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Monthly Archives: March 2014

STARS Social – Dandy Prom 2014 2 (of 3)

Register here:  RSVP


Prom on the Potomac! Come aboard the Dandy in DC!

Dandy Prom Flyer

Announcing the Northern Virginia Homeschool Prom aboard the Dandy River Boat, sponsored by Springfield Teaching and Resource Services (STARS.)

This spectacular event is scheduled for May 2, 2014. The Cruise event will include a 3-course candlelight dinner, dancing in the Dandy’s elegant ballroom, special recognition for Seniors graduating in 2014, event photographer, photo booth props, and other special prom-night surprises. An always-to-be-remembered evening will be spent with friends cruising in the moonlight on the Potomac River past the majestic monuments of our Nation’s Capital. See pictures here: http://www.dandydinnerboat.com/boat/dandy.shtml

Tickets for the Dandy Dinner Cruise on the Potomac are normally priced at $125 or more. As a special gift to our homeschooling families, tickets are specially priced at $85. Purchase of a prom ticket will admit you to three dance socials, two afternoon and one evening, scheduled to provide event instructions and an opportunity to get to know other homeschooled students who will be attending the event.

If you are still undecided about coming to Prom or won’t be able to make it to the actual event but would like to try one of the socials, tickets for those are available for $10 in advance (contact us for details). Remember, they are free for those who RSVP for the main event! Register here:

To reserve your place at the prom, please fill out the attached registration form and return it along with a check to the address enclosed. For other questions, contact STARS at dandyprom@gmail.com or call Laura at 202-562-8589.

All About Heidi!

Heidi Hammel 2104 Nifty Fifty Speaker AURAlogo

Heidi Hammel: Ushering In Hubble’s Successor – The James Webb Space Telescope

Planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel — a world authority on the planets Neptune and Uranus — is known for her many achievements probing the cosmos, often using the famous Hubble Space Telescope in her work.

For instance, in 1994 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter, Heidi was the leader of the ground team that analyzed photos of the event from the Hubble Space Telescope. She was also a member of the research group that first spotted Neptune’s Great Dark Spot (a raging storm as big as Earth) with the Voyager spacecraft, and led the Hubble team that later documented the Great Dark Spot’s disappearance.

Today she is involved in another milestone: helping to develop the next great space observatory that will succeed Hubble — the James Webb Space Telescope which is scheduled to be launched later in 2018. “As much as I love Hubble, it’s time to build an even more sophisticated tool that will enable us to see new things,” says Heidi, the Executive Vice President of AURA, Inc. (The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy), a consortium of 39 U.S. universities as well as educational and non-profit institutions, and seven international affiliates. AURA operates world-class astronomical observatories including the Hubble Space Telescope, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, and the Gemini Observatory.

In her post at AURA, Heidi is working with the team that is planning the development and launching of the Webb Telescope. “Webb will be able to probe regions of the cosmos that are simply not visible to Hubble,” she explains. “It’s bigger and it will be tuned to wavelengths that Hubble can’t really see. With Webb, we have the potential to answer questions about the origins of just about everything in the universe.

No doubt, the Webb Telescope, in addition to giving astronomers greater insight into other mysteries of the universe, promises to afford Heidi enhanced observations of her two favorite planetary bodies: Neptune and Uranus (‘The Ice Giants’). Often considered by the lay public as two of the “least exciting” planets, she says they are anything but that. “These planets are not dull. They change a lot,” she says. “Actually, they are great for a researcher. Because they are located at the outer reaches of the solar system, they’ve been less studied than nearer planets. So whenever I make an observation, anything I find is brand new.”

Particularly intriguing is Uranus, she explains. “With Uranus, now we’re rewriting the textbooks on it. Our recent observations are so counter to what we originally thought. There is all sorts of connective activity going on there, which 20 years ago we didn’t see. We once thought of Uranus’s atmosphere as pretty much dead. But it’s not.”

It was not until her sophomore year in college (when she took an astronomy class as an elective) that Heidi thought seriously about pursuing planetary exploration as a career. However the seed may have been planted years earlier by happenstance during road trips with her parents while growing up in California, she admits. “I would get very car sick during these trips and to distract myself, especially at night, I stared out the window and started recognizing patterns in the sky. I learned the constellations because it helped get my mind off the fact that I felt absolutely awful in the car.”

Following high school, she was admitted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she earned her Bachelor’s degree. She then went on to the University of Hawaii, earning her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy there in 1988.

Says Heidi: “I was very fortunate to be in graduate school in Hawaii at the time that they were building these fabulous new telescopes.” After a post-doctoral position at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., she returned to MIT, where she spent nearly nine years as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. When the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet crashed into Jupiter, she was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s public face, explaining the science to television audiences worldwide.

Heidi is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for her achievements as a scientist, science communicator and outreach professional, including: receiving the Carl Sagan Medal (given to scientists whose communications have greatly enhanced the general public’s understanding of planetary science); named as one of Discover Magazine’s 50 most important women in science in 2003, and receiving the Harold C. Urey Prize of the American Astronomical Society.

Her book, “Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel” is available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0309095522/ref=oh_details_o07_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Click here for more information on her website.

Source: http://www.usasciencefestival.org/schoolprograms/niftyfifty/899-dr-heidi-hammel.html#sthash.9VRQXUtU.dpuf

Nifty Fifty RSVP – Astronomy Talk

USA Science & Engineering Festival_NewLogo-1

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 3)’ is a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International. They are a group of 150 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, DC area in the 2013-2014 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Featuring some of the most inspiring role models in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, this signature program of the USA Science and Engineering Festival presents your students with the latest in green technology, engineering, human health and medicine, astronomy and space exploration, nanotechnology, computer science, and more.

Heidi Hammel_2014 Nifty Fifty Speaker_2RSOur speaker will be planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel, Executive Vice President of AURA, Inc. (The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy). A world authority on the planets Neptune and Uranus, she will be sharing about her favorite subject with us on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 12:00pm, Springfield Church of Christ, 7512 Old Keene Mill Rd., Springfield VA 22150. Please follow the link to RSVP for Heidi’s talk! More details to come!

I’ll be there! You will receive a confirmation email if it is submitted successfully. If you do not receive one,  try again on a desktop, check your cookies, and/or email Priscilla directly at nova.stars@outlook.com. 


Is there a deadline to RSVP? 24 hours before the talk itself, so noon on March 25th. Space is limited, please let us know as soon as possible you’re interested in coming through the form.

The talk is intended for a high school audience, but I think my younger children would be interested. Can they attend? Mature students who are not yet in high school are welcome to attend. They should be able to sit quietly and pay attention with minimal adult supervision.

Can we ask questions? Yes! There will be a 15-minute Q&A after Heidi makes her main points. The RSVP form has a spot for you to submit question(s). There is no guarantee she’ll get to yours, but please try!

What arrangements are available for younger siblings? Please make other arrangements for childcare, we cannot accommodate younger children in the main room with the speaker.

I RSVP’d but won’t be able to make it. Whom do I contact to cancel? Please email Priscilla at nova.stars@outlook.com to let her know.

Tell me more about Ms. Hammel! Ms. Hammel has a website at iwaswondering.org. She has also been featured in the book, “Beyond Jupiter: The Story of Planetary Astronomer Heidi Hammel“. Purchase it on Amazon HERE. Her official Nifty Fifty bio can be found here and an FAQ about her is here. Updates will be coming soon.

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