Stellar Society Lecture

North Carolina Science Festival Events at GTCC

The Stellar Society Lecture is part of GTCC's annual schedule of North Carolina Science Festival (NCSciFest) Programs. Specific dates for these events vary from year to year, but we have consistently offered the following programs during the month of April:

  • Stellar Society Lecture – a free public lecture given by a noted astronomer. Information about the 2022 lecture is given below.
  • Science Hall Open House – an evening of interactive science activities and demonstrations presented by our science faculty and students.
  • Statewide Star Party – Cline Observatory open for viewing and special activities.

Stellar Society Lecture, Friday, 1 April

Each year, typically in April, GTCCs student astronomy club, the Stellar Society, teams up with Cline Observatory and the GTCC Foundation to present the Stellar Society Lecture, featuring an astronomer from a regional institution to give a free public lecture on a Friday night before our regular public viewing. This event is usually held in conjunction with the North Carolina Science Festival, and is normally held in the Auditorium of Koury Hospitality Careers Center, on GTCC's Jamestown Campus.

The 2022 Stellar Society Lecture, summarized below, was held on Friday, April 1. We are currently planning for the 2023 edition. Check back for updates.

"(Some) New Insights into the Geology of Venus"

Featuring Paul Byrne, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis


This event was made possible by the GTCC Foundation, GTCC's student astronomy club, the Stellar Society, and the N.C. Science Festival.

About the Talk: With three new Venus missions recently announced by NASA and ESA, attention is once more turning to the second planet. In the past few years, a view has emerged of a much more dynamic world than we once thought. In this talk, Byrne will present some new insights from recent studies he has led regarding the planet's volcanic, tectonic, and dynamic characteristics to understand Venus' past and present — which can be tested by the new NASA and ESA missions.

About the Speaker: Byrne received his Bachelor of Arts in geology and doctorate in planetary geology, from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. He was a MESSENGER postdoctoral fellow at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and an LPI postdoctoral fellow at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. Prior to joining Washington University in St. Louis, he was an assistant and then associate professor at North Carolina State University.

Byrne's research focuses on comparative planetary geology — comparing and contrasting the surfaces and interiors of planetary bodies, including Earth, to understand geological phenomena at the systems level. Byrne's research projects span the solar system from Mercury to Pluto and, increasingly, to the study of extrasolar planets. He uses remotely sensed data, numerical and physical models, and fieldwork in analog settings on Earth to understand why planets look the way they do.

Visit Byrne’s website. Our speaker is very active on Twitter as @ThePlanetaryGuy, sharing images and explanations of a variety of solar system topics.

For a list of past Stellar Society Lecturers and their presentation topics, see the bottom of this page.


2022: Paul Byrne, Washington University in St. Louis, "(Some) New Insights into the Geology of Venus" | View Recorded Presentation

2021: Ilse Cleeves, University of Virginia, "Planetary Origins: At Home and Abroad" | View Recorded Presentation

2020:  Event canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic

2019: Alicia Aarnio, UNC-Greensboro, "Our Sun:  Then, Now, and What Might Be"

2018: Katherine J. Mack, North Carolina State University, "Dispatches from a Dark Universe"

2017: Stephen P. Reynolds, North Carolina State University, "Supernovae and You: Tracking Stellar Explosions through Their Remnants"

2016: Sarah Hörst, Johns Hopkins University, "Titan:  Ingredients for Life"

2015: Michael Solontoi, Lynchburg College, "Killer Death Rocks from Outer Space!"

2014: Jay Pasachoff, Williams College, "Transits of Venus:  Science and History"

2013: Stacy Palen, Weber State University, "The Life & Death of Stars"

2012: Enrique Gomez, Western Carolina University, "What is it about 2012? How We Misunderstand Ancient Maya Astronomy."

2011: Brad Newton Barlow, UNC-Chapel Hill, "Searching for Planets Using Pulsating Stars"

2010: Anne Verbiscer, University of Virginia, "Cassini’s Exploration of Enceladus, Saturn’s Active Icy Moon"