*Tri*Star* – The Triad Starfest

*TRI*STAR* 2023

We are planning for the 2023 edition of TriStar to be an in-person event at GTCC on Saturday, 4 March.

Traditionally, The Triad Starfest, *Tri*Star* for short, is a conference of astronomers of all types, from novice to professional, for a full day of presentations, displays, and observing, held in the Koury Hospitality Careers Center on the Jamestown, N.C., campus of Guilford Technical Community College.

The event allows astronomy enthusiasts to share ideas, learn about a range of astronomical topics, get together with old friends, and make new ones. TriStar draws astronomers from North Carolina and surrounding states, and also features an astro-imaging contest and prize drawings. The event is brought to you by GTCC's Cline Observatory and the Greensboro Astronomy Club.

TriStar is free and open to the public. There is no registration (other than signing in when you arrive). Join us for a day of astronomical fun and fellowship!

Show off your images! The Greensboro Astronomy Club will stage the Dennis Hands Memorial Astro-imaging Contest at this year's event. Bring your best images (limit 3), taken since March 2022. Categories for judging: Deep Sky, Solar System, and Other.

Download rules and entry forms here or pick on up on site at the event. Contact Paul Patterson if you have questions.

2023 Schedule

TriStar 2023 was Saturday, 4 March, with a special public lecture on Friday, 3 March.


  • 7 p.m. Friday, 3 March: Koury Auditorium: Anne Verbiscer (University of Virginia), Topic: "Uncovering the Origin of the Solar System with NASA's Discovery Lucy Mission" >> Click to watch video.

    On Oct. 16, 2021, NASA's Lucy spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on a twelve-year journey to visit eight Jupiter Trojan asteroids and two main-belt asteroids. Jupiter Trojan asteroids share Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun in swarms of thousands of objects both ahead of and behind the giant planet. The Trojan asteroids are thought to be objects that were captured during migration of the giant planets and thus can be regarded as ‘fossils’ of our early Solar System. The name Lucy was chosen for the mission in honor of the Lucy hominid fossil because the mission’s findings could potentially reveal keys to understanding the origin of our Solar System just as the Lucy fossil provided valuable information for our understanding of human evolution. This talk will present the Lucy payload and targets, including its recent addition of main-belt asteroid Dinkinesh for its first asteroid flyby on Nov. 1, 2023.

    Anne Verbiscer received her Ph.D. in Planetary Science from Cornell University in 1991. As a graduate student, she was an associate on NASA’s Voyager 2 Imaging Team for its flyby of Neptune and its large moon Triton in 1989. She was a Mission Planner and Participating Scientist on the NASA/ESA Cassini Mission to Saturn and Titan from 2007 until 2017 when the mission ended. Since 2014, she has been a member of NASA’s New Horizons mission science team and currently serves as a Deputy Project Scientist for New Horizons’ ongoing second extended mission.

  • 9:30 a.m. Saturday, 4 March: Koury Auditorium: Anne Verbiscer (University of Virginia), Topic: "Stellar Occultations in the Gaia Era: Ground-based Support for NASA’s Small Body Missions"

    Since 2016, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia Space Observatory has measured the positions, distances, and motion of stars with unprecedented precision. These astrometric data have enabled observation campaigns using portable ground-based telescopes to capture stellar occultations by small solar system bodies. Prior to the Gaia mission, large uncertainties in the stellar positions made such campaigns impractical for small bodies, resulting in predictions that spanned 100s if not 1000s of kilometers in the cross-track direction. Thanks to ESA’s Gaia mission, several large campaigns have successfully provided shape and astrometric information for NASA small body mission targets. I will review occultation campaigns that supported NASA’s New Horizons flyby of small Kuiper belt object (486958) Arrokoth in 2019 as well as the 2027-2033 encounters of Trojan asteroids by the Lucy spacecraft.

    Anne Verbiscer received her Ph.D. in Planetary Science from Cornell University in 1991. As a graduate student, she was an associate on NASA’s Voyager 2 Imaging Team for its flyby of Neptune and its large moon Triton in 1989. She was a Mission Planner and Participating Scientist on the NASA/ESA Cassini Mission to Saturn and Titan from 2007 until 2017 when the mission ended. Since 2014, she has been a member of NASA’s New Horizons mission science team and currently serves as a Deputy Project Scientist for New Horizons’ ongoing second extended mission.

  • 11 a.m. Saturday, 4 March: Koury Auditorium: Erik Peterson (Duke University), Topic: "So, I've Taken an Image with a Telescope – How Do I Measure the Expansion of the Universe?" >> Click to watch video.

    Astronomers use light to study individual astrophysical objects like stars, planets, and nebulae as well as the state of the universe across distant and numerous galaxies. Most use images from telescopes with varying characteristics to cover light emitted across the complete electromagnetic spectrum – using different instruments to study radio waves, optical light observable by our own eyes, and gamma rays. In this talk, I describe how we go from taking images with telescopes all the way to making grand statements about the expansion of the universe, specifically with supernovae from my thesis project called DEHVILS.

    Erik Peterson is a Ph.D. student at Duke University working on better measuring the expansion of the Universe using exploding stars called supernovae. Erik is originally from the Seattle area but attended the University of Notre Dame where he graduated with a degree in Physics in 2019. Erik specializes in Astrophysics and Cosmology having studied peculiar binary and triple star systems and stellar archaeology as an undergraduate. In graduate school, he has focused his efforts on improving Type Ia Supernova Cosmology with works published on both peculiar velocities used to correct redshifts and near-infrared supernova analysis. Erik’s thesis will focus on the near-infrared supernova survey he leads, DEHVILS.

  • 2 p.m. Saturday, 4 March: Koury Auditorium: Hank Corbett (UNC-Chapel Hill), Topic: "The whole sky every second: Hardware to Science with the Argus Optical Array" >> Click to watch video.

    Multiplexed wide-field telescopes are a unique new tool for exploring the night sky on the fastest timescales. In this talk, I will give an overview of the history of many-telescope systems, the science they have done, and the questions they will answer next. The Argus Optical Array is an upcoming 900-telescope survey instrument with a light collecting area equivalent to a 5-meter mirror and a field of view encompassing the entire sky at once. Argus will capture a continuous 55,000 megapixel movie of the night sky to depths comparable to the deepest active sky surveys, enabling second-by-second studies of objects ranging from distant asteroids in our own solar system, to flaring stars, to distant cosmic explosions. Argus is currently under development at the University of North Carolina, and the 38-telescope Argus Pathfinder was recently deployed to the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman, NC.

    Hank Corbett is an astronomer at the University of North Carolina, where he currently serves as the software and technical lead for both the Argus Optical Array project and its smaller predecessor, the Evryscopes. He is a former volunteer at both of the Cline Observatories in the area (at GTCC and Guilford College).

  • 3:30 p.m. Saturday, 4 March: Koury Auditorium: Kyle Lanning (Mayland Community College), Topic: "Earth to Sky Park - Small Park, Big Dreams - and a big scope, too!" >> Click to watch video.

    This talk gives an overview of how Earth to Sky Park came to be what it is today and what we wish to become in the future. From beginnings as a mica mine, to a landfill that produced 12 years’ worth of off-the-grid methane for local artists, to a dark sky park with an incredible 34" telescope, and finally to one of two places on the planet that have both an IDA certified Dark Sky Observatory and a planetarium on the same campus!

    Kyle Lanning is one of the observatory and planetarium managers at the Bare Dark Sky Observatory, part of Mayland Community College's Earth to Sky Park. He is formally trained in ecology and chemistry and worked as a high school science teacher in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. Upon meeting some of the Mayland observatory staff, and though they technically weren't hiring at the time, he kept showing up — eventually landing a position — and his passion for astronomy has continued to grow ever since.

You can watch videos of the presentations from the 2022 virtual edition under past editions.

Contact Information

Tom English
Cline Observatory
336-334-4822 Ext. 50023

Jonathan Ward
GAC President


Jason Ybarra (Davidson College), "The Demon’s Head: The History of Observation of Algol" | Watch recorded presentation

Jessica Noviello (NASA Goddard), "Cryovolcanism in the Solar System: The Coolest Geologic Process" | Watch recorded presentation

Diana Hannikainen (Sky & Telescope Observing Editor), "The Radio Sky: How We Capture Cosmic Radio Waves." After the talk, the Q&A will be extended for an open discussion about the world of Sky & Telescope. | Watch recorded presentation

Britt Lundgren (UNC-Asheville), "Galaxies in Silhouette: Using distant Quasars to Illuminate the Gaseous Processes That Shape Galaxies" | Watch recorded presentation

James Lowenthal, Smith College, "Satellite Mega-Constellations and the Night Sky"

Michael Puzio, OSIRIS-REx Mission Ambassador, "Bennu: There and Back Again"

Jonathan Ward, FRAS, JPL Solar System Ambassador, "Lunar Exploration: Past, Present, and Future"

Katie Mack, NC State University, "Physics at the End of the Universe"

Mike Malaska, NASA/JPL, "Looking for Life in the Ocean Worlds of our Solar System"

Patrick Treuthardt, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, "Spiral Graph: a Citizen Science Project with a Twist"

Johnny Horne, Sky & Telescope/Fayetteville Observer, "Astronomical Imaging Retrospective… and a Look Ahead"

David DeVorkin, Smithsonian Institution, "In the Grip of the Big Telescope Age: From Herschel to Hale"

Jack Howard, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, "Astronomy in Chile: Clear Skies, Monster Scopes, and Astrotourism"

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday AAS Shapley Lecture:
Stella Kafka, Director, AAVSO, "Variable Stars and their Stories"

Mike & Larry Puzio, OSIRIS-REx Ambassadors, "OSIRIS-REx Arrival at Asteroid Bennu"

Ward Howard, UNC-Chapel Hill, "Do Superflares Make Proxima b & the Nearest Terrestrial Exoplanets Uninhabitable?"

Stella Kafka, American Association of Variable Star Observers, "The AAVSO for the Amateur Community"

John O’Neal, NASA Ambassador, "The Past, Present and Future of the NASA Parker Solar Probe"

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday AAS Shapley Lecture:  Donovan Domingue, Georgia College and State University, "Pre-Merger Galaxy Pairs as Star Formation Benchmarks in the Local Universe"

*Tri*Star* 2017 Saturday Speakers:

Jeff Regester, High Point University, "2014 MU69"
Donovan Domingue, Georgia College and State University, Infrared Astronomy"
Stephen van Vuuren, Independent Filmmaker, "In Saturn’s Rings"

Barbara Becker, University of California-Irvine, "I am almost certain… William Huggins and the First Attempts to Measure Stellar Motion in the Line of Sight"

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: David Baron, author of AMERICAN ECLIPSE: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World“Nature’s Grandest Spectacle: How, Where, and Why to View the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse”

*Tri*Star* 2017 Saturday Speakers:

Enrique Gómez, Western Carolina University, “The Great American Eclipse of 2017 over North Carolina”
David Baron, Author of American Eclipse, “Edison and the Eclipse That Enlightened America”
Barbara Becker, University of California-Irvine, “Photographing the Corona without an Eclipse:  the Forgotten Efforts of William Huggins”
Gayle Riggsbee, Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club, “When an Eclipse Trip Cost was only a Dollar”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday AAS Shapley Lecture: Dr. Patrick Miller, Hardin Simmons University, “Asteroid Threats to Earth:  How You Can Make Discoveries”

*Tri*Star* 2016 Saturday Speakers:

Peter Prendergast, MD, “Robotic Observing:  Challenging Established Dogma”
Brad Barlow, High Point University, “The Influence of Planets and Brown Dwarfs on Late Stellar Evolution”
Patrick Miller, Hardin Simmons University, “Debris Fields in the Solar System”
Michael Solontoi, Lynchburg College, “Killer Death Rocks from Outer Space”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Dr. Tom Brown, Space Telescope Science Institute, “Deepest Hubble Images Expose the Violent History of Our Galactic Neighborhood

*Tri*Star* 2015 Saturday Speakers:

Tom Brown, STScI, “On the Trail of the Missing Galaxies:  the Oldest Stars in the Neighborhood”
David Pitonzo, High Point University, “Musings on the Likelihood of Extraterrestrial Civilizations”
Chris Richardson, Elon University, “The Crab Nebula:  Our Local Young Supernova Remnant”
Maria Temming, Elon University, “A Summer at Sky & Telescope

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Shapley Lecture: Dr. Gordon Emslie, Western Kentucky University, “Spinning Pliers, the Chaotic Obliquity of Mars, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

*Tri*Star* 2014 Saturday Speakers:

Don Smith, Guilford College, “Designing a Neural Network to Process APDA Spectra”
Gordon Emslie, Western Kentucky Univ., "Acceleration of High Energy Particles in Solar Flares”
Kristen Thompson, Davidson College, “The Role of Magnetic Fields in the Star Formation Process”
Grant Thompson, Georgia Regents Univ., “Active Galactic Nuclei and the Nature of Their Tori”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Dr. Dan Reichart, UNC-Chapel Hill, “Birthing Black Holes: PROMPT and the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network

*Tri*Star* 2013 Saturday Speakers:

Steve Danford, UNC-Greensboro, “What Can Globular Clusters Tell Us about the Universe?”
Barbara Becker, U. Cal-Irvine, “Unraveling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy”
Jonathan Ward, NASA Solar System Ambassador, “MESSENGER at Mercury: Unlocking the Secrets of the Innermost Planet”
Matthew Fleenor, Roanoke College, “Multiwavelength Astrophysics: How Non-optical Light Informs Our Understanding of the Universe”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Dr. Terry Oswalt, Florida Institute of Technology, “It’s Later than You Think: How Astronomers Measure the Age of the Universe

*Tri*Star* 2012 Saturday Speakers:

Tom English, GTCC, “Historical Oppositions of Mars: The Rise of the Martians and the Fall of the Canals”
Terry Oswalt, Florida Institute of Technology, “Chicken Little was Right!  The Sky IS Falling”
Brad Barlow, Penn State University, “Starquakes! Probing Stellar Evolution using Asteroseismology”
Also – a series of short presentations/demonstrations/workshops, with topics including Cooking a Comet, Optimizing Your Observing Experience, Telling Time by the Stars, and a Siberian Impact Crater.

No Pre-*Tri*Star* Lecture in 2011

*Tri*Star* 2011 Saturday Speakers:

Mike Malaska, SCYNEXIS Organic Chemist, “Titan’s Earthlike Landscape”
Steven van Vuuren, Greensboro Filmmaker, Preview clip from his IMAX film, “Outside In”
Steve Reynolds, NC State University, “Supernova Remnants, Cosmic Rays, and Cosmology”
Sheila Kannappan, UNC-Chapel Hill, “Galaxy Life Stories:  Growing Up in a Violent Universe”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Neil Comins, University of Maine, “Science Errors on TV: A Personal Story

*Tri*Star* 2010 Saturday Speakers:
Neil Comins, University of Maine, “What if the Earth Were a Moon?”
Tony Crider, Elon University, “2012: Exploitation of the Maya Long Count”
Roger Ivester, Cleveland County Astronomical Society, “Visual Observing in a Digital Age”
Tim Martin, Greensboro Day School, “Arctic Impact”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Harry Shipman, University of Delaware, “Planets Beyond the Solar System

*Tri*Star* 2009 Saturday Speakers:
Harry Shipman, University of Delaware, “A Collaboration between Amateur and Professional Astronomers Investigates the Interiors of Dying Stars”
Johnny Horne, Fayetteville Observer/Sky & Telescope, “Earth & Sky”
Johannes Kepler, Portrayed by John McFarland, “Galileo’s Heavenly Discoveries”
Elise Weaver, Guilford College, “Gamma Ray Burst 080711 Afterglow Detection and Analysis”

Friday Shapley Lecture: Heidi Hammel, Space Science Institute, “Telescopes in Space

*Tri*Star* 2008 Saturday Speakers:
Heidi Hammel, Space Science Institute, “Deconstructing the Ice Giants”
Joe Foy, Hampden Sydney College, “The Crab Nebula”
Ted Forte, Back Bay Amateur Astronomers, “The Astronomical League’s Planetary Nebula Club”
Jeff Regester, Greensboro Day School, “All This Way for Two Minutes of Data”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Larry Marschall, Gettysburg College, “Deconstructing Pluto

*Tri*Star* 2007 Saturday Speakers:
Larry Marschall, Gettysburg College, “Hunting Killer Asteroids”
Don Smith, Guilford College, “Robots Chasing Stars”
Christina Lacey, University of South Carolina, “Exploding Stars – Better than a Hollywood Movie”
David Herrick, Maysville Community & Technical College, “Getting Tight with Titan”

Friday Shapley Lecture: Rob Knop, Vanderbilt University, “Galaxies In Collision

*Tri*Star* 2006 Saturday Speakers:
Rob Knop, Vanderbilt University, “A Modern Picture of the Expanding Universe”
Elizabeth Warner, Deep Impact Mission & University of Maryland, “Results from the Deep Impact Mission”
Dan Reichart, UNC-Chapel Hill, “Discovery of the Most Distant Explosion in the Universe”
Dennis Hands, Greensboro Astronomy Club, “My Two Weeks on Mars”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Robert Naeye, Sky & Telescope, “Go Spirit!  Go Opportunity! NASA’s Intrepid Rovers

*Tri*Star* 2005 Saturday Speakers:
Robert Naeye, Sky & Telescope, “Ringworld Rendezvous”
Stef McLaughlin, Deep Impact Mission & University of Maryland, “Amateur Observing Opportunities for the Deep Impact Mission”
Jonathan Keohane, Hampden-Sydney College, “Cosmic Explosions Inside Coffins of Massive Stars”
Mike Castelaz, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, “Exploring Young Stars in the Orion Nebula”

Friday Shapley Lecture: Larry Fredrick, University of Virginia, “The Great Impactor

*Tri*Star* 2004 Saturday Speakers:
Larry Fredrick, University of Virginia, “Parallax:  Chasing a Very Small Angle”
Dan Caton, Appalachian State University, “ASU’s Dark Sky Observatory: Opportunities for Students and Amateurs”
David Moffett, Furman University, “1300+ Pulsars”
Tom English, GTCC, “Transits of Venus”

Pre-*Tri*Star* Friday Lecture: Van Abernethy, Charlotte Amateur Astronomy Club, “Saturn

*Tri*Star* 2003 Saturday Speakers:
Johnny Horne, Sky & Telescope, “Backyard Universe Gallery”
Dan Reichart, UNC-Chapel Hill, “Stonehenge as an Astronomical Observatory”
Tony Crider, Elon University, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”
Dana Crider, Catholic University of America, “What Happened to the Water on Mars?”

Friday Shapley Lecture: Robert Rood, University of Virginia, “Searching for Unicorns and Extraterrestrial Civilizations

*Tri*Star* 2002 Saturday Speakers:
Robert Rood, University of Virginia, “Looking at the Guts of Globular Clusters with the Hubble Space Telescope”
Gayle Riggsbee, Charlotte Amateur Astronomy Club, “The History of the Building of the 200-inch Hale Telescope”
Jerry Watson, NCSU & Raleigh Astronomy Club, “Weather Systems on Other Planets”
Steve Danford, UNC-Greensboro, “What Is the Future of Space Exploration?”