Fall Astronomy Day Lecture

Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Lecture

The Cline Observatory Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Day Lecture featuring a prominent researcher in astronomy, astrophysics, or planetary science. The lecture is held each fall in Koury Auditorium at GTCC’s Jamestown Campus – it is free and open to the public.

Exploring the Outer Reaches of Our Solar System

Dr. Cathy Olkin, Southwest Research Institute
7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019
Koury Auditorium, GTCC, Jamestown

About the Talk:  This talk will discuss two separate NASA missions: the New Horizons mission that has explored Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and the Lucy mission that is in development now and will explore the Jupiter Trojan ices.

After traveling for more than nine  years, NASA’s New Horizons mission accomplished its prime objective – the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system. On July 14, New Horizons passed about 12,500 km from Pluto’s surface, flying between Pluto and the orbit of Pluto’s large moon Charon.  I will discuss highlights of the mission results including the discovery of a deep basin containing glacial ices.

Another three and a half years later after the Pluto encounter, on New Year’s Day 2019, New Horizons accomplished the prime goal of its extended mission, a flyby of the cold classical Kuiper Belt Object (486958) 2014 MU69. Little was known about this object before the encounter on New Year’s Day. The team had searched for an object to fly past in the Kuiper belt for years with the largest ground-based telescopes. In 2014, the target for our flyby was discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope. Stellar occultation observations of 2014 MU69 refined our knowledge of its ephemeris and led to debate if 2014 MU69 was a single object or a binary. We now know, from the New Horizons images, that MU69 is a contact binary. This talk will discuss the challenges of a planetary encounter at a distance of 43 AU and also the results from the MU69 encounter.

Finally, I will describe the upcoming NASA mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids: Lucy. This mission will encounter seven asteroids in 12 years with one spacecraft.

Cathy Olkin, Southwest Research Institute About the Speaker:  Cathy Olkin (right) is a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO. Her main topic of research is the outer solar system, specifically planetary atmospheres and surfaces. She carries out ground-based observations to learn about the size and atmospheres of small worlds. She also works on NASA’s New Horizons mission that provided the first close up images of the Pluto system and was the deputy project scientist. Cathy is also the lead of one of the scientific instruments, the color camera and composition mapper. Dr. Olkin is the deputy principal investigator for NASA’s Lucy mission, which will launch in October 2021.

In her free time, Cathy mentors FIRST robotics programs providing hands-on STEM education for students from fourth grade to 12th grade.

Visit Dr. Olkin’s web page at SWRI.

The Jo Cline Memorial Astronomy Day Lecture is made possible, in part, by an endowment established by Don Cline in September 2015 with an initial funding goal of $50,000. Interest from the endowment provides annual ongoing support of the Jo Cline Fall Astronomy Lecture Series. Don will match, dollar for dollar, contributions made to this fund until our goal is reached. Please consider honoring Jo’s memory by contributing to the fund.

For information about and donations to the Jo Cline Endowment,  visit our Support the Observatory page.

North Carolina Astronomers’ Meeting (NCAM)

Cline Observatory also hosts the annual technical meeting of North Carolina astronomers in association with Fall Astronomy Day. This event is open to professional astronomers and their students, and is not an open public event.  The 2019 edition of NCAM will be Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019.

Past Lectures


Gabriela González, LSU/LIGO, “Einstein, Gravitational Waves, Black Holes, and Other Matters


John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “The History of the Universe from the Beginning to the End: Where Did We Come From, Where Can We Go?”


David Charbonneau, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “How to Find an Inhabited Exoplanet”


Sean Solomon, Director, Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute, and Principal Investigator for the Mercury MESSENGER Mission, “The MESSENGER Spacecraft Mission to Mercury: Surprises from the Innermost Planet”


Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford, “The Last and Next 100 Years in Astronomy“


Don Winget, University of Texas at Austin, “Small Stars in a Large Context:  All Things White Dwarf”


Bob Benjamin, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, “A Visitor’s Guide to the Milky Way Galaxy


Francis Halzen, University of Wisconsin-Madison / IceCube, “Ice Fishing for Neutrinos


Giovanni Fazio, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / Spitzer, “Viewing the Universe with Infrared Eyes:  the Spitzer Space Telescope


Hal Levison, Southwest Research Institute, “What Planets Are and How they Form


Neil Gehrels, NASA Goddard / Swift Mission, “Black Holes:  From Einstein to Gamma Ray Bursts


Michael Turner, University of Chicago, “The Dark Side of the Universe


Scott Ransom, NRAO-Charlottesville, “The Stellar Undead


Jeff Hester, Arizona State University, “From the Big Bang to Big Brains:  the Evolution of Structure in the Universe


Paul Butler, Carnegie Institute, “Extrasolar Planets:  a First Reconnaissance


Prasun Desai, NASA Langley, “Mars Exploration in the Coming Decade


Steve Murray, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / Chandra, “X-ray Astronomy Comes of Age:  the Chandra x-ray Observatory View of the Cosmos


Jay Bergstralh, NASA Langley, “The Galilean Satellites of Jupiter


Virginia Trimble, Univ. Cal-Irvine / Univ. Maryland, “Cosmology:  Man’s Place in the Universe


Robert Kirshner, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “The Universe:  Big, Old, and Accelerating


John Wood, NASA Goddard, “Resolution:  Latest Results from the Hubble Space Telescope


Bruce Carney, UNC-Chapel Hill, “How Old is Our Universe?