The observatory has hosted a variety of lectures. You can view videos of selected presentations by clicking on an image. Please help us continue this series online by donating to the observatory.


Mike StaffordThe Earth in Motion, Mike examines and explains the various motions the earth undergoes as it travels through space, including its interactions with the sun, the moon and the other planets. Also examined is the motion of the Solar System through the galaxy, the galaxy through our local group, and on and on… Mike Stafford, now semi-retired, taught Physics at Penn State University full time and Gannon University as an adjunct for 37 years. Mike is a licensed airplane pilot with single and multi-engine land certification. He is also a licensed parachute rigger and expert skydiver with 3700 jumps! © 2022

David WilkinsA Practical Introduction to Astrophotography. Dave presents the how-to basics of nightscape and wide field astrophotography. He discusses the how (the use of correct camera settings), where (dark location options), when (best times of the year) and what objects can be imaged with gear you might already have. Dave is a member of the Martz-Kohl Observatory from Warren, PA. He started his journey of mastering astrophotography about six years ago, though he has over twenty years of other photography experience ranging from drone videos through landscapes and portraits. © 2022

James KeoughThe Challenger Learning Center Experience. In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission. Their efforts resulted in the creation of Challenger Center for Space Science Education. James Keough presents information-about and programs-offered at the Challenger Learning Center of the Twin Tier Region in Allegany, NY. James graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a BS in Education. He later became certified in K-12 Vocal Music and taught in that capacity at Scio (NY) Central School for 24 years before teaching 4th grade for seven years. © 2022

Ray Garner IIIThe Man on the Moon. Over fifty years ago, America became the first (and so far, only) nation to put a man on the Moon. That momentous event is one for the ages and was watched by millions of people worldwide. What is less remembered are all the smaller steps required to get to the Moon. This talk by Ray Garner III, a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, takes you through that dramatic journey. Born in Las Vegas, Nevada and raised in Georgia, Ray Garner has spent his whole life wondering about the Universe. After getting his B.S. in Physics from Furman University, Ray went directly on to graduate school at Case Western Reserve University, where he is currently pursuing his PhD. © 2022

Steven FlandersPalomar Observatory: From 1936 to Now. Palomar Observatory in Southern California, operated by Caltech, has been at the forefront of astronomical research since 1936, nearly 90 years! Steven Flanders, the Outreach Coordinator for the Palomar Observatory, presents the amazing story of the men and women of Palomar. The insights they developed over many decades, along with the work of other researchers in the global community, produced a series of discoveries and engineering innovations that changed our view of the cosmos. Various facilities, past and present used for this work at the observatory, are also described. Following a 30-year career in corporate IT management, Steven became a Caltech employee in 2013. His job involves overseeing the work of 32 volunteer docents. These docents conduct tours of the Hale Telescope, host star parties, and participate in a variety of special observatory events. © 2022

Rachel FreedAstronomy: Passion to Profession. Rachel describes her journey from a high school teacher with a passionate fascination with astronomy to a more-than-full-time professional astronomer. She is now a leader in double star astrometry research programs and edits the Journal of Double Star Observations (JDSO). In this presentation, she describes the research underway by people in her research programs and the opportunities created for students by the growth of access to global telescope networks. Rachel Freed is a co-founder and the President of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research with a goal of incorporating scientific research into high school and undergraduate education. Rachel has a B.S. degree in Biology and an M.S. in Neuroscience and is is currently working on a PhD in astronomy education. Rachel taught high school science for 10 years, has been an amateur astronomer for over 20 years, and is very involved in public outreach. © 2022

Dr. Robin ElgartSpace Radiation: Health Risks to the Astronaut Corps. “Danger, Will Robinson!” Scientists as well as astronauts have discovered that space really is dangerous. It’s not the ride into space—rockets are pretty reliable now. And it’s not meteors shooting through space, either. It’s just being there, sitting around on a space station, that might be the most dangerous. It’s the radiation that can kill you, give you heart disease, or even cancer years later. This presentation by Dr. Robin Elgart, the Space Radiation Element Scientist in NASA’s Human Research Program at the Johnson Space Center, provides a brief description of the space radiation environment, as well as a summary of a study assessing excess cardiovascular disease or cancer mortality in early NASA astronauts. © 2022

Dr. Alexandra YepMeteors, Meteorites, MeteoroidsOh My! Meteors streaking through the sky are beautiful and mysterious. Have you ever wondered about the types, origins or compositions of meteors? Dr. Alexandra Yep explores their origins, appearances and compositions in this fun and informative presentation. She shares with us when we might next see a meteor, and where we might find meteorites. Dr. Yep is a poet turned astronomer. After earning her BFA in creative writing and classical studies, she dove straight into quantum mechanics on her way to a Ph.D. in astronomy. Now a professor at Agnes Scott University in Atlanta, Georgia, she researches stars and star clusters. © 2022

Carl HergenrotherObserving Comets and the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. Carl has discovered four comets and a more than a dozen asteroids. Some of the more interesting comets discovered in recent years are presented in this lecture as well as the science contributed by observers with modest backyard equipment. Carl Hergenrother is the Executive Director of the Comets Section of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO). He has pent most of the past decade working on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve samples from near-Earth asteroid Bennu. His two primary contributions to OSIRIS-REx were the selection of Bennu as the target and the novel and surprising discovery that Bennu is routinely ejecting small particles of itself into space. He has since moved on to Ascending Node Technologies, LLC, a small business developing spacecraft planning and operations software. © 2022

Dr. Lynn CominskySpacetime Symphony: Gravitational Waves and Black Holes. Dr. Cominsky provides an introduction to gravitational waves, black holes and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) . She also presents the gravitational wave detection results reported to date from LIGO and Virgo (another gravitational wave interferometer). On September 14, 2015, LIGO received the first confirmed gravitational wave signals. This event represents the coalescence of two distant black holes that were previously in mutual orbit. LIGO’s exciting discovery provides direct evidence of what is arguably the last major unconfirmed prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. Dr. Lynn Cominsky grew up in the snows of Buffalo, New York, and attended college at Brandeis University, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She then worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. When she found out that she could get paid for studying black holes, she went to graduate school in physics at MIT. After getting her PhD there in 1981, she moved to California. She has been on the faculty at Sonoma State University for over 35 years, and chaired the Department of Physics and Astronomy for 15 years. © 2021

Dr. Darren WilliamsProbing the Earth from Astronomical Distances. This presentation asks the question, “What would Earth look like to someone light years away? Would it be a featureless blue dot, or could we possibly see oceans, snow and ice, forests, or even cities through the clouds?” The answer to this question is what astronomers are considering as they collect and interpret the light from distant exoplanets. They are too far and too faint to “see” with advanced telescopes but futuristic telescopes may be able to determine their sizes, spin properties, and atmospheric compositions. Dr. Darren Williams, as a teen, started his future career as an astronomy hobbyist right here at the Martz-Kohl Observatory. In addition to teaching, he studies the climates, orbits, observable characteristics, and dynamical evolution of planets and satellites. His current focus is on the final stages of planet formation, and designs for a new miniature space telescope (The Pale-Blue-Dot Telescope) to remotely observe terrestrial planets at sub-pixel resolution. © 2021

Daniel KrysakExploring Mars and Jupiter: the Mars Curiosity Rover and Juno Missions. Daniel is a real Martian, or as close to one as a man can get on Earth. This webinar provides a fun, in-depth look at the various cameras on board both the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover on the red planet, and the Juno spacecraft mission to Jupiter. Daniel shows a fascinating gallery of images acquired by both spacecraft throughout their missions. Daniel Krysak grew up in New York State. He graduated from SUNY Potsdam with degrees in both speech communication and archaeology in 2008. He went on to earn a Masters degree in Planetary Volcanology from the University at Buffalo in 2011. Daniel started working at his current company, Malin Space Science Systems, in early 2012 as part of the MSL Curiosity rover operations team. In 2015, he went further into the solar system by working camera operations on the Juno mission to Jupiter. © 2021

Dolores Hill, Dr. Patrick Miller and Carl HergenrotherTarget NEOs! Searching for and Characterizing Asteroids via Citizen Science. Citizen scientists have always played an important role in astronomy. By capturing images of known asteroids over a long time period, amateur astronomers, students and the public can contribute to the characterization (physical understanding of asteroids) with Target NEOs! and other citizen science programs. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) include asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood. Amateur astronomers and astronomy organizations such as the Martz-Kohl Observatory, have access to research grade instrumentation and have the ability to devote time making observations that can fill in the gaps for professional astronomers who often are able to observe only a few asteroids a few nights per year. Dolores Hill and Carl Hergenrother are co-coordinators of the Astronomical League’s Target NEO Observing Program and Dr. Patrick Miller is Director of the International Astronomical Search Collaboration. © 2021

Alexandra YepYoung Stars Amid External Radiation and Colliding Associations. Ms.Yep is a poet turned astronomer. She first shared her research of The Gum Nebula and young stars as part of The Martz-Kohl Observatory Lecture Series in October, 2020. The observatory was honored to host her Ph.D. dissertation defense on 07 July 2021. As part of her work, she discovered several star clusters in the Gum Nebula which are now known as Yep-1, Yep-2 and Yep-3 and is only the second woman to have earned this naming honor. She also deduced that two distinct stellar associations are in the process of colliding. While her dissertation is about 250 pages of detailed mathematics, observations, charts and simulations, Ms. Yep managed to condense the highlights into an hour presentation. © 2021 Alexandra Yep

Ted WolfeArmchair Stargazing: Remote Astro Imaging in Chile. Ted returned to the Martz-Kohl Observatory this year, in person, with an exciting video tour prepared in collaboration with National Geographic Magazine as well as some of his latest astro images. The videos focused on a trip to his observatory in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile which he can operate remotely from anywhere in the world. But as always, Ted’s ultimate goal is the heavens. His spectacular images of deep space take viewers along to explore the whole universe without ever leaving our planet. He has been an astrophotographer since 1998, when he constructed one of the first remote, robotic, amateur observatories in southern Florida. Ted and his wife Nancy spend winters in Florida and summers at the Chautauqua Institution, here in Western New York. © 2021

Dan Gray and Howard Banich Upgrading the Martz-Kohl Observatory & Achieving Diffraction Limited Resolution. Dan Gray is the founder of Sidereal Technology, a cutting edge company focused on developing advanced telescope control systems. Dan Gray has been involved in astronomy, telescope optics and mechanics since the early 80s. Today, Dan continues to create and enhance hardware and software and install systems around the world. Howard Banich is an avid amateur astronomer. He is a Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope Magazine and has had articles published in Amateur Astronomy Magazine and Amateur Telescope Making Journal. He is the designer and owner of several telescopes, including a 28 inch, f/4 altazimuth Newtonian. This talk illustrates upgrades being installed at the Martz-Kohl Observatory. Dan and Howard also explain and demonstrate how using the latest CCD cameras, taking many exposures, and processing with special software, astronomers are able to approach the diffraction limit of their telescope optics and contribute to citizen science. © 2021

Peter WilliamsMachine Learning: Concepts and Use Case in Mapping the Universe. Peter is a Busti, NY local who graduated from State University of New York’s Jamestown Community College (SUNY JCC) in 2016. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics from SUNY Geneseo and a Master’s degree from The Ohio University. He now teaches physics and engineering courses at SUNY JCC. This presentation provides an overview of the types of machine learning algorithms, how they work, and many of their applications. It showcases the use of a neural network to assist the  Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) collaboration in their mission to create the largest ever 3D map of the universe – a task Peter contributed to while in grad school. © 2021