About the Teen Astronomy Café

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. Dates for the Teen Astronomy Cafés this coming academic year are:

The Teen Astronomy Café 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.

About the 2018-19 Speakers


Dr. Chien-Hsiu Lee

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

October 6, 2018

Chien-Hsiu Lee is an assistant scientist at NOAO. He is interested in time-domain astronomy — how astronomical objects change with time. He received his PhD in 2011 from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. Prior to NOAO, he was a support astronomer at Subaru Telescope, helping visiting astronomers carry out observations atop Maunakea.

Research description: The advent of wide-field cameras and large sky surveys have accumulated vast amount of data that revolutionized time-domain astronomy. In this presentation and computer activity, you’ll learn and experience how astronomers identify and classify variable stars in the big data. You’ll also see how astronomers use the variables to investigate stellar astrophysics, probe galaxy properties, and study cosmology.


Dr. Adam Bolton

Looking through Gravitational Lenses

November 3, 2018

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. Travis Rector

Coloring the Universe: How Astronomy Images are Made

December 1, 2018

Dr. Travis A. Rector is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, after which he was a postdoctoral research scientist at Kitt Peak National Observatory and a Karl Janksy research fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Over the last 20 years Dr. Rector has used some of the world’s largest telescopes to make color astronomical images of space. He is a recognized leader in how to create images that illustrate the science done with these telescopes.


Dr. Daniel Apai

Project EDEN: The Search for Habitable Planets in the Solar neighborhood

Feb. 2, 2019

Dr. Apai is working on the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planetary systems and on the search for life in the Universe. He is an Associate Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences at The University of Arizona, and leads NASA’s Earths in Other Systems (EOS) team. He occasionally publishes blog posts on exoplanet exploration and astrobiology at http://apai.space and tweets (@danielapai).


Ekta Patel

Galactic Archaeology: from Little to Big

March 2, 2019

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. Stephanie Juneau

Black Holes and the Fate of Galaxies

April 6, 2019

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.

Research Description: Black holes are among the most mysterious objects in our universe. What are they? How do we find them? You will get to learn about different kinds of black holes, and apply research tools to discover their telltale signatures in astronomical observations. As the power-engine of quasars (which themselves are bright beacons that we can see far in the universe), you will learn how the largest black holes might change the fate of the galaxies they live in.


Drs. Dante Lauretta and Carina Bennett

OSIRIS-REx: Exploration of Asteroid Bennu

May 4, 2019

Dante Lauretta is principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His research interests focus on the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and he is an expert in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials, including asteroid samples, meteorites and comet particles.

Dr. Lauretta heads a research team at the UA working on this mission, which has included more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students. The mission was selected in 2011, launched in 2016, and returns samples back to Earth in 2023. Sample analysis continues until 2025. This project will help ensure that the University of Arizona remains at the forefront of planetary exploration for the next decade.


Carina Bennett is a Software and Image Processing Engineer on the OSIRIS-REx Mission. She specializes in mapping objects in space and has developed software and tools that are used to identify, count, and measure boulders and other hazards on the surfaces of asteroids. In collaboration with CosmoQuest, she has developed Bennu Mappers, a website that offers anybody interested in space exploration the opportunity to directly participate in the hazard identification process on Bennu, OSIRIS-Rex’s target asteroid.


The OSIRIS-REx mission will be traveling to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft launched on September 8, 2016, and is scheduled to rendezvous with Bennu in 2018 and ultimately bring samples of the asteroid back to Earth. These samples will be the first for a U.S. mission and may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth.

The University of Arizona leads the mission for NASA, and it is also providing the science operations team and the spacecraft’s camera system. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mis- sion management. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. United Launch Alliance built the mission’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The mission is in an exciting phase right now as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on its outbound journey to Bennu.

For more information, see www.AsteroidMission.org.

Previous year's dates, topics and speakers.