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Lecture Series

Public lectures take place at 7 PM (unless otherwise specified) in an external building on North Campus.

You may also join via Zoom at the link below.


Lectures are usually given by Cornell faculty, researchers, and students studying astronomy.

See the list of upcoming lectures below, or view archived lectures here.

Spring '24 Lectures

February 13th - SPECIAL Cosmos Showing w/ Ann Druyan Q&A (Recording here)

February 16th - Voyager Spacecraft w/ Prof. Jim Cordes

March 1st - Dr. Rebecca Payne on Searching for Space Dinosaurs

March 8th - John Church on the Optics of our Irving Porter Church Telescope

March 15th - Maura Lally

March 22nd - Solar Eclipses w/ Prof. Phil Nicholson

April 12th - Yuri's Night

Solar Eclipses and Saros Cycles

Prof. Phil Nicholson

March 22nd

7:00 PM

CAS Advisor Prof. Phil Nicholson discusses the basic geometry and terminology of lunar and solar eclipses, how and why they are governed by the ancient "Saros cycle", the circumstances of the eclipse of April 8, and some of the ways in which eclipses have been used historically to teach us about solar physics and the history of the Earth–Moon system.

Toni Morrison Hall 102

Exoplanets and How We Study Them

Maura Lally

March 15th

7:00 PM

Astronomy graduate student Maura Lally discusses primary exoplanet exoplanet detection methods, including transits, radial velocities, and direct detections. Maura also details the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets.

Appel Multipurpose Room

Biosignatures in the Ancient Earth’s Atmosphere: Could Dinosaurs Be Seen from Space?

Dr. Rebecca Payne

March 1st

7:00 PM

Today, evidence of life can be seen all over the Earth, from the land and oceans to the atmosphere. These observations define what we look for when searching for life on other planets. But what about ancient life on Earth? Would the earlier life that roamed the Earth during the past 500 million years (from sponges to the first trees to dinosaurs) have been detectable to aliens from faraway exoplanets? How can we tell? And should we be looking for space-dinosaurs?
Our second lecture of the semester, hosted by Dr. Rebecca Payne, will discuss research on the biosignatures of life on the ancient Earth and the potential use of similar biosignatures for our own interstellar life-seeking purposes.

Appel Multipurpose Room 303

The Optics of the Irving Porter Church Telescope

John Church

March 8th

7:00 PM

The Irving Porter Church 12-inch refracting telescope in Fuertes
Observatory has an objective lens designed, ground, and polished by the
Brashear Company of Pittsburgh in 1920. Its original glass disks came
as a gift from Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin. Based on an
assumption that its two lens elements are made of the same glasses that
are in the 40-inch Yerkes refractor, a provisional study has been made of
its optical properties. Charles Hastings of Yale was a long-term
designer for Brashear. Hastings personally made a 9.4-inch objective
for the Johns Hopkins University and published its complete
specifications in 1882; the Church objective may have been a direct
scale-up of the latter lens with minor adjustments. The talk will include
a historical discussion of lens designing and evaluation methods, using
two Hastings-designed objectives as examples.

Robert Purcell Community Center 106

The Voyager Spacecraft: What Are We Learning Now?

Prof. James Cordes

February 16th

7:00 PM

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 and completed a grand tour of the Solar System. About ten years ago, they left the magnetic influence of the Sun and are still returning data. Prof. Cordes will discuss what we are learning from this data and more!

Appel Multipurpose Room 303

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (Ep 6) and Q&A with Ann Druyan

Sponsored by the Carl Sagan Institute

February 13th

6:30 PM

As part of our “Voyager Spacecraft Week,” CAS joined Cornell Cinema in presenting Cosmos Episode 6: Traveler’s Tales. After the showing, Carl Sagan’s wife and co-producer Ann Druyan featured in a live Q&A with the audience. In addition to her work on Cosmos in 1980, Ann Druyan was the writer and producer for the two newer seasons of Cosmos (A Spacetime Odyssey in 2014 and Possible Worlds in 2020). She has written and co-written dozens of books, television shows, and movies, including six books with Carl Sagan and the film adaptation of Contact. She was also a member of the Voyager Golden Record team, which selected pictures, sounds, and music from Earth to cast out into space; her heartbeat and brain waves will roam the stars for millions of years.

Cornell Cinema

Past Lectures


Carl Sagan's Life

Cornell Astronomical Society President Gillis Lowry

Cornell Astronomical Society President Gillis Lowry provides a lighthearted overview of late Cornell Professor Carl Sagan's life to honor his 89th birthday!

November 8, 2023

12:00 AM

Robert Purcell Community Center Room 218

Purple is the New Green: The Colors of Life as a Tool to Find Life in the Cosmos

Dr. Ligia Coelho

What does the spectral fingerprint of biopigments look like? How can it aid in the search for extraterrestrial life? Are there purple-hued aliens? This lecture seeks to answer these questions and more!

October 6, 2023

11:00 PM

Toni Morrison Room 102

Adaptive Optic Upgrades to LIGO: Achieving Higher Laser Power

CAS Member Sophia Arnold

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) is severely limited in its sensitivity by quantum noise. CAS member Sophia Arnold outlines the development of LIGO and paths for future improvement.

September 29, 2023

11:00 PM

Toni Morrison Room 102

Life After Nova: The Resurrection of a Supernova in Radio Wavelengths

2022-23 CAS President Annika Deutsch

Our first lecture of the semester comes from former president Annika Deutsch! She’ll discuss her research involving observations of supernova SN2018ivc, which revealed a dramatic re-brightening after the supernova had already exploded. What might this tell us about the original star?

September 22, 2023

11:00 PM

Toni Morrison Room 102

Yuri's Night Celebration: The Sunset of SmallSats and the Dawn of Big Space

Professor Mason Peck

Celebrating Yuri's Night and human spaceflight with Prof. Mason Peck!

SpaceX’s Starship launch vehicle will disrupt the modern-day dominance of tiny spacecraft. What will the future of larger spacecraft look like? What infrastructure will we need to establish a sustained presence in cislunar space?

April 14, 2023

11:00 PM

Appel Commons Multipurpose Room 303

Carl Sagan's Birthday Lecture - Alien Earths

Carl Sagan Institute Director Lisa Kaltenegger

On the Friday nearest November 9th, we celebrated Carl Sagan's birthday with apple pie and a talk by Professor Lisa Kaltenegger, who follows in Sagan's footsteps to search for life on exoplanets.

November 12, 2022

12:30 AM

Appel Commons Multipurpose Room 303

Irving Porter Church Memorial Telescope 100th Anniversary Lecture

Professor Phil Nicholson

On October 14th, we celebrated the 100th birthday of our beloved telescope, Irv! CAS faculty advisor Phil Nicholson highlighted Irv's history, with space-themed cupcakes provided! We had telescope, museum, and sky tours every half hour, along with a special slideshow of Irv memories. Happy "Birvday"!

October 14, 2022

11:30 PM

Appel Commons Multipurpose Room 303

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