North Carolina Astronomers’ Meeting (NCAM)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

2015 Speaker – Saturday Morning: Sean Solomon, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory,

MESSENGER at Mercury: Technical Challenges and Implications for the Formation of the Inner Planets

Sean Solomon is Director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Associate Director for Earth Systems Science at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and William B. Ransford Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Solomon will also give a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 Oct 2015, in the auditorium of the Koury Hospitality Careers Building at GTCC

NCAM is an annual technical meeting that seeks to bring members of the NC professional astronomy community together to network and share research.  The meeting usually draws 50+ attendees from institutions around North Carolina and surrounding states.  NCAM is held the first Saturday of October, and includes a plenary presentation from an invited researcher, short oral sessions scheduled throughout the day, and space for research posters.  We especially encourage presentations of student research.  The meeting also usually includes two special sessions:  the annual business meeting of the NC SEction of the International Dark-sky Association, and a Center for Astronomy Education Regional Teaching Exchange.

Meeting Registration

As usual, there is no registration fee for the NCA meeting. We will have a sign-in table in the Koury Building.

We would like to get a reasonably accurate head count for the meeting, so that we can let the site committee know how much food/drink to order for break refreshments. Please let us know beforehand by registering through the Online Registration Form (Now Closed) if you are planning on coming. Registrations for presentations should be completed by Monday, 28 Sep 2015. If you plan to come but NOT to present, we would still like for you to register beforehand – you can do this up until the 3rd of October.

Directions and Maps To The Meeting
The meeting is held in the Koury Hospitality Careers Building on the Jamestown campus of GTCC.

Local Lodging There are plenty of hotels around the area, use this resource to find accommodations if you plan to stay overnight.

Abstract Submission If you would like to present an oral or display presentation at the NCA meeting, please fill out and submit the Online Registration Form (now Closed) by Monday, 28 Sep 2015.

Display Presentations There will be room for approximately 20 posters to be displayed. The available space is approximately 44 in. x 44 in.  Access to power and tables will be limited, but there is local wireless access.

Oral Presentations The proposed plan is for standard oral presentations to be 10 minutes including Q&A, though this could change, depending on the number of submissions.  A podium/microphone/computer/projector will be provided for oral presentations.  A wireless microphone is also provided. Wireless internet access will be available in the presentation space.

Registration Forms are submitted to Tom English (336-334-4822, ext 50023).
You should receive confirmation of receipt within a day of submission – if not, call or e-mail to verify.

Special Sessions
The annual business meeting of the North Carolina Section of the International Dark Sky Association will be held during the lunch break.  NCAM also acts as a Regional Teaching Exchange for an ASTRO 101 discussion/presentation session (Part of the NASA Center for Astronomy Education) during the afternoon.  Anyone who currently teaches introductory college astronomy, or who expects to teach in the future, is encouraged to attend. (If you have ideas for the discussion, contact Tom English.)  You can register officially with the CAE for this session here.

Saturday Lunch Options include a variety of nearby restaurants.  Some of the attendees plan to place a group order in the morning to Jerusalem Market for box lunches. You will have the opportunity to indicate your lunch preference on your registration form, and if you plan to participate in the group order, you should bring payment to the registration table the morning of the event. On-site orders MUST be verified and paid for before 10 a.m.  All sandwiches from Jerusalem Market are served on thin, lavash bread with chips, brine pickle, and olive on the side. Lettuce and tomato are added to all sandwiches.  This year’s lunch options are:

  • $7: Falafel (Falafel Patties with hummos and tahini sauce.)
  • $8: Turkey (Oven roasted turkey breast with black pepper and provolone cheese.)
  • $9: The Turk (Soujuk, a spicy, dried beef sausage, sliced thin with provolone cheese melted on top.  Served with baba ghanouj and yogurt cucumber sauce on the sandwich.)

Meeting Agenda

Tentative NCAM Agenda – Saturday, 3 October 2015

8:45 a.m. Conference Opens

Refreshments are available throughout the day in the display area.  Several display presentations will be posted in this area throughout the day.

9:20 a.m. Welcome and Announcements

9:30 a.m. Invited Speaker – Sean Solomon, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, MESSENGER at Mercury: Technical Challenges and Implications for the Formation of the Inner Planets

10:30 a.m. Break – visit the posters in the display area

11:30 a.m. Contributed Oral Session

1.1  The EREBOS Project: Studying the Influence of Substellar Objects on Stellar Evolution
Brad Barlow (High Point University)

1.2 The Evryscope: a Minute Cadence, 9060-Square-degree FoV, Gigapixel-scale Telescope
Jeff Ratzloff (UNC-Chapel Hill

1.3 Formation Diagnostics in AGN
Alexander Manzewitsch (Wingate University)

1.4  Time Series Observations of the 2015 Eclipse of b Persei (not Beta Persei)
Donald Collins (Warren-Wilson College)

1.5 Web Based Control System for Telescopes
Timothy DeLisle, (Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute)

12:30 p.m. Lunch – visit the posters in the display area

1:15 p.m. NCIDA Meeting: The North Carolina section of the International Dark Sky Association will meet in the auditorium for a short business meeting.

2:30 p.m. CAE Regional Teaching Exchange: Share your Astro 101 teaching ideas with your colleagues. This year’s exchange will focus on Laboratory Exercises for the Introductory Astronomy Course, but all topics are welcome.

Planetary Lecture Abstract

MESSENGER at Mercury: Technical Challenges and Implications for the Formation of the Inner Planets
Sean C. Solomon, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964

The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, the first to orbit the innermost planet, faced formidable technical challenges. Orbit insertion with a chemical propulsion system required a complex interplanetary trajectory that included six planetary flybys: one of Earth, two of Venus, and three of Mercury. Each flyby demanded precise targeting, a process that was rendered easier by the implementation of solar sailing, the use of solar radiation pressure to impart small but continuous corrections to the trajectory between encounters. Survival in the harsh thermal and radiation environment at Mercury required radiation hardening of electronics and novel solutions to thermal design challenges. Because of its large eccentricity, selected in part for thermal control, MESSENGER’s orbit was highly sensitive to the gravitational attraction of the Sun. During its final two years in orbit, the effect of solar gravity was to drive periapsis altitude progressively lower with each orbit. Impact onto Mercury’s surface could be forestalled only as long as there was spacecraft propellant for periapsis-raising maneuvers. Once all usable propellant was exhausted, MESSENGER’s engineering team devised a strategy to utilize propulsion system pressurant to impart additional velocity changes to the spacecraft, further delaying the inevitable end of mission until 30 April of this year.

MESSENGER observations have provided new insight into the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Measurements of Mercury’s mean density and moments of inertia indicate that most of the planet’s mass consists of an iron-rich core, and that a fluid outer core extends to within ~420 km of the surface. Mercury is the only inner planet other than Earth to host a global planetary magnetic field, and like that of Earth the field is dominantly that of a dipole, but at Mercury the dipole is offset from the planet center by ~20% of the planet’s radius. Crustal magnetic anomalies resolved by low-altitude observations indicate that Mercury hosted an internal magnetic field ~4 billion years ago. Although Mercury may be as much as 60–70% iron by mass, the planet’s surface is low in iron (< 2 % by weight) but surprisingly high in sulfur (as much as 4% by weight), characteristics indicating that Mercury formed from material much more chemically reduced than the starting materials for Earth, Venus, and Mars. Moreover, Mercury’s surface material is rich in other elements normally considered volatile and predicted by most models of planetary formation prior to MESSENGER to be strongly depleted, including alkali metals (Na, K), halogens (Cl), and carbon. Mercury’s characteristics thus indicate that there is a mode of rocky planet formation that results in both a high ratio of metal to silicate and the incorporation and retention of substantial budgets of volatile elements.