Public Lectures

Please see below for the schedule of our 2018-19 public lecture series.

Useful information for attending our lectures:

  • Free and open to the public
  • Start at 7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
  • Held in the LASP Space Technology Building
  • Free parking in the lot in front of the building
  • First Wednesdays, October-May, except January

For more information, contact the LASP Office of Communications and Outreach at epomail@lasp.colorado.edu.

Videos of the 2017-18 Public Lecture Series and other seasons can be viewed on the LASP YouTube channel.



Featured Public Event

What is Space Weather and Why Should I Care?

What is Space Weather and Why Should I Care?
Speaker:   Tom Berger
Date:   Wednesday, Apr 03, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)
Abstract:  

Space is radioactive. One of the main sources of the radioactivity is the Sun, whose magnetic plasma atmosphere—the corona—constantly streams into space as a “solar wind.” Occasionally the wind can ramp up to speeds of 2 million miles per hour and buffet the Earth’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms that load up the Van Allen radiation belts, interfere with radio and GPS transmissions, and even drive electrical currents in the ground that can impact the power grid.

The most visible effect of this “space weather” is the aurora: radiation funneled into the polar regions lights up the night sky as the Earth’s magnetic field works to shield us from the solar wind. Do we need to worry? As ground-dwellers, the natural effects are rarely a concern—who doesn’t like a nice Northern Lights show? The concern is that in addition to solar wind, the Sun can occasionally flare up and spew massive coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, into space. When these “magnetic tsunamis” wash over the Earth, they trigger the largest space weather storms, flooding the ionosphere with X-rays, scrambling airline radio and GPS signals, swamping power grids, and spewing radiation that can penetrate the atmosphere. Astronauts traveling to the Moon or other planets outside the Earth’s protective magnetic shield are particularly at risk from these storms.

In this talk, Dr. Berger will describe the origins, impacts, and our current understanding of space weather and examine what we can do to provide the forecasts needed to protect our technological infrastructure and enable safer spaceflight.


Current Schedule:

The Real Dark Side of the Moon

The Real Dark Side of the Moon
Speaker:   Paul Hayne
Date:   Wednesday, Oct 03, 2018
Time:   7:30 PM
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

A common misconception in astronomy is that part of the Moon remains continuously shadowed, popularized by legendary rock band Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, “Dark Side of the Moon.” Watching the Moon change phases confirms that, in fact, there is no dark side – all sides see the Sun at different times during the month. Yet, a peculiar feature of the lunar orbit produces shadows in craters at its poles, which have remained in darkness for billions of years. So, there really is a dark side of the Moon!

What surprises lurk within the Moon’s perpetual shadows? Recent observations from orbiting spacecraft such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission have revealed the presence of vast ice deposits, which may provide rocket fuel and drinking water for astronauts on future deep space missions. Scientific interest in these ice deposits is also high: they may record a billion-year history of comet impacts, solar wind, and perhaps even a short-lived lunar atmosphere produced by volcanic eruptions.

In this presentation, Dr. Hayne will take us on a journey to the coldest, darkest reaches of our Solar System – the Moon’s permanently shadowed craters. Here, we will find remnants of the Moon’s violent past. We will also discuss LASP’s involvement in NASA’s upcoming lunar exploration program, including the recently announced Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, and CubeSat missions such as Lunar Flashlight.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

Innovation to Discovery: An Insider’s View of Kepler/K2 Operations

Innovation to Discovery: An Insider’s View of Kepler/K2 Operations
Speaker:   Lee Reedy
Date:   Wednesday, Nov 07, 2018
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

Behind the engineering of figuring out how to do something, there is first a dynamic and fluid process of imagining what might be possible. Along the path to success come the discovery of new problems and the generation of ideas to resolve them.

The original Kepler mission was a resounding success, finding more exoplanets than many had dreamed possible, but the extended mission quickly presented engineers with new challenges. The planet-hunting space telescope suffered crippling reaction wheel failures soon after successfully completing its 3.5-year primary mission, and it took creative problem solving to bring it back into working order.

In this talk, Kepler Flight Director, Lee Reedy, will give you a peek behind the curtain of how LASP students and professionals worked with Ball Aerospace to design, test, and implement a completely new mission that doubled the life of Kepler and allowed the engineering team to proclaim, “Mission Accomplished.”

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

The INSPIRE Story: From Inception to Five Satellites

The INSPIRE Story: From Inception to Five Satellites
Speaker:   Amal Chandran
Date:   Wednesday, Dec 05, 2018
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

The International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE) grew out of courses at the University of Colorado to teach aspiring students about the design and development of small spacecraft and the outstanding science that can be accomplished with such missions. The INSPIRE consortium has grown to 12 spacefaring universities spread across the globe, with five small satellite missions currently in development.

The mission objectives range from studying Ionospheric dynamics, Earth atmosphere monitoring, and Solar observations. INSPIRE is also developing a versatile university small satellite platform capable of carrying a variety of payloads ranging from plasma instruments to UV and IR imagers. An S-band ground station network for small satellites enables high data downlink from these platforms. Collaboration in the area of fundamental research, Earth sciences, climate monitoring, etc. has helped to advance these studies both for newcomers as well as established spacefaring nations and universities.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

Science with a Shoebox: How Small Space Telescopes Can Impact Astronomy in a Big Way

Science with a Shoebox: How Small Space Telescopes Can Impact Astronomy in a Big Way
Speaker:   Brian Fleming
Date:   Wednesday, Feb 06, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

The ultraviolet (UV) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum provides some of the most powerful diagnostics to shape our understanding of stars, planets, galaxies, and all the material in-between, but it has long been one of the most difficult regions to explore. The principal go-to observatory for astronomers is the venerable Hubble Space Telescope—the most sensitive ultraviolet eyes into the universe we have ever known. NASA is now studying a behemoth space observatory as a potential successor to Hubble to answer the pressing questions of the future, the Large UltraViolet/Optical/InfraRed Observatory (LUVOIR). At a massive 50 feet in diameter, LUVOIR would be more than 40 times larger than Hubble and 150 times more sensitive, but it’s more than a decade from being built.

Recent advances in technology have opened up a new and perhaps unexpected dimension in UV space astronomy that will fill the gap between Hubble and a possible LUVOIR: small satellites. At sizes ranging from a shoebox to a mini-fridge, these tiny spacecraft have the potential to do science that is exceedingly difficult even for Hubble, and outside the capabilities of other space astronomy missions.

In this talk, Dr. Brian Fleming will tell us what has changed to make a shoebox satellite suddenly have outsized potential, and highlight some exciting science that will be carried out by LASP scientists with the first batch of astrophysics CubeSats in the coming years.

New Horizons from Pluto to MU-69 and Beyond

New Horizons from Pluto to MU-69 and Beyond
Speaker:   Fran Baganal
Date:   Wednesday, Mar 06, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

Following the fabulous success of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, the spacecraft continued out in the solar system making the first close flyby of a small Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), specifically 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule.

On January 1, 2019, New Horizons came within ~3,500 km of MU69. This small KBO was discovered by members of the New Horizons team using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014. MU69’s orbit identifies it as a cold classical KBO. This means it has probably been present at its current heliocentric distance (43 AU) and cold conditions for the past ~4.5 billion years. These cold conditions, combined with its small size, prevents it from maintaining a strong internal geologic engine to the present, making MU69 the most primitive body ever studied by any planetary spacecraft. Other than its orbital parameters and brightness, the only information known about Ultima Thule prior to observations by New Horizons were its red color, an approximate size (25-30 km diameter), elongated shape (derived by stellar occultations), and very dark surface (visible albedo estimate ~0.1).

In this talk, Dr. Bagenal will review the observations from New Horizon’s flyby of this small, distant object and their implications for understanding our solar system.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

What is Space Weather and Why Should I Care?

What is Space Weather and Why Should I Care?
Speaker:   Tom Berger
Date:   Wednesday, Apr 03, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

Space is radioactive. One of the main sources of the radioactivity is the Sun, whose magnetic plasma atmosphere—the corona—constantly streams into space as a “solar wind.” Occasionally the wind can ramp up to speeds of 2 million miles per hour and buffet the Earth’s magnetic field, causing geomagnetic storms that load up the Van Allen radiation belts, interfere with radio and GPS transmissions, and even drive electrical currents in the ground that can impact the power grid.

The most visible effect of this “space weather” is the aurora: radiation funneled into the polar regions lights up the night sky as the Earth’s magnetic field works to shield us from the solar wind. Do we need to worry? As ground-dwellers, the natural effects are rarely a concern—who doesn’t like a nice Northern Lights show? The concern is that in addition to solar wind, the Sun can occasionally flare up and spew massive coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, into space. When these “magnetic tsunamis” wash over the Earth, they trigger the largest space weather storms, flooding the ionosphere with X-rays, scrambling airline radio and GPS signals, swamping power grids, and spewing radiation that can penetrate the atmosphere. Astronauts traveling to the Moon or other planets outside the Earth’s protective magnetic shield are particularly at risk from these storms.

In this talk, Dr. Berger will describe the origins, impacts, and our current understanding of space weather and examine what we can do to provide the forecasts needed to protect our technological infrastructure and enable safer spaceflight.

Early Results from the GOLD Mission

Early Results from the GOLD Mission
Speaker:   Katelynn Greer
Date:   Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

Summary pending