Open Nights Series Sheds Light on Astronomy, Physics, Ecology and Geology


This September the University kicks off its 41st year of hosting the Stony Brook Open Nights lecture series. This free series, geared to the general public, began in 1973 with the arrival of Comet Kohoutek and its accompanying lecture. The talks proved to be so popular they have continued ever since and are held on most Fridays during the Fall and Spring semesters.

The lectures are grouped into four categories: Astronomy Open Night (first Friday of the month), The Worlds of Physics (second Friday of the month), The Living World (third Friday of the month) and Geology Open Night (fourth Friday of the month). Faculty lecture and speak on aspects of their expertise, research or a topic of public interest.

(Teachers take note: It may be possible to get in-service credit for any or all these lectures, as well as for related geology programs. Visit the website,, and follow the in-service link for more details.)

For the Astronomy Open Night schedule, visit Abstracts for each talk are usually posted about three weeks before the lecture; links to the three other series also can be found on this page.


All lectures are held in Room 001, Earth and Space Sciences Building at 7:30 pm

Astronomy Open Night • Friday, September 5, 2014
Tim Glotch, Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences: “Celebrating International Observe the Moon Night”
The International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is an annual event that is dedicated to encouraging people to ‘look up’ and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the Moon. From looking at the Moon with a naked eye to using the most sensitive telescope, every year on the same day, people from around the world hold events and activities that celebrate our Moon. Join Professor Glotch for this special annual event. For more on InOMN, visit


The arrival of Comet Kohoutek inspired the creation of the Open Night series in 1973.

Timothy Glotch’s research interests are currently focused on two broad subjects: (1) understanding the role of water in shaping the surface of Mars in terms of both mineralogy and geomorphology, and (2) comparing laboratory spectroscopic and remotely acquired spectroscopic data and the application of these methods for solving various problems in Earth, planetary and space science.

Geology Open Night • Friday, September 12, 2014
Gilbert N. Hanson, Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Geosciences in the College of Arts and Sciences: “Pebbly Loess and Carolina Bays on Long Island”

Pebbly loess is a common surficial deposit on Long Island that forms the soil that allows Suffolk County to be the leading agricultural county in the state of New York. Loess is wind-blown sediment consisting dominantly of well-sorted silt with minor sand. However, this “wind-blown, sandy silt” is poorly sorted and contains pebbles up to several cm in diameter. This unit has been dated at Stony Brook University and at Wildwood State Park. The ages suggest that it was deposited about 13,000 years ago during the Younger Dryas event when the climate, which had been warming since the glaciers left Long Island about 20,000 years ago, suddenly became very cold and stayed cold for about 1,500 years.

Carolina bays are elliptical to circular-shaped, shallow depressions, usually 100 hundreds of meters in diameter, which are found in abundance along the Atlantic Coastal Plain. They have recently been found in undeveloped areas of Suffolk County. Carolina bays are characterized by a closed elevated rim and a flat bottom.

In this talk, Hanson will explore the possibility that the Carolina bays are secondary impact craters associated with a bolide (an exceptionally bright meteor) that struck the Laurentide ice sheet 12,900 years ago at the beginning of the Younger Dryas cooling event and that the pebbly loess on Long Island is the ejecta from the secondary impacts.

In addition to his role as distinguished professor, Gil Hanson is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the Geochemical Society, the Geological Society of America and Geological Society of India. Hanson is a member of the Long Island Groundwater Research Institute and is pursuing studies with members of the institute on soil chemistry, plant chemistry and groundwater chemistry. He is also involved in studies of the geology of Long Island.

World of Physics • Friday, September 19, 2014
Dario Arena, Physicist, Brookhaven National Laboratory: “Shining Synchroton Light on Exotic Magnets”

Cloud computing, wireless communication, hybrid cars, advanced medical imaging and many other technologies could not exist without advanced magnetic materials. Researchers constantly try to develop better magnetic materials to provide more efficient performance or entirely new applications, often by combining magnetic and non-magnetic elements in unusual configurations. Synchrotrons — powerful electron accelerators that generate intense light beams from the infra-red to high energy x-rays — offer unique insights into these new, high-performance magnetic compounds.

In this talk, Arena will provide an overview of synchrotrons and explain how the unique properties of the light from these machines can illuminate the path leading to better, more efficient magnetic materials.

Dario Arena earned a PhD in physics from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in 2000. He was a postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and awarded a National Research Council Research Fellowship in 2001, and was affiliated with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. while stationed at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). Since 2003, he has been a physicist at the NSLS at Brookhaven National Lab, where he is the spokesman of beam line U4B, the magnetic materials characterization beam line at NSLS.

Upcoming Astronomy Open Nights

Friday, October 3
Fred Walter, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences

Friday, October 31
Rosalba Perna, Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences

Friday, December 5
Adam Jacobs, Research Assistant, Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences



About Author

Leave A Reply