November Skygazers Meeting—The Discovery of a Dark Star

Artist’s impression, with permission: NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute

Sam Miller

The SaddleBrooke Skygazers Astronomy Club is pleased to host Jay Holberg, Ph.D., a retired astrophysicist and faculty member of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, on Sunday, Nov. 12, at the DesertView Theater, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, at 7 p.m. Dr. Holberg will discuss the star Sirius and its tiny companion, Sirius B, which is a small but very hot white dwarf star. He has studied Sirius with a multitude of space-based instruments, from the Voyager Mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, and has authored a popular science book (Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky), which discusses the fascinating history and the science of the binary Sirius system.

In 1844 a German astronomer published a paper in a British astronomical journal containing the startling news that a mysterious unseen body was producing wobbles in the proper motion of the star Sirius. In 1862 the mystery was resolved when a self-taught but soon-to-be famous telescope maker in Cambridge Port, Mass., accidentally noticed a faint “star” in the glare of Sirius. Dr. Holberg will explore the fascinating story behind this discovery and some of the profound astrophysics that has flowed from it over the last 161 years.

Dr. Holberg received his Ph.D. in physics in 1974 from the University of California Berkeley. He then taught physics at the University of Nairobi, returning to the U.S. in 1977. Beginning in 1978, he worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena on the Voyager Missions to the outer planets. In 1980 Dr. Holberg moved to Tucson and worked with the Voyager Ultraviolet Spectrometer team here, which was incorporated into the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona in 1983. His primary areas of research have included planetary rings and stellar astronomy. He has conducted observations at major observatories around the world, as well as space-based observations from numerous NASA spacecraft, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Holberg retired from the University of Arizona in 2018 and now resides in SaddleBrooke.

The SaddleBrooke Skygazers Astronomy Club meets monthly (and typically) on the second Sunday evening at 7 p.m. at the DesertView Theater. The fall Star Parties are scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 14, at the softball field parking lot. The public is welcome to both meetings and Star Parties. Club and Star Party information can be obtained by emailing Sam Miller at [email protected].