory for our understanding of reality--a battle that he has described in his well-reviewed book, The Black Hole Wars.Čć In this popular talk, without mathematics, Dr. Susskind tells the story of these wars, explains the ideas that underlie the conflict, and recounts how he got Hawking to retract some of his claims. What's at stake is nothing less than our understanding of space, time, matter and information! Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of theoretical physics at Stanford University and the author of two popular books and many articles on recent developments in science and their meaning. He teaches a popular continuing studies course at Stanford on modern physics and has won the American Institute of Physics science writing prize for an article explaining black holes. His research focuses on particle physics, quantum theory, and the nature of gravity. He has a rare knack for explaining the most advanced scientific ideas in everyday terms. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format at www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. This talk kicks off the 2008-2009 series of Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures. One unit of college credit is available from Foothill College for students who enroll in the ASTR 36 course, attend all six Wednesday evening lectures and write a short paper on an astronomy topic of their choice. To register in advance for this one-unit course, access www.foothill.edu/reg or arrive early for the Oct. 1 lecture to obtain registration materials. California residents pay $13 per unit of credit at Foothill. Foothill College is located on El Monte Road off I-280 in Los Altos Hills. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series Profiles Allen Telescope Array
April 23, 2008 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the ninth annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, SETI Astronomer Jill Tarter will present The Allen Telescope Array: The Newest Pitchfork for Exploring the Cosmic Haystack, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Digital technologies are making possible huge improvements in our search systems. The Allen Telescope Array, being constructed in Northern California as a partnership between the SETI Institute and University of California Berkeley Radio Astronomy Lab, will be the most powerful tool for finding SETI signals ever built. Ité─˘s an innovative radio telescope assembled from a large number of small dishes, using consumer off-the-shelf technologies whenever possible to minimize costs. In the next decade, this new 'pitchfork' will enable exploration of up to 10,000 times more of the cosmic haystack than was searched in the previous decade. Dr. Tarter is director of the Center for SETI Research, and the leader of the main project looking for radio signals from alien civilizations (she was the model for the character Jodi Foster played in the film, Contact.) She will update us on the latest tools and plans in the SETI quest. She holds the Bernard Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and is one of the best-known astronomers in the world. Although she is best known for her SETI work, she also coined the term "brown dwarf" for an object that just misses being a star. In 2004, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format at www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu/ast or call (650) 949-7888.
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Astronomy Lecture to Feature World's Top Planet Hunter
March 05, 2008 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the ninth annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer Geoff Marcy--the scientist who has discovered more planets than anyone else in history--will present New Worlds & Yellowstone: How Common Are Habitable Planets?, a non-technical multimedia lecture, Wednesday, March 5, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Star Trek and Star Wars would have us believe that the universe is teeming with habitable planets and advanced species of life. In reality, after the discovery of more than 250 planets orbiting other stars, both Earth-like planets and extraterrestrial intelligence have proved elusive. Soon, however, new telescopes will begin hunting such planets. Hear what these telescopes are likely to find and whether they might spark a new era when we might begin communication with alien life. Dr. Geoff Marcy is professor of astronomy and director of the Center for Integrative Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He won the Shaw Prize, one of the highest honors in science, in 2005 and was Discover Magazineé─˘s Space Scientist of the Year. He and his co-workers pioneered the technique for finding planets around other stars without seeing light from the planet by looking for wobbles and wiggles in the motion of the star each planet orbits. By using this technique. he discovered 70 of the first 100 planets discovered beyond our solar system. He was one of the youngest scientists elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format at www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu/ast or call (650) 949-7888.
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Astronomy Lecture Spotlights Discovering Our Place in the Cosmos
January 23, 2008 7 p.m.
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As part of the ninth annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer Joel Primack of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Philosopher and Attorney Nancy Ellen Abrams will present The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos, a non-technical multimedia lecture, Wednesday, Jan. 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Remarkable discoveries in the last decade are transforming cosmology--the study of the universe as a whole. Our cosmos appears to be made mostly of dark matter and dark energy, with the stars and galaxies we can see making up only a tiny fraction of it. We are beginning to understand the first few minutes after the Big Bang and the way in which the structure of the universe arose. This interdisciplinary program is something of a departure from our usual series of lectures, but should intrigue and challenge everyone interested in the meaning of science for our times. Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams' program is both a progress report and philosophical reflection on our modern view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos. Using the latest science, cosmic images and visualizations, plus music, themes from myth, and even cartoons, they will illustrate how the new ideas about the universe have widespread cultural implications. Primack is an award-winning physicist and cosmologist, who writes for both his colleagues and the public. Abrams is a former Fulbright Scholar and student of mythology. While working for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, she invented a method called "scientific mediation" that lets government agencies make intelligent decisions despite scientific uncertainty. Together they teach the Cosmology & Culture course at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and have written a popular book, published in 2006, with the same title as this lecture. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format at www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 (eight quarters). Parking lots 1, 5 and 6 provide access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Astronomy Teacher Wins National Physics Prize
January 09, 2008
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What were the atoms in your body doing eight billion years ago? At least some of them were inside a star that later exploded, says Foothill College Astronomy and Physics Instructor Andrew Fraknoi, who has been answering questions like that for students, on the radio and in books and articles, for more than 30 years. Those atoms, he tells students, are on loan to them from the universe, and it's up to the students to make the best possible use of those atoms while they are borrowing them. It's that kind of excitement about space--and his unique ability to share that excitement through his writing--that has won Fraknoi the prestigious American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award. A resident of San Francisco, Fraknoi was presented with the Gemant Award at the 211th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, Jan. 9. In addition to the invitation to deliver his guest lecture, From the West Wing to Pink Floyd to Einstein Advertising: Astronomy in Popular Culture, to the society's membership and the public, he receives a citation and a $5,000 monetary award, and is given the opportunity to designate one or more academic institutions that will share a $3,000 grant to further the public communication of physics. Fraknoi has selected Foothill College and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as the grant recipients. "Just when I can't imagine being any prouder of Andy, he wins another major award!," said Foothill College President Judy C. Miner, Ed.D. "Foothill College and our community have known for years what a talented educator that he is, but the prestigious honors that he has earned are wonderful validation. I hope that more students and community members will take advantage of the opportunity to learn from Andy by enrolling in his Foothill classes and by attending the free Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series presentations he organizes at Foothill College." The American Institute of Physics (AIP) award committee selected Fraknoi for "his extraordinary contributions as a teacher, a public lecturer, co-author/editor of a syndicated astronomy newspaper column, host/producer of a weekly radio show and numerous guest appearances on national TV." The committee also lauded his tremendous breadth. "His rare combination of skills has resulted in his being sought nationally and internationally as a spokesperson for physics, astronomy, the history of science, and the connection of science to all human activities." Fraknoi's Harvard University teacher Gerald Holton, one of the great historians of physics, is a past recipient of the Gemant Award, as are Cambridge University's Stephen Hawking, author of The Brief History of Time; Columbia University's Brian Greene, whose book on string theory was a best seller and who has been featured in several TV specials; Paula Apsell, producer of the award-winning NOVA series on PBS; Einstein's biographer Abraham Pais of Rockefeller University; and two Nobel Prize-winning physicists. "I am awed to be included among the recipients of this award, which has been won by some of the most eminent figures in the popularization of physics and its cultural dimensions," Fraknoi said. "People like Philip Morrison, Stephen Hawking and Steven Weinberg have been heroes of mine for so many years." Fraknoi is known for his skill in interpreting astronomical discoveries and ideas in everyday language. In 2007, he was selected as California Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In 2005, his Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Ask course received an Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College. The Gemant Award, named for a physicist who wrote both nonfiction and fiction, is often given for interdisciplinary work in the physical sciences. Fraknoi uses music, poetry, humor and science fiction in many of his courses at Foothill, particularly the Physics for Poets class, where students listen to parts of an opera about Einstein and read two novels influenced by modern physics. In his astronomy classes, Fraknoi reads a poem about subatomic particles from the Sun, plays excerpts from old radio dramas, and discusses rock 'n' roll songs with good astronomy--such as Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," which compares the death of a star like the Sun with the self-destructive behavior of one of the founding members of the group. He has written scholarly articles on astronomy and music, astronomy and fiction, and keeps a Web site of science fiction stories that have good astronomy in them. In his Gemant Award talk earlier this month, Fraknoi said he likes "to show both astronomers and the public the degree to which astronomy is embedded in a larger culture, and that the interactions between astronomy and culture should not be forgotten or minimized, but, rather, celebrated." He showed examples of astronomy on postage stamps, money, advertising, cartoons, children's stories, mystery novels and bumper stickers. He discussed a 1945 British horror movie, Dead of Night, which actually influenced one of the main scientific theories of the universe, the so-called "steady-state theory". And he cited the work of nine astronomers, starting with Johannes Kepler, who wrote or write science fiction as part of their careers. Radio listeners know Fraknoi as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he currently appears on the Gil Gross Show on KGO Newstalk AM 810, and was a regular on the Jim Eason Show and Pete Wilson Show on the same station. He has also been a regular guest on Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED, and is the astronomer-in-residence on the syndicated Los Angeles-based Mark & Brian Show. Nationally, he has been heard on Science Friday and Weekend All Things Considered on National Public Radio. A prolific author, Fraknoi co-edited The Planets and The Universe, two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books in the 1980s. His children's book on astronomy, Wonderful World of Space, was published by Disney in 2007, and features really bad astronomy puns using Disney and Pixar film characters. For 14 years, Fraknoi served as the executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889. He was also editor of its popular-level magazine, Mercury, and founded its newsletter for teachers, The Universe in the Classroom. His resource guides of outstanding teaching materials (on topics like women in astronomy, the astronomy of many cultures, and environmental issues in astronomy) are still posted on the society's Web site. Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union to honor his work in sharing the excitement of modern astronomy with students, teachers and the public. Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, Fraknoi has taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, Ca?▒ada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Division. For UC Extension, he has taught large weekend programs, including "Violence in the Universe," "The Science of Science Fiction" and "Einstein: The Man & His Legacy" (the last with previous Gemant winner Alan Friedman.) The Gemant Award is made possible by a bequest of Andrew Gemant to the American Institute of Physics (AIP). The recipient is named by the AIP Governing Board based on the recommendation of an outside selection committee appointed by the institute's board chairman. Headquartered in College Park, Maryland, the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare. It is the "umbrella" organization that includes many of the physical science societies in the United States.
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Foothill College Instructor Is Named 2007 California Professor of the Year
November 15, 2007
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Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Andrew Fraknoi has been named the 2007 California Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement & Support of Education (CASE). Fraknoi was selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States. The 40 national and state winners of the U.S. Professors of the Year Award were honored at a luncheon and evening reception in Washington, D.C. Nov. 15 The U.S. Professors of the Year Award Program salutes the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the countryé─ţthose who excel as teachers and influence the lives and careers of their students. It is recognized as one of the most prestigious awards honoring undergraduate teaching. é─˙So often what happens behind the doors of our nationé─˘s college classrooms is left only to the publicé─˘s imagination,é─¨ Fraknoi said. é─˙Yet, it is behind those doors that the crucial transformation of our students from kids to adults and from passive to active learners happens. My lifeé─˘s missions have always been to share the excitement of astronomy with those who are not particularly science-oriented and foster in my students a lifelong interest in the wonders of the universe.é─¨ A distinguished astronomy educator with a national reputation, Fraknoi is a longtime, community college instructor, textbook author, and prolific writer and speaker. During his career in education, he co-founded Astronomy Education Review, an online journal; founded the Cosmos in the Classroom Symposia for college faculty; and served as the executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) for 14 years. He has been a member of the Foothill College faculty and chairman of the collegeé─˘s astronomy department since 1992. A resident of San Francisco, Fraknoi is renowned for his ability to present and explain some of the most intriguing areas of modern astronomy and physics for students who are not majoring in the sciences. Students routinely applaud him for his instructional approach, which emphasizes humor, analogies, demonstrations, and relating science to the humanities. He is not above choreographing a quick moon orbit dance for his students or doing his own pulsar dance to keep their interest. Fraknoi was chosen for the prestigious award for his extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching; impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; and contributions to undergraduate education at Foothill College, and in the community. é─˙I believe that an understanding of our place in the wider universe and the methods of science are part of the birthright of everyone living on our planet,é─¨ Fraknoi said. é─˙Yet, the way science is taught in this country can often discourage non-science majors from taking a life-long interesté─ţor even a course-long interesté─ţin science. My philosophy is to show students that science is engaging, human, and part of our cultural heritage. é─˙In all my science classes, I am dedicated to help students succeed, irrespective of their backgrounds, ages, or previous science experience. I do everything I can to make my classes fun, including using lots of visuals, reading poems and limericks, recommending science fiction stories, and even doing a moon-revolution or pulsar-beam dance in front of the class. é─˙After 38 years of teaching, I still approach each class with an enthusiasm for the subject matter that I hope comes across to the students. I try to communicate science in everyday language, drawing the students in, instead of pushing them away. My courses stress the larger themes of the vast scales of space and time, the varieties of nature, and the intricate beauty of the subatomic world. I am so delighted when students who have not succeeded in science before tell me that, for the first time, they really feel like they é─˛get ité─˘ and understand why people are excited about science.é─¨ The California Professor of the Year Award is the latest of a number of awards that recognize Fraknoié─˘s commitment to excellence. In 1994, he received the Annenberg Foundation Prize of the American Astronomical Societyé─ţthen the highest honor in the field of astronomy educationé─ţas well as the ASPé─˘s Klumpke-Roberts Prize, which is awarded for a lifetime of contributions to popularizing astronomy. He was the first recipient of the 2002 Carl Sagan Prize, awarded to a Bay Area scientist for outstanding work in popularizing science, and was elected a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 2003 (apparently the first community college instructor ever to serve in this capacity). His é─˙Physics for Poets: Everything You Wanted to Know about Einstein but Were Afraid to Aské─¨ course received the 2005 Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College because it treats some of the strangest and most abstract ideas of modern physicsé─ţrelativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamicsé─ţat the non-science major level, without math, but with humor, analogies and thought experiments. It also combines science with the humanities, using novels, poems, science fiction stories, music and art to illustrate the effect that modern physics has had on many areas of human culture. In addition, Asteroid 4859 has been named Asteroid Fraknoi by the International Astronomical Union to honor his work in sharing the excitement of modern astronomy with students, teachers, and the public. Radio listeners know him as a frequent guest on local and national news and talk programs. In Northern California, he appeared for more than 20 years on the Jim Eason Show on KGO and was a regular on the Pete Wilson Show on the same station. He has also been a regular guest on the Forum program with Michael Krasny on KQED, and is the astronomer-in-residence on the syndicated Mark & Brian Show based in Los Angeles. Nationally, he has been heard on Science Friday and Weekend All Things Considered on National Public Radio. His TV appearances include the Today Show, CBS Morning News and Larry King Live. A prolific author, Fraknoi has edited two collections of science articles and science fiction stories for Bantam Books, and is the lead author of Voyages through the Universe (1997-2004, now in its third edition from Brooks-Cole), which has become one of the leading astronomy textbooks in the world. He is also the editor of the two-volume teaching guide The Universe at Your Fingertips, one of the most widely used astronomy education resources. His childrené─˘s book on astronomy, Wonderful World of Space, was published by Disney in July 2007. Last month, he made his symphony debut, narrating Gustav Holsté─˘s The Planets with the California Symphony Orchestra. Eight years ago, Fraknoi founded the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, which has grown to be one of the most popular events at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. For many of these lectures, Foothillé─˘s 900-seat theater is filled to overflow capacity with crowds eager to hear current developments in astronomy from world-renowned scientists. The slate of impressive guest lecturers who have presented at Foothill College include the first woman in history to discover a planet, a U.S. astronaut, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, and the discoverer of the dwarf planet beyond Pluto. At the ASP, an international scientific and educational organization founded in 1889, he also founded and directed Project ASTRO, a program that trains and brings professional and amateur astronomers into 4th-9th grade classrooms (now in 13 regional sites throughout the U.S.) to help teachers be more effective in covering astronomy and space science. An offshoot, called Family ASTRO, brings hands-on astronomy events, kits and games to families around the country. Fraknoi serves on the board of trustees of the SETI Institute, a scientific and educational organization. He is also a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), specializing in debunking astrology. Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, he has taught astronomy and physics at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, Ca?▒ada College, and several campuses of the University of California Extension Program. Competition for the U.S. Professors of the Year Award takes place in several stages. Each candidate must first be selected from many qualified peers at his or her own institution and nominated for the award. Letters of support and endorsements from current and former students, colleagues, and presidents or academic deans accompany the entries. CASE then assembles two preliminary panels of judges to select finalists. The Carnegie Foundation then convened the third and final panel, which selected four national winners, who will be announced Nov. 15. CASE and Carnegie select state winners from top entries resulting from the judging process. Fraknoi was selected from faculty members nominated by colleges and universities throughout California. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie é─˙to do all things necessary to encourage, uphold and dignify the profession of teaching.é─¨ The foundation is the only advanced-study center for teachers in the world and the third-oldest foundation in the nation. Its non-profit research activities are conducted by a small group of distinguished scholars. CASE is the largest international association of education institutions, serving more than 3,300 universities, colleges, schools and related organizations in 55 countries. CASE is the leading resource for professional development, information, and standards in the fields of educational fundraising, communications, marketing and alumni relations. In 1994, CASE renamed the award after the Carnegie Foundation due to its involvement with pedagogy and scholarship on teaching and its financial support of the award. In that year, the program was restructured to award national winners in four categories based on the Carnegie Foundationé─˘s classification of higher education institutions: baccalaureate colleges; community colleges; doctoral and research universities; and masteré─˘s universities and colleges. CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in offering Professors of the Year Award since 1981. TIAA-CREF, one of Americaé─˘s leading financial services organizations and higher educationé─˘s premier retirement system, became the primary sponsor for the awards ceremony in 2000. Additional support for the program is received from a number of higher education associations, including Phi Beta Kappa.
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Astronomy Lecture Spotlights New Horizons at Jupiter (and Some Saturn News)
November 13, 2007 7-8:30 p.m.
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As part of the ninth annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Dr. Jeff Moore of NASA Ames will present New Horizons at Jupiter (and some Saturn News), an illustrated, non-technical talk, Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. In February, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft swung by the giant planet Jupiter on its way to Pluto. Its instruments recorded images and other data about Jupiter's wild weather (including observations of an infant storm 2/3 the size of Earth), its ring, and its giant moons. Dr. Moore will show the wonderful new photos of the Jupiter system and discuss some of the discoveries made by New Horizons. He will also talk about one of the most exciting discoveries of the Cassini mission around Saturn--the new understanding and exploration of water geysers on the moon Enceladus. Moore is research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, specializing in the evolution of the surfaces of planets and icy moons, including Mars and the moons of Jupiter. He is the leader of the imaging node for the New Horizons mission. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available in MP3-format online. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 (eight quarters). Parking lots 1, 5 and 6 provide access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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NASA Senior Scientist Will Discuss Taking a Hit: Asteroid Impacts & Evolution
October 03, 2007 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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As part of the ninth annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer David Morrison, of NASAé─˘s Ames Research Center, will present Taking a Hit: Asteroid Impacts & Evolution, an illustrated, non-technical talk, Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Asteroids have hit the Earth many times, and they will continue to hit in the future, whether we are prepared or not. Collisions with our planet over 4.5 billion years have profoundly influenced the evolution of life. In fact, were it not for the impact of one 15-kilometer-wide asteroid 65 million years ago, it is likely humanity would not be here. Asteroid impacts are important for our future as well as our past. In the last two decades we have learned not only how to evaluate the impact hazard but also (in principle) how to defend ourselves. The astronomers operating the Spaceguard Survey of Near-Earth Asteroids have already reduced the risk of fatality from unknown asteroids by at least 75 percent. Unlike other natural hazards, we now have the capability of removing most of the impact risk within the next generation. However, the government still does not have a plan of action for when an asteroid is discovered heading our way or when an impact happens without warning. One of the worldé─˘s experts on the study of asteroid impacts, David Morrison is the senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, where he participates in a variety of research programs in the study of the living universe. He is the author of more than 155 technical papers and has published a dozen books, including several widely used college textbooks in astronomy. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his scientific and his educational work, including the Sagan Medal of the American Astronomical Society for public communication. A founder of the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology, Asteroid 2410 Morrison is named in his honoré─ţbut he assures us that it is not one of those that might hit the Earth. The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available in MP3-format online at www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 (eight quarters). Parking lots 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 provide access to the theatre. Foothill College is located on El Monte Road off Interstate 280. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Foothill College Instructor Wins National Award for Excellence in College Astronomy Teaching
June 05, 2007
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Foothill College Astronomy Instructor Andrew Fraknoi, of San Francisco, has been named the recipient of the 2007 Richard H. Emmons Award for Excellence in College Astronomy Teaching by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP). Fraknoi will receive the award at the ASP's 2007 annual meeting and conference in Chicago in September. "I'm delighted that there now exists a national award for teaching astronomy to college non-science majors, and that I am fortunate enough to be the second recipient of this prize," Fraknoi said. "So often what happens behind the doors of our nation's college classrooms is left only to the public's imagination. Yet, it is behind those doors that the crucial transformation of our students from kids to adults and from passive to active learners happens. My life's missions have always been to share the excitement of astronomy with those who are not particularly science-oriented and foster in my students a lifelong interest in the wonders of the universe." A distinguished astronomy educator with a national reputation, Fraknoi is a longtime, community college instructor, textbook author, and prolific writer and speaker. During his career in education, he co-founded Astronomy Education Review, an online journal; founded the Cosmos in the Classroom symposia for college faculty; and served as the executive director of the ASP for 14 years. He has been a member of the Foothill College faculty and chairman of the college's astronomy department since 1992. Fraknoi is the lead author of Voyages through the Universe, one of the foremost introductory astronomy textbooks in the country, and has written or edited more than a dozen books on astronomy and astronomy education. His new children's book, Disney's Wonderful World of Space, will be published this summer. He is a frequent guest on local and national radio programs, interpreting astronomical developments in everyday language. In 2005, his popular Physics 12: Physics for Poets course won the Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College, for finding new ways to explain Einstein's ideas without math. Fraknoi is renowned for his ability to present and explain some of the most intriguing areas of modern astronomy and physics for students who are not majoring in the sciences. Students routinely applaud him for his instructional approach, which emphasizes humor, analogies, demonstrations, and relating science to the humanities. "For me, some of the greatest moments are when a student comes to me, after the quarter is over, and says something like: 'All through high school I was convinced that I couldn't do science. And yet I earned an A in your class and I think I really "got" it.' That's a teacher's best reward," Fraknoi said. Eight years ago, Fraknoi founded the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, which has grown to be one of the most popular events at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. For many of these lectures, Foothill's 900-seat theater is filled to overflow capacity with crowds eager to hear current and provocative developments in astronomy from world-renowned scientists and researchers. The slate of impressive guest lecturers who have presented at Foothill College include the first woman in history to discover a planet, a U.S. astronaut, a winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, and the discoverer of the dwarf planet beyond Pluto. Professor Fraknoi secured the support for the free series from key stakeholders, including the NASA's Ames Research Center, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, the ASP and the Foothill College administration. Fraknoi serves on the board of directors of the SETI Institute, and is a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, specializing in debunking astrology and UFO claims. He was the first community college instructor elected as a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. Among his various awards, he is perhaps proudest that the International Astronomical Union has named asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to recognize his contributions to the public understanding of science. Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, the ASP is one of the nation's leading organizations devoted to improving people's understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of astronomy and space. Serving research astronomers, educators of all descriptions, and amateur astronomers, the ASP publishes both scholarly and educational materials, conducts professional development programs for formal and informal educators, and holds conferences, symposia, and workshops for astronomers and educators who specialize in astronomy education and outreach. The ASP's education programs are funded by its own members, corporations, private foundations, NASA and the National Science Foundation.
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SETI Astronomer Will Discuss A Ringside Seat to the Birth of Planets
May 23, 2007 7 to 8:30 p.m.
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Astronomer Dana Backman, of the Mountain View-based SETI Institute, will present A Ringside Seat to the Birth of Planets, an illustrated, non-technical talk, Wednesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking. Astronomers have discovered dusty é─˙doughnutsé─¨ of cosmic raw material around many younger stars. In some cases, astronomers can see tantalizing hints in the rings that planets may be forming or may already have formed from this material. The talk will be illustrated with images of and by some of the most advanced telescopes in the world. Dr. Backman will explain how new kinds of telescopes and observations are making it possible for us to detect the birth process of planets around nearby stars. Heé─˘ll discuss how some of these structures remind us of the asteroid belt in our own solar system, and the rings of icy chunks beyond Neptune that are called the Kuiper Belt. He will conclude by previewing future observations of these intriguing dusty rings with new telescopes, particularly the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Project for which NASA has outfitted a Boeing 747 jet airline with a special telescope that can observe heat-rays from distant objects. Dr. Backman has been both a research astronomer, specializing in infrared observations, and a widely praised teacher of astronomy. He is the manager of education and outreach for the SOFIA Project and a popular public speaker on topics on the frontiers of astronomy. The lecture is presented as part of the 8th Annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series sponsored by Foothill College, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available in MP3 format online at www.astrosociety.org/podcast/. Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2 (eight quarters). Parking lots 1, 3, 5 and 6 provide access to the theater. Foothill College is located on El Monte Road off Interstate 280.
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