Teen Astronomy Café Program 2017-18

The Teen Astronomy Café program is an out-of-school program that offers high school students opportunities to interact with scientists who work at the forefront of astronomy. The program will be from 9:30am til noon on the first Saturday mornings of the month from October through May (except for January).

Students explore the birth and death of stars, killer asteroids, the structure of the universe, gravitational lenses, dark energy, dark matter, colliding galaxies and more. A hands-on activity related to the short presentation will follow as part of the Teen Astronomy Cafés experience – either as a state-of-the-art computer lab activity, a movie, a deeper discussion, or an exploration of the topic with a 3-D printer or an Oculus Rift. The students will use the actual computer programs and data that the scientists use!

The Teen Astronomy Cafés are open to all high school students at no cost. The program aims to elevate student achievement and desire to go to college, and perhaps inspire some students to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

If students are interested in attending any or all of the Teen Astronomy Cafés, please have them register at http://www.teenastronomycafe.org.

The location will be hosted at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in room 27. The address is 950 N. Cherry Ave. in Tucson on the University of Arizona campus.

2017-18 dates:

  • Oct. 7, 2017  •  Dr. Adam Bolton  •  Looking through Gravitational Lenses
  • Nov. 4, 2017  •  Dr. Gautham Narayan   •  Life and Death of Stars
  • Dec. 2, 2017   •  Dr. Stephanie Juneau  •  Our Vast Universe
  • Feb. 3, 2018  •  Drs. Lori Allen & Frank Valdes  •  Killer Asteroids
  • Mar. 3, 2018  •  Dr. Dara Norman  •  Island Universes
  • Apr. 7, 2018  •  Ekta Patel  •  Galactic Archaeology: from Little to Big
  • May 5, 2018  •  Dr. Knut Olsen  •  Our Galactic Neighborhood

2017-18 Speakers


Dr. Adam Bolton

Looking through Gravitational Lenses

October 7, 2017

Dr. Adam Bolton is a scientist and Associate Director at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, AZ, where he leads NOAO’s Community Science and Data Center. He is an expert in imaging and taking spectra of massive galaxies to solve cutting-edge problems on dark energy and dark matter. Massive galaxies can bend light similarly to a lens, a process known as gravitational lensing. Studying the intricate patterns produced by gravitational lenses can be used to unravel the mysteries of dark matter.


Dr. Gautham Narayan

Life and Death of Stars

Nov. 4, 2017

Dr. Gautham Narayan is the Lasker Data Science Fellow at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD, the institute that runs Hubble. For one of the newest telescopes coming online, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, he is working on a machine learning to automatically alert astronomers of transient and variable things that go “bump” in the night. He is also establishing very unique group of faint standard stars for future astronomy surveys, and he is studying exploding stars near and far.


Dr. Stephanie Juneau

Our Vast Universe

Dec. 2, 2017

Dr. Stephanie Juneau is a Staff Scientist for the Data Lab at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Her research interests are focused on the evolution of galaxies and supermassive black holes across cosmic time. She brings together expertise from spectroscopy, optical, infrared, and X-ray observations to unveil mysteries about galaxies and reconstruct their history. She is part of large collaborations such as the Dark Energy Spectroscopy Instrument, and the Euclid space mission, each of which will measure distances to tens of millions of galaxies.


Drs. Lori Allen & Frank Valdes

Killer Asteroids

Feb. 3, 2018

Dr. Lori Allen is the Director of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. She observes with many types of light, each a puzzle piece that together give a more complete picture of what is going on. In particular, one type of light traces infrared light or heat signatures from stars and planets to better understand how they are formed. Instruments she has helped build have been used on many telescopes including the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of NASA’s Great Observatories


Dr. Frank Valdes is a Scientist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Frank studies the universe on its largest and smallest scales, from galaxies, stars, planets and recently asteroids. He has studied dark matter through radio and gravitational lensing (bending of light by gravity). He has developed software used by thousands of astronomers around the world. He has created a library of spectra for various kinds of stars. He has been involved in the instrument design and science of “DESI”, which is a massive fiber-fed spectrometer to detect dark energy.

Norman, Dara

Dr. Dara Norman

Island Universes

Mar. 3, 2018

Like many third and fourth graders, Dr. Dara Norman wanted to be an astronaut. Perhaps unlike most, she realized you couldn’t just sign up and be one. She knew you had to be a scientist or a pilot – or both. So in school, she did her best at math and science. It wasn’t until her second year of college that she looked through a telescope for the first time. It was aimed at Jupiter, and she was hooked! These days, Dr. Dara Norman is an Associate Scientist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the Deputy Associate Director for its Community Science and Data Center, studying galaxies with extremely active centers, their environments and influence on how galaxies evolve over time. She is also the Diversity Advocate at the Observatory, addressing the barriers that stand in the way of progress for women and underrepresented minority groups in science, technology, engineering and math.


Ekta Patel

Galactic Archaeology: from Little to Big

Apr. 7, 2018

Ekta Patel is a graduate student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying the evolution and dynamics of massive satellite galaxies that orbit the Milky Way and our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, using high-resolution computer simulations of the universe. She specifically focuses on their frequency, orbital histories, and their influence on the main host galaxy.


Dr. Knut Olsen

Our Galactic Neighborhood

May 5, 2018

Dr. Knut Olsen has been interested in astronomy since the age of 5 when he first saw a small telescope at a toy store. Pointing the telescope at the faint glow of the Milky Way revealed thousands of stars unresolved by using just his eyes. Years later while at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, he saw the Magellanic Clouds (some of the nearest galaxies to our Milky Way) for the first time and has dedicated his research to understanding their stellar populations and those of other galaxies ever since. Dr. Knut Olsen is an Associate Astronomer at National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and is the Project Scientist for the NOAO Data Lab.