All ASLI Meetings Begin at 8:00 PM


JULY 10:  Night Sky Review by Karl Silverberg

July is not for the “early-to-bed” folks. It is for night owls and vampires. Coming off the June 20th summer solstice, astronomical  twilight for July 1st does not end until 10:30pm. If you can stay up, you will be greeted by many astronomical treasures. You will have Moon-free viewing for basically the first 10 days of July, and the last 5 days of July. Early July is also globular cluster season.  There is plenty to see in binoculars and telescopes in Scorpius and Ophiuchus. Stay up a little later, and you will be treated to the Milky Way in all its glory.

July 17: Space Smugglers: When Astronauts Snuck Sandwiches, Musical Instruments, and Envelopes into Space by John Speroni.

In June 1972 NASA management learned a German stamp dealer was selling envelopes that orbited the moon. This triggered a scandal ending the spaceflight careers of all three Apollo 15 crew members and the temporary suspension of a dozen other astronauts. Apollo 15 isn’t the only case of contraband in space, though. This talk will cover several notable times astronauts brought unexpected items on their missions.  John Speroni been an ASLI member for almost 20 years. His interests include night sky photography and space program history.


July 24:  Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) by Dr. Morgan Cable.

EELS is a snake-like robot which will access the hard-to-reach places of ocean worlds and beyond.   Certain moons of Jupiter and Saturn such as Europa and Enceladus – so-called ‘Ocean Worlds’ as they have liquid water oceans underneath icy crusts – offer the best opportunity to search for evidence of life outside of Earth in our solar system. Measurements made by previous missions indicate that these worlds meet all criteria for habitability: liquid water, chemical building blocks including organics, and energy sources. However, accessing these subsurface oceans is a challenge. A team at JPL has developed the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS), a snakelike robot capable of autonomously traversing a spectrum of terrains including steep slopes and obstacles, enclosed labyrinthian environments and vertical ice shafts. The team recently completed a field campaign at Athabasca Glacier in Canada, which hosts ice surface features and glacial crevasses and conduits ideal for robotic testing. Dr. Cable will describe the results from that campaign and discuss the implications for future exploration of Ocean Worlds

Dr. Cable is a Research Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. She is the Science Lead for the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) concept and Co-Deputy PI of the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) Instrument aboard the Mars 2020 (Perseverance) rover. She has worked on the Cassini Mission, is a Co-Investigator of the Dragonfly mission to Titan, and is serving multiple roles on Europa Clipper. She was recently appointed as a CIFAR Fellow for the Earth 4D: Subsurface Science and Exploration Program. She previously served as the Ocean Worlds Program Area Scientist for the Planetary Mission Formulation Office, and as supervisor of the Astrobiology and Ocean Worlds Group. Morgan’s research focuses on organic and biomarker detection, through both in situ and remote sensing techniques. She has designed receptor sites for the detection of bacterial spores, the toughest form of life, and developed novel protocols to analyze organic molecules using small, portable microfluidic sensors. Currently Dr. Cable performs laboratory experiments to study the unique organic chemistry of Titan. She and colleagues were the first to discover minerals made exclusively of organics that may exist on Titan’s surface. Morgan also conducts fieldwork in extreme environments on Earth, searching for life in places such as the Atacama Desert, ice fields at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, nutrient-limited lakes at the base of Wind Cave (the densest cave system in the world) in South Dakota, fumarole-generated ice caves of the Mount Meager Volcano in Canada, and lava fields of Iceland.

July 31:  The SCCC Observatory: Current State and Future Plans,  by Matt Pappas and Frank Longo.

Since seeing first light in the spring of 2014, the Suffolk County Community College observatory has faced a number of obstacles that have prevented it from achieving its fullest potential.  Now, after months of concentrated effort, the astronomy faculty are ready to take steps toward integrating the observatory as an educational tool for the college’s astronomy program and the public at large.  In this presentation, Frank Longo will discuss his work getting the observatory into its current operational state, while Matthew Pappas will detail plans for the observatory’s use.

Matthew Pappas is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at Suffolk County Community College.  Over the course of his 17 years as a professional astronomer he has performed research on remote observing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, developed 3D visualizations at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and participated in an exoplanet research workshop at Caltech.  In addition to his teaching duties as an educator, Prof. Pappas provides tours of the Ammerman Campus planetarium to local schools and organizations and delivers presentations on astronomy to audiences across Long Island.

Frank Longo is an avid amateur astronomer and former employee at Camera Concepts and Telescope Solutions in Stony Brook, NY. Since May, 2023 Frank has used his extensive knowledge of observing equipment and instrumentation to update the Suffolk County Community College Observatory on the Ammerman Campus.  He has also dedicated his passion and expertise of astrophotography with the students and faculty of the astronomy program, as well as for public and private audiences around Long Island.