Free "Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes" Talk on Wednesday, Nov 2, 2016.

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 at 7 pm, Dr. Lynn Cominsky of Sonoma State University will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on:

Spacetime Symphony: Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes

in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College, in Los Altos.

The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, now in its 17th year.

One hundred years ago Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, which predicts the kinds of changes in the universe that produce gravitational waves -- which travel at the speed of light, but are much harder to detect than light waves.  On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) received the first confirmed gravitational wave signals.  The event that produced them was the merger of two distant and massive black holes that were in mutual orbit. A second confirmed detection (two different black holes getting together) occurred on December 26, 2015. LIGO's exciting discoveries provide direct proof of predictions made by Einstein and have launched the new field of astronomy. Prof. Cominsky will present an introduction to LIGO, to gravitational waves and how they were detected, and to black holes.

Lynn Cominsky is the Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department at Sonoma State University (SSU), where she has been on the faculty for over thirty years. She is the founder and director of SSU’s Education and Public Outreach Group, which develops educational materials for NASA, NSF and the US Department of Education.  Her research focused on black holes, the x-ray universe, and high-energy astronomy.  More recently, she has been a leader in developing exciting educational materials to help inspire students to pursue scientific careers, training teachers nation-wide, and enhancing scientific literacy for the general public.  Among her awards are the Wang Family Excellence Award for the California State University system and the Astronomy Education Award of the American Astronomical Society.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos.  For directions and parking information, see:

For a campus map, see:

The lecture is co-sponsored by:

* The SETI Institute

* The Astronomical Society of the Pacific

* NASA Ames Research Center

* The Foothill College Astronomy Program.

We get large crowds for these talks, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking.  The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.

Past lectures in the series can be found on YouTube at http://

October 5 - outburst of October Camelopardalids

The dust trail of an unknown long-period comet wandered in Earth's path on October 5. The outburst of October Camelopardalids (IAU code "OCT") peaked at around 14:45 UT. CAMS California recorded 9 meteors from a compact radiant between 8:45 and 13:15 UT, while the the new network in the United Arab Emirates on the other side of Earth detected 3 between 14:48 and 19:15 UT. 

CBET telegram follows:

Electronic Telegram No. 4329
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
Mailing address: Hoffman Lab 209; Harvard University;
20 Oxford St.; Cambridge, MA 02138; U.S.A.
e-mail: (alternate
Prepared using the Tamkin Foundation Computer Network


P. Jenniskens, SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, reports that the October Camelopardalids meteor shower, previously in outburst in 2005 (cf., Jenniskens et al. 2005, JIMO 33, 125), was predicted by E. Lyytinen (Helsinki, Finland) to peak on 2016 Oct. 5d14h45m UTC (at solar longitude 192.56 degrees, equinox J2000.0) when the earth crossed again the 1-revolution dust trail of an unknown long-period parent comet (cf., Lyytinen, IMO 2016 Meteor Shower Calendar, ed. by J. Rendtel). In good agreement, Lyytinen reports that the Finnish Video Meteor Network detected sixteen October Camelopardalids in single-station video observations just after dark between 17h and 19h UTC on Oct. 5.

Jenniskens adds that the CAMS network in California started observations on Oct. 5d02h45m UTC and detected nine multi-station October Camelopardalid meteors between 8h54m and 13h15m UTC on Oct. 5, while the new United Arab Emirates Astronomical Camera Network (a CAMS network operated by M. Odeh of the International Astronomical Center in Abu Dhabi) started observations on Oct. 5d14h45m UTC and captured three shower meteors between 14h48m and 19h15m UTC, and no more after this until observations ceased at dawn on Oct. 6d01h40m UTC. The median geocentric radiant was at R.A. = 171.1 +/- 5.0 deg, Decl. = +78.4 +/- 1.0 deg, with entry velocity 45.4 +/- 0.8 km/s, corresponding to orbital elements q = 0.990 +/- 0.005 AU, e = 0.93 +/- 0.08, i = 77.1 +/- 1.0 deg, Peri. = 168.2 +/- 2.5 deg, and Node = 192.41 +/- 0.15 deg (equinox J2000.0). In a live tally administered by H. Sugimoto, Japanese radio forward- scatter meteor observations confirm the outburst centered on Oct. 5d14h45m +/- 15m UTC (solar longitude 192.56 +/- 0.01), with elevated rates between 12h and 18h on Oct. 5 (see zenithal-hourly-rate plots at the following website URL:

Based on the new observations, Lyytinen re-calculated the 1-revolution dust trail position, assuming an orbital period for the parent comet of about 750 years and ejection of meteoroids at perihelion in 1255 AD. From the motion of the trail near the earth's orbit, the shower may return next year at solar longitude 192.558 deg (2017 Oct. 5d20h47m UTC), passing the earth's orbit +0.00021 AU further out than in 2016, while having passed the earth's orbit at -0.00001 AU in 2005, -0.00132 AU in 2006, +0.00069 AU in 2007, +0.00024 AU in 2012, and at larger distances in the years in between.

NOTE: These 'Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams' are sometimes
      superseded by text appearing later in the printed IAU Circulars.

                         (C) Copyright 2016 CBAT
2016 October 12                  (CBET 4329)              Daniel W. E. Green

SETI Institute is Hiring - Astrobiology and Planetary Science Research Assistant

SETI Institute is seeking a motivated, proactive, and dedicated research Assistant experienced in molecular biology.  The Research Assistant will work on the evolution and ecology of microbes living in modern analogs to early Earth environments in Yellowstone and New Zealand as well as in groundwater contamination plumes at NASA-Ames, an in forest ecosystems.  In addition, the Research Assistant will work in the area of synthetic biology helping to adapt these organisms to the areas of biofuels and environmental restoration.  Experiments will include but not be limited to DNA preps, PCR, cloning, and RT-PCR, as well as exploratory research involving methods such as chromosome walking, directed evolution, and expression cloning in yeast models. Ability to work independently with minimum supervision will be critical in this role. Secondary to the research tasks, the Research Assistant will assist with general laboratory maintenance, including washing glassware, performing lab safety inspections, and coordinating hazardous waste pick-up.  

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SETI Institute is Hiring - Systems Administrator

The SETI Institute is currently looking for a full time Linux Systems Administrator to support our global research at our Mountain View Headquarters. The ideal candidate will have extensive Linux administration and troubleshooting experience within a Ubuntu- based environment. The position is also responsible for performing operational support and maintenance of Linux servers and systems.

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