Stellar Society Lecture

N.C. Science Festival Events at GTCC

Stellar Society Lecture, 23 April

Each year, typically in April, GTCC’s 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. Last year’s edition had to be canceled because of the pandemic, but our proposed 2020 speaker is back this year to give her talk.

This year’s Stellar Society Lecture will be a virtual presentation at 7:00 pm on Friday, 23 April:

"Planetary Origins: at Home and Abroad"
Featuring Dr. Ilse Cleeves, University of Virginia

Join the lecture

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: Historically, our perspective on the mechanisms by which planets form and obtain their compositions has been largely motivated by our solar system. The ability to study in detail and even send spacecraft to objects provides an unmatched wealth of data to help us unravel our planetary system's origins. However, we are just one system, and now with facilities like Kepler we are discovering a wide variety of planet types and architectures, many of which are unlike our own. How do we fit all of these systems into a unified theory? In the last five years, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array has revolutionized our understanding of planet formation by observing the earliest stages of the process at high spatial resolution (reaching in some cases scales on the size of Earth’s orbit) matched with unprecedented sensitivity. In this presentation, I will discuss how observations of molecular emission in protoplanetary disks can both shed light on, 1. the compositions of future planets, and 2. the key physics governing the planet formation process during the first few million years to help us move toward a more general picture of planet formation at home and abroad.

About the Speaker: Dr. Ilse Cleeves is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy jointly appointed in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Virginia.  Her research focuses on understanding the molecular and physical origins of planetary systems such as our own.  By using clues from interstellar molecular emission, she studies young planetary systems in formation around low-mass stars, i.e. protoplanetary disks: the very materials from which planets, comets, and other solar system bodies eventually form. Visit Dr. Cleeves’ website.

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

Science Hall Virtual Open House, 9 April

Traditionally, GTCC's Science Programs provide a family-friendly science open house NCSciFest event each April on our Jamestown campus. This year, because of the pandemic, we are planning an online version of the event with virtual demonstrations by students and faculty in our Physical Science Programs – featuring chemistry and physics. 

NCSciFest Virtual Event

Statewide Star Party, 16 April

GTCC's Cline Observatory will participate in this year’s Statewide Star Party. This year’s Statewide Star Party Theme: Moon and Mars.  

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the observatory is not currently open for public viewing, and due to technical difficulties, our virtual session will not be held. 

An alternative a virtual skywatching event is being offered as part of the UNC Science Expo. 

We have prepared this Guide to Observing the Moon to help you use your own binoculars or telescope to watch the changing views of the terrain on the moon’s surface as the nights pass.

15 Days of the Moon – a general guide to observing lunar features.

Moon Feature Resources Mentioned in the Video

GTCC has partnered with the Washington Montessori Elementary School to share moon-watching and Mars rover activities in conjunction with this year’s star party. 


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”