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January 2020 HAD Meeting Honolulu

January 2020 HAD Meeting: Honolulu

All sessions and meetings in the Hawai‘i Convention Center

HAD I: Centennial of Eddington's Solar-Eclipse Tests of Einstein's General Relativity

Saturday. January 4th, 3:40-4:30 pm (Meeting Room 317A)

Session Chair: Jay Pasachoff

The year 2019 marks the centennial of the now-famous British expeditions to observe the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, and thereby test a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s general relativity theory about the deflection of light. When the results were released at a joint meeting of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society later that year, news of the discovery was covered in headlines around the world, and Albert Einstein became a global celebrity. We have agreements from two foremost historians to present their respective analyses of this seminal event in the history of general relativity: • Jeffrey Crelinsten, award-winning science writer and historian and author of “Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity” (Princeton Univ. Press, 2016). “The book examines Einstein's theory of general relativity through the eyes of astronomers, many of whom were not convinced of the legitimacy of Einstein's startling breakthrough. These were individuals with international reputations to uphold and benefactors and shareholders to please, yet few of them understood the new theory coming from the pen of Germany's up-and-coming theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. … A tale of international competition and intrigue, Einstein's Jury brims with detail gleaned from Crelinsten's far-reaching inquiry into the history and development of relativity.” • Daniel Kennefick, associate professor of physics at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and author of “No Shadow of a Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity” (Princeton Univ. Press, 2019). “The effort to weigh light by measuring the gravitational deflection of starlight during the May 29, 1919, solar eclipse has become clouded by myth and skepticism. Could Arthur Eddington and Frank Dyson have gotten the results they claimed? Did the pacifist Eddington falsify evidence to foster peace after a horrific war by validating the theory of a German antiwar campaigner? In No Shadow of a Doubt, Daniel Kennefick provides definitive answers by offering the most comprehensive and authoritative account of how expedition scientists overcame war, bad weather, and equipment problems to make the experiment a triumphant success.” We anticipate a possible third speaker on the subject, as well as an ample discussion period.

001.01   Eclipse Tests of General Relativity in the 21st Century

   3:40    J. M. Pasachoff (Hopkins Observatory, Williams College)

The analysis of the results, and their reception over the years, of the 1919 total solar eclipse observations from Principe by Arthur Eddington and colleague Edwin Cottingham, and from Sobral (Brazil) by Andrew Crommelin and Charles Davidson, all in collaboration with Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson, will be discussed by experts Daniel Kennefick (US) and Jeffrey Crelinsten (Canada). At this Centennial, I will discuss current repetitions of this "Eddington Experiment" and future plans.

Acknowledgments: JMP's eclipse research receives major support from grant AGS-903500 from the Solar Terrestrial Program, Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division, U.S. National Science Foundation.


001.02   Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity

   3:50    J. Crelinsten (University of Toronto)

“Einstein’s Jury: The Race to Test Relativity”

While Einstein’s theory of relativity ultimately laid the foundation for modern studies of the universe, it took a long time to be accepted. Its acceptance was largely due to the astronomy community, which at Einstein’s urging undertook precise measurements to test his astronomical predictions. This paper focuses on astronomers’ attempts to measure the bending of light by the sun’s gravitational field. The work started in Germany and America before Einstein had completed his general theory, which he published during the depths of the First World War. Only a handful of astronomers, including Arthur Stanley Eddington in England, could understand the theory. Most astronomers were baffled by it and focused on testing its empirical predictions. The well-known 1919 British eclipse expeditions that made Einstein famous did not convince most scientists to accept relativity. The 1920s saw numerous attempts to measure light bending, amid much controversy and international competition.


001.03   No Shadow of a Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity

D. Kennefick; (University of Arkansas)


HAD II: Traditional History and Philosophy

Sunday, January 5th, 10:00-10:30 am (Meeting Room 317A)

Session Chair: Rebecca Charbonneau


139.01   Plato's Lost Cosmos

 10:00    G. Latura (Independent researcher)

According to the modern interpretation, Plato’s cosmos - as portrayed in his Timaeus (36c) - consists of two intersecting circles: the path of the planets (ecliptic/Zodiac) and the celestial equator. This interpretation, propounded by Cornford (Plato’s Cosmology, 1937: 72), has been voiced by Jowett (1892: 403), by Bury (1929: 72), and more recently by Vlastos (1975: 33). But this was not how Plato’s cosmos was explained in antiquity. The Neoplatonists Macrobius and Martianus Capella (c. 400 CE) wrote about the Planetary circuits and the Milky Way. Cicero had written about an ascent through the Planets (c. 50 BCE) and his protagonist Scipio meets his beatified forebears in the Milky Way. In his Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, Macrobius states that at the intersections of the Milky Way and the Zodiac (path of the Planets) stand the gates of the afterlife (tr. Stahl, 1952: 133). What inspired Cicero to pen his tale of the celestial afterlife? That would be the Vision of Er at the end of Plato’s Republic. Right at the beginning of his commentary on Cicero’s Dream, Macrobius places ‘Plato’s Republic and Cicero’s Republic’ side-by-side, comparing Plato’s original to Cicero’s imitation. With this close linkage, Macrobius forges a literary chain that extends from his era (c. 400 CE) back to Cicero (c. 50 BCE) and to Plato (c. 370 BCE). This Platonist cosmic view would survive in Western Europe for a thousand years, as shown in an illustration for Macrobius’ Commentary on the Dream of Scipio [Picture 1] that depicts Scipio meeting his forefathers in the Milky Way, the starry band that intersects the ecliptic, the course of the Planets (Somnium Scipionis, MS Typ 7 (1469), Houghton Library, Harvard). The modern interpretation holds up one version of Plato’s cosmos, while in antiquity it was understood differently. Who could we turn to for an informed arbitration in this matter? As it turns out, Plato provides information relevant for reaching a decisive conclusion.


139.02   Four Hundred Years of Kepler’s Third Law

 10:10    J. E. Ybarra (Bridgewater College)

Last year was the 400th anniversary of Johannes Kepler’s Third (or Harmonic) Law. Kepler, discovering this relationship only after sending his five-volume Harmonices Mundi to be typeset, inserted it into Book V of the volume for publication in 1619. This discovery was likely responsible for accelerating the advances in astronomy and physics in the 17th century. In book four of Kepler’s Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae published a year later in 1620, he applies the harmonic law to the motions of the Galilean moons. It was this harmonic law that Newton used to develop his initial ideas about gravity, stating that the “endeavours” of the planets from the Sun must have an inverse-square law nature. This preceded Newton’s derivation showing an inverse-square law force was also necessary for producing elliptical orbits about a focus, which Edmund Halley encouraged Newton to publish, leading to Newton’s Principia in 1687, the foundation of classical mechanics.


139.03   Kepler's Sesquialter and the Tetraktys of Pythagoras

 10:20    G. Latura (Independent researcher)

In Harmonices Mundi, Book Five, Kepler mentions what would come to be known as the Third Law of Planetary Motion: ‘But it is absolutely certain and exact that the proportion between the periodic times of any two planets is precisely the sesquialterate proportion of their mean distances... (tr. Aiton et al., 1997: 411). How Kepler came to this discovery is puzzling to scholars of our own days: ‘Concerning the third law, we do not know exactly how Kepler came to the idea... we may safely state that data-driven induction does not at all fit the process that led to the discovery of Kepler’s third law’ (Heeffer, 2014: 72-73). So where might Kepler have found inspiration for his discovery? In Book 3, Kepler offers a ‘Digression on the Pythagorean Tetractys’ (tr. Aiton et al., 1997: 133), where he discusses the harmonic intervals encoded in this Pythagorean symbol: the Diapason (Octave, or 1:2), the Diapente (Fifth, or 2:3), and the Diatessaron (Fourth, or 3:4), the main consonances represented in the pyramid of ten pebbles that is the Tetraktys [Figure 1]. Then Kepler makes a bold leap: ‘In this Pythagorizing context, he [Kepler] formulates in chapter 3 the famous “Third Law” named after him, according to which “the proportion between the periodic times of any two planets is precisely the sesquialterate proportion of their mean distances...” (thus the ratio is 3:2, that is, the proportion of the fifth)...’ (Riedweg, 2002: 131-132). Here Riedweg links Kepler’s sesquialterate ratio (3:2 or 2:3) to the harmonic interval of the Fifth (2:3 or 3:2). The Fifth is the most consonant interval after the Octave, and it sits prominently in the Pythagorean symbol of the Tetraktys, right below the 1:2 ratio of the Octave. Therefore it can be hypothesized - as Riedweg has seemingly done - that Kepler’s Third Law, with its sesquialterate proportion (2:3), was inspired by the Pythagorean sesquialterate ratio of the Fifth (2:3) found in the harmonic symbol of the Tetraktys that Kepler discussed in Harmonices Mundi .


139.04   Unveiling Algol’s first recorded eclipses

 10:30    A. Pizzetti (Clemson University) and J. Ybarra (Bridgewater College)

The first ever recorded mention of Algol’s (beta Persei) variability dates back to the 17th century, thanks to the amazing work of the Italian astronomer Geminiano Montanari. The loss of his original diaries made the dates of these observations unknown until 1888, when Francesco Porro found the handwritten notes from one of Montanari’s students, Francesco Bianchini. Porro’s reprint of these notes shows that Montanari identified two different dates of Algol’s dimming, of which only the first one was interpreted by Porro as an eclipse consistent with the contemporary ephemeris of Algol. Through a thorough analysis of Bianchini’s original manuscript, we have identified the correct date for the second eclipse. Moreover, our analysis of Algol’s period using data from the past 350 years led us to the discovery that indeed Montanari observed a dimming of the star on two separate occasions, making these the first two recorded eclipses of Algol for which the dates are known. We will discuss our recent findings and implications of this discovery for the field of historical astronomy.


139.05   Rediscovering the First Astronomical Observatory of Puerto Rico

 10:40    K. Ortiz Ceballos and J. Perez (University of Puerto Rico)

The University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus is home to what may be the first ever astronomical observatory of Puerto Rico, a currently abandoned domed telescope building. It might date to around the 1930’s, but historical information on it is sparse. The Circle of University Astrobiology, a student organization of the University of Puerto Rico, is investigating the origins of the observatory and its telescope, and its eventual abandonment around the 1970’s. We are in the process of examining the few records available, from a handful of mid-century newspaper articles to university correspondence and potentially, building plans and purchase documents. We hope to eventually initiate restoration efforts for the observatory’s facilities, for educational and research use.


139.06   How Pluto Got its Name: An Investigation into Causation

 10:50    T. Hockey (University of Northern Iowa)

INTRODUCTION. Today, the public learns history from movies or television series—not books. Most Americans are familiar with the film Titanic, but few can identify a written source on the subject. This is no less true in astronomy than it is in other fields of human knowledge. In the last several years, more than fifteen non-fiction productions have had astronomy/space exploration topics. (Regrettably, a nearly equal number appeared with pseudo-science foci, such as alien visitors, Area 51, and the flat Earth.)

BACKGROUND. In 1929, an amateur astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh was hired by the Lowell Observatory to search for a trans-Neptunian “planet.” In 1930, he found it. By custom, the Observatory had the right to name what, at the time, was considered to be only the third planet in the Solar System noticed in recorded history. The staff selected “Pluto.” April 2020 marks the ninetieth anniversary of the christening of the (now) dwarf planet.

In 1930, Venitia Burney was yet a child, but one who had acquired an interest in classical mythology. Upon hearing of the momentous astronomical discovery from the newspaper, she suggested that it be called “Pluto.” The notion that what was thought to be a major member of the Solar System had been named by an eleven-year-old English schoolgirl caught the fancy of many.

PRESENTATION. I will examine the events surrounding the naming of (then planet) Pluto as told by two different documentaries featuring the first-person accounts of principle characters in the story (now deceased). A recent, short, motion picture about the labeling of--at the time--planet Pluto (“Naming Pluto” [2008; produced and directed by Ginita Jimenez; 13 minute DVD; Father Films]) interestingly contradicts my “Clyde Tombaugh and the Discovery of Pluto: A Personal Reminiscence” (1986; produced and directed by Thomas Hockey; 38 minute VHS; distributed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific). We all know the limitations of oral history: I will provide archival evidence, largely from the Lowell Observatory, supporting the narrative in “Clyde Tombaugh and the Discovery of Pluto.“ This will include showing the largest collection of correspondence on the topic ever made.


139.07   Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions Has Changed Because Scientists are Now Aware of Kuhn's Paradigm

 11:00    B. E. Schaefer (Louisiana State University)

Thomas Kuhn's very influential book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1967) tells how `normal science' proceeds forward within some accepted `paradigm', until some anomalies contradict the paradigm, possibly resulting in a `revolution' where a whole new paradigm becomes accepted. Kuhn's structure has been extended to many areas, some philosophers have concerns, yet working scientists have largely adopted Kuhn's revolutionary structure and taken it to heart. After the publication of Kuhn's book, ambitious astrophysicists realized that the pursuit and discovery of anomalies and revolutions can give fame, make history, and win Nobel Prizes, hence changing the sociology of science away from Kuhn's structure. (1) Kuhn says that normal science does not seek anomalies. Since the 1970s, astrophysics has featured extensive and aggressive paradigm testing with extraordinary accuracy, far past normal science, all with no anomaly to be explained. Examples include LIGO, Gravity Probe B, COBE and WMAP, lunar laser ranging, and the Homestake Mine solar neutrino experiment. (2) Kuhn says that the existence of anomalies against an old paradigm are ignored and resisted. After Kuhn, the importance of anomalies is widely recognized, with their proof and resolution being the path to fame and prizes, so ambitious scientists now aggressively retest and push hard at any recognized anomaly. Examples include the massive and speedy testing of the Homestake Mine solar neutrino anomaly, the Dark Matter anomalies of Oort, Zwicky, and Rubin (but only after the 1970s), the Alvarez' KT iridium anomaly, and the Supernova Cosmology Project's accelerating Hubble Diagram anomaly. (3) Kuhn says “Let us assume that crises are a necessary precondition for the emergence of novel theories.” After Kuhn's book, astrophysicists realized that novel theories lead to revolutions if proven true, so novel theories are proposed with no crisis and no anomaly to explain. Examples include String Theory, Brans-Dicke gravity, and multiverse cosmology. (4) Kuhn says "Once it has achieved the status of a paradigm, a scientific theory is declared invalid only if an alternative candidate is available to take its place.” After Kuhn, scientists realized that to get fame and a revolution, the prior paradigm must be demonstrated to be wrong, even with no alternative paradigm in hand. Examples include Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and Quantum Gravity, where the prior paradigm is now widely accepted as being wrong (or at least incomplete) even though there is no useful evidence/support to point to any one-or-two alternative from amongst the many speculations.


HAD Town Hall

Sunday, January 5th,, 12:45-1:45 pm  (Meeting Room 313B0)

Session Chair: Ken Rumstay


HAD III: Research in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Sunday, January 5th, 2:00-3:30 pm (Meeting Room 317A)

Session Chair: Alan Hirshfeld


164.01   The First US-USSR VLBI Experiment

   2:00    R. Charbonneau (University of Cambridge)

In the mid-1960s, radio astronomers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) began experimenting with a new observing technique called very long baseline interferometry (VLBI). VLBI took advantage of recent developments in atomic clock technology to allow astronomers to use aperture synthesis with telescopes at great distances from one another to increase the angular resolution of their observations. Even with the new technological advances, however, VLBI was an enormous challenge compared to conventional interferometry. It involved international groups of astronomers coordinating with one another during a time when instant communication across continents was not easy or reliable. And with telescopes in different countries, challenges could include dealing with different energy systems and machinery, cultural and language barriers, and even military conflict. By the late 1960s, NRAO scientists had conducted a few successful VLBI experiments with telescopes in the US and Sweden. After the completion of their Sweden experiment in 1968, the American astronomers began to look for “new, exotic places to visit.” It soon became clear to them that the only telescopes capable of making observations with the longest baselines and at the shortest wavelengths were located in the Soviet Union. In my talk I will shed light on the complexities of scientific collaboration during the Cold War period by presenting the story of the first US-USSR VLBI experiment in 1969, using oral history interviews conducted with former Soviet astronomers. This research has been funded by the American Institute of Physics’ Center for the History of Physics, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the Gates Cambridge Trust.


164.02   Historical Research and FOIA

   2:10    K. I. Kellermann (NRAO)

I. I. Rabi received the 1944 Noble Prize in Physics for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance. As a result of his involvement in the wartime Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Commission, and as President Eisenhower’s Science Advisor, Rabi held a high level security clearance. Joseph Pawsey was one of the early pioneers of Australian radio astronomy and was being considered for an appointment as the Director of the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). In 1961, Rabi, was President of Associated Universities which managed the NRAO. He asked Pawsey to visit Green Bank and to write to him about his impressions of the Observatory. As part of the research for a book on the history of NRAO, I found that Pawsey’s letter to Rabi relating to NRAO at the Library of Congress “at the request of a foreign government,” had been "removed from the collection because they contained security classified information."

In spite of several follow-up inquiries, my FOIA request to declassify and read Pawsey’s sixty year old letter about radio astronomy at NRAO went unanswered for nearly two years, until Virginia Senator Mark Warner intervened on my behalf. I will discuss why Pawsey’s letter was classified, although it did not contain anything of military or security significance to either the United States or to Australia.

164.03   The Rare Earth Elements in Astronomy: Arthur King’s Spectroscopic Research at Mount Wilson

   2:20    R. Brashear (Science History Institute, Philadelphia)

This paper will discuss the pioneering work in the spectroscopy of rare earth elements by Arthur S. King at Mount Wilson Observatory. Since their initial discovery at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the rare earth elements had been a thorn in the side of chemists trying to figure out where they belonged in the periodic table of the chemical elements. Scientists began making some progress in understanding the rare earth elements at the beginning of the twentieth century but detailed information about the individual elements was scarce. At the same time, George Ellery Hale created the Mount Wilson Observatory and set up a physical laboratory on the mountain and at the main office in Pasadena, California. Hale eventually hired Arthur S. King to run the laboratory and to do spectroscopic research that would support analysis of the spectroscopic observations made with the telescopes at the observatory and elsewhere. King published extensively on the flame, arc, and spark spectra of a number of elements and in the 1920s began studying the rare earth elements. King realized that no accurate wavelength determinations had been made for these elements so he set about to do so hoping to see if any of these elements might be present in stellar and solar spectra. King worked with a chemist in Chicago to obtain pure samples of the elements for his research and the resulting work was important to the great advances in rare earth analysis made at this time. King also played a role in preserving the pure rare earth element samples made by Charles James at the University of New Hampshire, which were in danger of being disposed of after the latter’s death in 1928. I hope to show that the work done at Mount Wilson Observatory by King up to 1943 was of crucial importance to rare earth chemistry in the early twentieth century.


164.04   The History of Optical Interferometers: from the laboratory to the stars

   2:30    I. Payne (Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology)

The application of optical interferometry to astronomical observation is little understood by professional astronomers and students, let alone the general public. This paper presents a non-technical history of the development of sparse array optical interferometers that may be read by anyone interested in advances in astronomy but who does not have a background in optical science. This paper discusses the development of interferometry as a science beginning with a review of the nature of diffraction and interference of visible light waves, to Young’s early experiments with interferometry. We continue with the early experiments by Michelson and Pease for the application of interferometric techniques to astronomical observations and the subsequent development of early sparse arrays with many movable telescopes such as COAST, SUSIE and IOTA. These early arrays were followed by a second generation of arrays, CHARA, VLTI, and NPOI, all capable of extraordinary resolution. The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer, an optical/IR ten-element interferometer currently under construction, represents the third generation of sparse array interferometers and points the way to future developments such as the planned PFI and space based interferometers.


164.05   High Time Resolution Studies of the Crab Pulsar

   2:40    N. Lewandowska (West Virginia University), T. Hankins (New Mexico Tech), and P. Demorest (National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

Since its discovery in 1968 intensive studies of the Crab Nebula pulsar have shown many radio emission characteristics that are difficult to explain with current models. The average radio emission profile consists of at least seven frequency dependent components. Single pulses from these components show structure from milliseconds down to nanoseconds.

Using new facilities at the Very Large Array we have examined the dispersion measure and polarimetry of several emission components using both average profiles and single pulses.


164.06   Where Comprehensive Multimessenger Astrophysics is coming from and shall lead us?

   2:50    S. Marka (Columbia University)

The discovery of gravitational waves and their multimessenger fingerprint has opened tremendous opportunities for astrophysics. Extraordinary instrumental breakthroughs in gravitational-wave detectors on Earth and in Space, in electromagnetic and in neutrino observatories lead to an information explosion, rapidly expanding humanity’s cosmic and scientific horizons. In this talk, I will discuss the history and promise of seamlessly integrating data streams of gravitational-wave, neutrino, and electromagnetic observatories. I will elaborate on the evolution of the idea that multimessenger science can lead to a uniquely precise understanding of the astronomical sources and the underlying physical processes. Multimessenger astrophysics with gravitational-waves has a rich history that I will also describe. LIGO, Virgo, Kagra, and LISA invested in multimessenger astrophysics for decades, and it shall open new windows on the universe that I will highlight.


HAD IV: Poster Session

Sunday, January 5th, 9:30-5:30 pm (Exhibit Hall II/III)

172.01   The Astronomical Pedagogy of Mary Bird

K. S. Rumstay  (Valdosta State University)

Mary Emma Byrd (1849-1934), one of the lesser-known women to work under the tutelage of Edward Charles Pickering, was a pioneer in the teaching of astronomy at the college level. A graduate of the University of Michigan, she taught mathematics and astronomy at Carleton College from 1883 until 1887, and later (1904) received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from that institution. Between 1887 and 1906 she served as Observatory Director at Smith College in Massachusetts, but famously resigned when that institution accepted money from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

During her lifetime Mary Bird contributed numerous articles to the Astronomical Journal, the Astronomische Nachrichten, and Popular Astronomy. She also published two books which would today be considered “lab manuals”: A Laboratory Manual in Astronomy (1899) and First Observations in Astronomy: A Handbook For Schools And Colleges (1913). Of the former, a reviewer writing in the The American Monthly Review of Reviews (vol. 19) wrote; “There seems to be no good reason why the laboratory method…should not be applied to college work in astronomy.” And in her preface to the latter work, Dr. Bird wrote: “real knowledge in science depends upon direct study of objects and phenomena”.

Mary Bird was clearly an early proponent of “hands on” learning. Nevertheless, by modern standards these lab manuals are rather dry; the former especially consists largely of calculation exercises based upon data tables which would have been readily available to students. Both provide a look into the astronomical pedagogy of a century ago, and some aspects are highlighted in this paper.

This work was supported by a faculty development grant from Valdosta State University.


172.02   Simulating the Herschel Observatory: An Open-Source Project for the Exhibition and Pedagogy of the History of Astronomy

A. Carvalho and J. C. Mulligan (Rice University)

We developed a framework for simulating what the Romantic astronomer William Herschel would have seen during nearly any of his observational runs between 1783-1802. This simulation serves the historical purpose of bringing to life archival data that was produced by the Herschel siblings William and Caroline, who are credited with having invented the modern science of cosmology. The sky surveying technique developed by Caroline and William Herschel involved “sweeping” their powerful telescope vertically, like a transit, in order to efficiently record as much information as accurately as possible. Their observatory’s divisions of labor and workflows for processing data before, during, and after an observation run is instructive for today’s data-driven sciences. The simulation demonstrates potential as a tool for teaching observational techniques, the history of astronomy, the basics of cosmology, and the politics of laboratory life. It can be used to train students in good record keeping and careful focus over hour-long periods of observations in a controlled, predictable environment.


HAD IV: iPoster Session

Sunday, January 5th, 9:30-5:30 pm (iPoster Theater I, Exhibit Hall II/III)


112.01   Archaeoastronomy Sites of the USA: Likelihood of Preservation

T. Hockey (University of Northern Iowa)

The USA is rich in locations thought to have archaeoastronomical significance. A partial list includes the following. I will make an assessment of preservation likelihood based upon inspection, legal ownership, and level of recognition.

Anderson Mounds. The Great Mound exhibits a gap that may be oriented to sunset on significant days of the solar calendar.

Big Horn Medicine Wheel. Orientations between rock cairns could mark the summer solstice. More speculatively, other alignments indicate the heliacal risings of bright stars.

Cahokia. A timber circle was excavated at Cahokia. As viewed from the center, sightlines between outlying posts and more distant mounds exhibit solar alignments. This is especially controversial.

Canyon de Chelly. A collection of overhanging cliffs is marked with crosses that look like stars. Some of these “stars” give the impression of constellations.

Chaco Canyon. Chacoan architecture appears to take astronomical alignments in mind. Chaco Canyon also is home of the unique Sun Dagger petroglyph, which seems to have been created so that sunlight and shadow mark astronomically important dates.

Chimney Rock. From this location, the Moon rises between two buttes near the time of the maximum (northern) lunar standstill.

Hovenweep. It looks as if within the cylindrical Hovenweep Castle, ports were placed so that sunlight would illuminate the opposite wall on astronomically significant days.

Mesa Verde. The Sun Temple may incorporate solar orientations and, more controversially, lunar alignments.

Newark Earthworks. Of archaeoastronomical interest is the portion consisting of an octagon and connected circle. The principal axis of the octagon and circle points to the approximate moonrise azimuth at maximum northern lunar standstill.

Ocmulgee Mounds. Sunlight passes through a “door” and strikes an inner “temple” around the Vernal Equinox.

Serpent Mound. The serpent’s mouth gives the impression that it points toward the summer-solstice sunrise.

Sivan Vah'Ki . Windows appear to align with sunset at astronomically important times of the year.

Yellow Jacket Ruin. Monoliths of stone cast shadows upon nearby buildings on or near significant solar dates.


112.02 Repairing Broken Astronomical Glass Plates

L. Smith Zrull (Glass Plate Collection, Center for Astrophysics, Astrophysics | Harvard  & Smithsonian)

Observatories and universities around the world own collections of astronomical glass plate photographs that date back as far as the mid-nineteenth century. Due to their fragile nature, many have broken over the years. With proper binding and storage conditions, these astronomical records can be preserved for researchers to study for years to come. In collaboration with Harvard’s Weissman Preservation Center, the Astronomical Glass Plate Collection at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has outlined proper binding techniques and storage suggestions for these historical artifacts. This iPoster includes a materials list for binding broken glass plates, tutorial videos for proper handling, storage suggestions, and examples of different types of damage that can often be found within collections of astronomical glass plate photographs.


HAD IV: iPoster-Plus Session (with Instrumentation)

Sunday, January 5th, 9:00-10:00 pm (iPoster-Plus Theatre II, Exhibit Hall II/III)

Session Chair: Garrett Keating


118.05   Aquarius Equinox Epoch and Precession History

    9:40   S. Durst (International Lunar Observatory Association)

Equinox epochs are astronomical periods, starting when the apparent position of the Sun, as seen from the Earth, enters one of the twelve constellations on the ecliptic. The beginnings of the Epochs of Aries and Pisces vary according to ancient records, which date as far back as 2137 BC in China. Many believe the epoch of Pisces started at the time when the Star of Bethlehem appeared. Ancient Chinese records imply that the beginning of the era of Pisces was earlier than 5 BC, which would affect the time of the beginning of the epoch of Aquarius. We explore the implication of Chinese historical records in determining the beginning of the epoch of Aquarius at about 2000. Hippocrates discovered precession and observed that positions of stars slowly change on equatorial coordinates and ecliptic longitude by 1° every century. His estimate is close to the modern measurement of 1.38° every century, or 1° every 72 years. It takes about 25,800 years for the precession of the equinoxes to complete a cycle through 12 constellations. Epoch lengths vary because constellations vary in dimensions: Constellation Aries is 441 square degrees, and constellation Pisces is 889 square degrees, and constellation Aquarius is 980 square degrees. Estimating epoch length based on constellation length on the ecliptic would demonstrate that some epochs would be shorter than the stated 2,600 years, and some might be longer. We discuss the location of the prominent stars on the Aquarius / Pisces northeast border in the last epoch. Precession helps move these stars into Aquarius around the year 2000 and not in 2600, as determined by the IAU constellation map.


118.06   Introducing AstroGen Online

9:50       J. S. Tenn (Sonoma State University) and A. H. Rots (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian)

Seven years in the making, the Astronomy Genealogy Project (AstroGen) is now online. A project of the AAS Historical Astronomy Division, AstroGen is a database of astronomy-related doctoral dissertations hosted online by the AAS. While it is still far from complete, it already contains close to 30,000 theses, including nearly complete coverage of twenty-five countries. Similar to the long-established Mathematics Genealogy Project, AstroGen allows the reader to follow links from an astronomer to his or her academic parent (thesis advisor) and children (doctoral students). It will also allow for extraction of the number of astronomy-related doctorates granted over any time period by any university or country, thus enabling a wide range of studies in the history and sociology of modern astronomy. To date nearly all information has been gathered online, but we look forward to having individuals enter or correct their own data. We also seek more participants, including those who can gather data from countries not yet explored, especially in Asia.


The Leroy E. Doggett Prize Lexture

Sunday, January 5th, 3:40-4:30 pm (Ballroom AB)

165.01   From the Invention of Astrophysics to the Space Age: The Transformation of Astronomy 1860-1990

   3:40    Robert Smith (University of Alberta)

In the years between 1860 and 1990, the accepted body of astronomical knowledge expanded enormously. There were also very major shifts in the sort of knowledge that the great majority of astronomers regarded as both appropriate as well as legitimate to pursue. Astronomy underwent a striking series of institutional, social, political, and economic transformations too. I will examine the reasons for these changes and explore what it meant to be an astronomer at different times between 1860 and 1990.


HAD IV: iPoster-Plus Session

Sunday, January 5th, 5:30-6:30 pm (iPoster-Plus Theatre)

Session Chair: Kevin Krisciunas


181.01   The Telescopes of Lowell Observatory: the First 125 Years

   5:30    K. Kuehn and K. Schindler (Lowell Observatory)

From its founding by Percival Lowell 125 years ago, Lowell Observatory has maintained an impressive suite of scientifically productive telescopes. While Lowell's original site (and telescopes) on Mars Hill in Flagstaff, AZ, is now primarily used for public education, outreach, and historical preservation, the Observatory has over its lifetime expanded to multiple additional sites, including Anderson Mesa, which houses 31" and 42" telescopes as well as the Navy Precision Optical Interferometer, and Happy Jack, which hosts the 4.3m Discovery Channel Telescope, one of the newest and most advanced 4m-class telescopes on the planet. We describe the evolution of Lowell Observatory's telescopes and accompanying instrumentation, from its beginnings to the present day, and highlight the most impactful discoveries made by the Observatory's astronomers.


181.02   Highlights from 125 Years of Lowell Observatory Science: Vera Rubin and the Identification of Dark Matter

   5:40    L. Prato and K. Schindler (Lowell Observatory)

Vera Rubin’s identification of dark matter in the Andromeda galaxy using Lowell Observatory's Perkins 72-inch and the KPNO 84-inch telescopes with Kent Ford’s image-tube spectrograph represented the culmination and intersection of scientific, technological, collaborative, and managerial interests that spanned the continental United States in the late 1950s and 1960s. Highly sensitive spectroscopic observations were required to detect the redshifts of M31’s HII regions, particularly in the outer more tenuous reaches of the great spiral, and adequately generous allocations of telescope time were needed to map out these motions across the whole spatial extent of Andromeda. Because of the constructive spirit of cooperation between scientific and technical staff at Lowell Observatory, Carnegie DTM, Ohio State, USNO, KPNO, Carnegie Pasadena, and other institutions and players, in 1967, driven by an interest in galactic dynamics and the availability of the image-tube spectrograph, Rubin and Ford began a three-year project, dismissed by some colleagues as not worth doing and as overly time-consuming, which ultimately revealed evidence for Fritz Zwicky’s conjecture that a significant fraction of gravitationally active matter is not luminous. Rubin pioneered work on some of the most fundamental problems in astrophysics and was an inspiration and supporter to scientists, faculty, and staff at universities and observatories around the world. She made rich contributions to the science and culture at Lowell Observatory where she served on the Board of Advisors for many years and was a colleague and role model to many.


181.03   The 1894 Lowell Expedition and the Origins of Northern Arizona as Center for Scientific Research

   5:50    K. Schindler (Lowell Observatory)

In 1894, Percival Lowell became fascinated with the possibility of life on Mars and planned to build his own astronomical research facility to carry out studies. He chose Arizona Territory (Arizona didn’t achieve statehood until 1912) as site for his observatory and organized an expedition there in order to find an ideal location. He wanted a place removed from eastern U.S. cities, where factory smoke and electric lights blotted out stars and planets. A dry climate and high elevation were also ideal, all characteristics of certain areas in the American Southwest. Lowell himself would not join the expedition. Instead, he hired young astronomer Andrew Douglass to carry out the work. Traveling alone, Douglass performed seeing tests in several locations around the Territory. Based on these observations, Lowell chose Flagstaff as site for his observatory. In looking back at the expedition, Lowell clearly deemed the atmospheric conditions in Flagstaff sufficient for building the observatory there. However, a combination of other factors ensured Flagstaff as the site. Extraordinary community support and politicking by residents certainly helped. Perhaps even a greater factor had to do with timing. Lowell wanted the observatory to be established as quickly as possible. By the time Douglass arrived in Flagstaff, he had been site testing for a month—longer than Lowell originally anticipated. The atmospheric conditions in Flagstaff were good, community support was strong, and transportation was adequate, so Lowell, anxious to have telescopes ready for an upcoming Mars opposition, chose Flagstaff. Had Douglass at the time been in another of the locations where conditions were favorable, such as Tombstone, the Observatory quite possibly would have been built there. In any event, Lowell chose Flagstaff and Lowell Observatory became the first permanent scientific institution in Flagstaff. It helped establish the community as a center for scientific research, laying the groundwork for other research facilities in the area such as the Museum of Northern Arizona (1928), U.S. Naval Observatory’s Flagstaff Station (1955), U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch (1963) and others.


181.04   Elizabeth Williams and the Discovery of Pluto

   6:00    C. Clark (Lowell Observatory)

In a presentation at MIT in 1902, Percival Lowell postulated the existence of a ninth planet and three years later began searching for what he called “Planet X”. The search was twofold, involving mathematically calculating the position of the presumed planet and using telescopes at his observatory in Arizona to photograph likely areas of the sky as suggested by these calculations. He soon hired a young mathematician, Elizabeth Williams, to lead his team of “computers”. Williams graduated from MIT in 1903, one of the top mathematics students in her class. When Lowell hired her in 1905, she worked out of his office in Boston. In carrying out the complex calculations necessary for the Planet X search, the talented Williams reportedly wrote in cursive with her right hand and printed with her left. Her calculations were critical to Lowell’s predictions of the location of Planet X, as documented in his 1915 publication, Memoirs on a Trans-Neptunian Planet. Lowell died the following year and with him went the Planet X search. In the late 1920s, Lowell Observatory Sole Trustee Roger Putnam and Director VM Slipher decided to recommence the search, acquiring a specially designed astrograph for computing images and hiring 23-year-old farmer and amateur astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh. Looking in the area of sky where Lowell predicted Planet X would be located, Tombaugh discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930. As for Williams, she continued working at Lowell Observatory, moving from Boston to center of operation in Flagstaff in 1919. She married astronomer George Hamilton in 1922, at which time Lowell’s widow, Constance, terminated their employment at Lowell. The couple moved to Harvard College Observatory’s station in Mandeville, Jamaica and worked side-by-side there until his death in 1935. She then moved to New Hampshire, where she would eventually die penniless. Her name is now a footnote in history, but her efforts as an early astronomical computer stand as a testament to her brilliance and hard work.


181.05   Interferometry and the Development of NPOI

   6:10    G. T. van Belle (Lowell Observatory)

Lowell Observatory is a partner in the The Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) facility, a long-baseline optical interferometer (LBOI) located at Lowell's Anderson Mesa site near Flagstaff, AZ. NPOI is a modern realization of LBOI efforts, which began in 1919 with the 20-foot beam interferometer that Michelson and Pease bolted to the 100-inch Hooker Telescope. The ensuing colorful century of LBOI, replete with trials and tribulations, visionary and eccentric leaders, and most of all, scientific achievements, is reviewed with an eye towards the promising future of the technique.


181.06   Flagstaff's Dark Sky Heritage

   6:20    J. Hall (Lowell Observatory)

Flagstaff, Arizona has a 60-year tradition of dark sky preservation, beginning with a 1958 ordinance to ban advertising searchlights. The current ordinance, enacted in 1989, is the most comprehensive in the world; it specifies not only shielding and maximum illumination requirements, but strict control of the emission spectrum via use of low pressure sodium (LPS) lamps. As of the end of May 2019, LPS lamps have been discontinued by lighting manufacturers, so Flagstaff, like many cities worldwide, will be switching its outdoor street lighting system to LEDs. We have spent several years working with City staff to develop what will again be world-leading standards in outdoor illumination, making extensive use of narrow band amber (NBA) and phosphor-converted amber (PCA) LEDs rather than white LEDs. We have already installed NBA and PCA test fixtures in several areas around town, and retrofit of all 3,700 fixtures in Flagstaff should occur in the next 2-5 years. These standards will set the precedent for other applications such as commercial properties and parking lots (pictured below). In this iPoster, I will review the history of dark sky preservation in Flagstaff, the current state of affairs in outdoor lighting, the types of LEDs available, their impact on the night sky, and how Flagstaff will preserve its exceptionally dark sky in the LED era.


HAD V: IAU-100: Celebrating One Hundred Years of Astronomy

Monday, January 6th, 10:00-11:30 am (9:00-10:00 pm (Meeting Room 317A)

Session Chair: Ken Kellerman

The year 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the International Astronomical Union in Brussels in 1919. The Special Session will cover the IAU’s role in the tremendous changes in astronomy made during the 20th century due to the opening of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, as well as the changes in the nature of astronomical research, publications, astronomers, and the growth of international collaborations and facilities. The program consists of three invited talks preceded by a short video about the IAU.

234.01   The International Astronomical Union: from its first 100 years into the Next Century

 10:00    D. M. Baneke (Descartes Centre, Utrecht University)

Uniting the Community: the IAU from its first 100 years into the Next Century

The International Astronomical Union was founded in 1919 “to facilitate the relations between astronomers of different countries where international co-operation is necessary or useful” and “to promote the study of astronomy in all its departments.” These aims have led the IAU throughout the century of its existence, but the way it has tried to fulfil them has changed.

In our book 'The International Astronomical Union: Uniting the Community for 100 Years', Johannes Andersen, Claus Madsen and I traced the changing role of the IAU in the international astronomical community through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. The IAU has striven - occasionally struggled - to protect international scientific cooperation across the deep political divides that characterized the 20th century. Also, as the science of astronomy changed, the IAU had to find and redefine its role in the rapidly changing international community of astronomers.

We especially argue how the emphasis of the IAU’s activities has shifted from the first aim - facilitating collaboration by organizing meetings and defining common standards - to the second aim: promoting astronomy by outreach and development programs.


234.02   Curtis-Shapley, Bondi, Woltjer, and Me: 100 years of the Universe and its Contents

 10:35    V. Trimble (UC Irvine)

April 2020 brings us to the 100th anniversary of the Curtis-Shapley debate on the distance scale of the universe. As is often the case with such disputes, each was right about roughly half of the points on which they disagreed. Shapley himself soon got us out of the center of the Milky Way; and Hubble in 1923 confirmed Curtis's faith in the existence of other galaxies. About a third of the time from their day to ours, Bondi published a cosmology text whose subject headings, another third of the way to the present, Lodewijk Woltjer used as the outline of concluding remarks at two different conferences. He in turn (in Europe's Quest for the Universe) has left us a double handful of questions that still call for answers, from the nature of dark matter & dark energy to the atmospheres of the most earth-like exoplanets, some of which will call for impressively new facilities, even by his VLT standards, let alone those of Bondi, Curtis, and Shapley (who often said that Hubble's problem was that his telescope was too big). An attempt will be made to follow a few of the threads from 1920 to 2020, with due regards to the significance of new ideas, new technology, new observations, and new people. A few likely threads include the distance scale, dark matter, and degenerate stars. Hubble used the largest telescopes then available; Bondi invoked some of the greatest minds of his time, including his own; and Woltjer in effect did both. They are a tough act to follow! It is perhaps slightly ominous for future disputes in these territories that, of the 14 points on which C & S disagreed, each was right mostly about the items that depended on his own observations.


234.03   The Two China Question

 11:05    D. DeVorkin (Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum)

One of the major issues on the agenda of the U.S. National Committee to the International Astronomical Union in the mid-1950s was to gain State Department clearance to invite the Union, the world body of astronomy, to hold its next General Assembly in the United States in 1961. The issue was that the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the McCarran-Walter Act, could severely curtail travel to America by foreigners from suspect countries, and even those who were outspoken from friendly countries.  In the general reactionary political atmosphere of the day, this resulted in numerous difficulties for American participation in international scientific activities as well.  For instance both China and Russia had been members of the IAU since July 1935, but in the Cold War world of the 1950s, and the creation of the two Chinas, the U.S. State Department demanded that Nationalist China, what is now Taiwan (on the island of Formosa) be invited and Red China excluded, even though the former did not have an active astronomical community and the latter certainly did. Here we retrace the challenges faced by IAU officers ranging from Leo Goldberg, Adriaan Blaauw and Patrick Wayman among others to finally recognize and welcome the People’s Republic while retaining Taiwan as a separate member, which had, through many efforts stimulated by Cold War pressures, by the 1980s had grown a vibrant astronomical community.


HAD VI: The Bicentennial of the Royal Astronomical Society

Monday, January 6th, 12:45-1:45 pm (Meeting Room 317A)

Session Chair: Tom Hockey


245.01   The Bicentennial of the Royal Astronomical Society

 12:45    Josh Nall (Royal Astronomical Society)