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Learn about the cosmos with Cornell astronomers

For more than 30 years, a small group of astronomy buffs have gathered to learn about the wonders of the universe from Cornell astronomers. “Friends of Astronomy” was founded in 1992 by Bob Cowie 55, BME 56, MBA 57 and the late Yervant Terzian, The Tisch Distinguished University Professor in Cornell’s Department of Astronomy.

Over the years, Friends of Astronomy have celebrated the launch of the Contour spacecraft in 2002, toured the Meteor Crater in Arizona, and watched the Sun cross Cassini’s meridian on the summer solstice in the cathedral in Bologna in 2014.

The group welcomes anyone with a curiosity about the universe to attend lectures, workshops, excursions, and courses geared to amateur astronomers.

With the pandemic, the group pivoted to a virtual format. Martha Haynes, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Astronomy, and Chuck Mund, Jr. 81 organize monthly Zoom events led by Cornell astronomers (faculty, research staff, and student experts) on a variety of topics—from extrasolar planets to the exploration of the life under the Antarctic ice sheet in preparation for future missions to frozen worlds.

“Friends come from diverse walks of life in business, law, industry, and academia at all levels,” Haynes says, “and the events include time for social exchange and, of course, lots of questions.” She invites anyone who might be interested in participating in upcoming remote or in-person events to email the Friends of Astronomy at

Upcoming talks this spring are:

  • “The Big Bang: What We Know, Don't Know, Can't Know,” led by Professors Ira Wasserman and Nick Battaglia on March 21, at 8:00 p.m. EST
  • “Alien Earths and How to Find Them,” led by Professor Lisa Kaltenegger on April 19, at 8:00 p.m. EST
  • “Images of Discovery and Wonder: A History of NASA Research and Public Engagement at SPIF,” led by Professor Alex Hayes and Zoe Lerner, SPIF Manager, on May 23, at  8:00 p.m. EST