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Cosmic Trails 2

E. Caribbean • March 6–13, 2011



Alan Boss is a leading authority in the search for life beyond our Solar System. Author of The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets (Basic Books, 2009), Boss has given over five hundred public lectures, television and radio interviews, seminars, and conference talks, and works on a daily basis with journalists seeking commentary on the latest discoveries of planets outside our Solar System. His interpretations of the significance of the 400-odd extrasolar planet discoveries to date have become an expected component of exoplanet stories published in newspapers such as The New York Times and USA Today, read on websites such as, or heard on public radio stations nationwide.

Boss is a research staff member at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) in northwest Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1979, and spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Ames Reseach Center in California before joining the staff of DTM in 1981. Boss’ theoretical research focuses on using three-dimensional hydrodynamic codes to model the formation of stars and planetary systems. He has proposed an alternative means for forming the gas and ice giant planets of our Solar System and in extrasolar planetary systems, a scenario that is much faster than the conventional mechanism. Boss also leads an extrasolar planet search effort at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, an effort that seeks to become the first to discover an extrasolar planet by one of the oldest astronomical techniques of all, astrometry, by taking precise measurements of the positions of stars on the sky and searching for the wobble induced in those positions by their unseen, orbiting planets.

Boss is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Meteoritical Society, and the American Geophysical Union. Boss was the founding chair of the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Working Group on Extrasolar Planets, charged with maintaining the IAU’s official list of planets. He has been helping NASA plan its search for extrasolar planets since 1988 and continues to be active in helping to guide NASA’s efforts. Boss is currently the Past President of IAU Commission 51 on Bioastronomy and President of IAU Commission 53 on Extrasolar Planets.

He is also the Chair-Elect of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His first book about the search for planets outside the Solar System, Looking for Earths: The Race to Find New Solar Systems, was published in 1998. Minor Planet 29137 was named Alanboss in 1987. Boss hopes to use astrometry to discover the first giant planet with this classical technique, and, following the IAU’s naming convention, has already decided upon the name for this putative future exoplanet: “b”


Alan Dyer, a leading authority on astronomy gear, is well known to Sky & Telescope readers for his frequent reviews of telescopes and astrophoto equipment that have appeared in the magazine since 1996. “It’s a dream job for any amateur astronomer — to have new telescope toys sent to you for free. Pity you have to send them back!”

Dyer is the co-author, with Terence Dickinson, of the popular “bible” for amateurs, The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, a book now in its third edition and supported by the website he developed, He is also author of several children’s books on astronomy including Infinity: Stars, Insiders: Space, and Mission to the Moon. Says Dyer, “While the internet and its proliferation of services are wonderful — can we imagine life without them now? — I still think there’s nothing like a good book for learning about a hobby and a science as complex and diverse as astronomy.”

However, Dyer takes pride in using as many means as possible, from traditional print to new digital media, to promote astronomy. He blogs, tweets, and can be heard and seen on national radio and TV as one of Canada’s best-known astronomy popularizers. He has worked at several planetariums, most recently the TELUS World of Science in Calgary, writing and producing multimedia shows that have been staged across Canada, including a nationally-funded live stage production, Galileo Live!, created for the Year of Astronomy.

As an amateur astronomer, his interests focus on astrophotography. “I’ve taken up — then given up on — astrophotography several times in my hobby career. But the new generation of DSLR cameras is so amazing and so easy to use you can’t help but be hooked on doing imaging.” Dyer’s images have been published in many books, magazines, calendars, and websites. “My imaging interests are eclectic — if it’s in the sky, I like to shoot it, from scenic nightscapes to deep-sky close-ups.”

His other celestial obsession, solar eclipse chasing, has taken him to every continent, and to the Arctic and Antarctic, in pursuit of the Moon’s shadow, with 12 total eclipses to his credit. “People ask, ‘Why so many eclipses?’ I say: see just one and you’ll know why!” Asteroid 78434 is named for him.


Captain Steve Miller is Celestial Navigation Instructor at the Chapman School of Seamanship in Blank, Florida, holds a United States Coast Guard 100-ton Masters License, and is an American Sailing Association-certified Celestial Navigation Instructor. Steve enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1963 as a seaman recruit and entered active duty in January 1965. During his tour of active duty he specialized in Celestial Navigation (position finding using only the heavenly bodies) and earned the rank of Quartermaster Second Class. While on active duty Mr. Miller's vessel went on a six-month Mediterranean voyage leaving Newport, RI in early 1965. During that trip the ship transited the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean visiting such places as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia; Abadan, Iran; Mombasa, Kenya; Reunion Island; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Naples, Italy and Valencia, Spain. During this trip, Celestial Navigation was the primary method of navigation and was performed day in and day out. It was during this cruise that Steve learned and practiced every Sight Reduction method that was available.

After leaving active duty and attending Naval Reserve meetings, Steve was asked to teach Naval Reserve Officers Celestial Navigation, which he did for the next few years.

Many years after being discharged from the Navy, Steve earned his United States Coast Guard Masters license, in December 1989. He became very involved in teaching and preparing mariner students for their Master licenses. This led back to teaching Celestial Navigation and then to writing a celestial navigation textbook, Reaching for the Stars, in 1994 which, refined and evolved, was republished in 2000 as Celestial Navigation in the New Millennium (now out of print), for use at the Chapman School of Seamanship. For the past four years Steve has been working part-time with the Starpath School of Navigation as an online Celestial and Inland Navigation Instructor.

Steve is a member of the Foundation for the Promotion of the Art of Navigation and has been for many years

With his professional background in celestial navigation and a natural, burning curiosity, Steve was led to the world of astronomy. He started with an Orion 102mm Mak Cass telescope and membership in the Treasure Coast (FL) Astronomical Society in February 2002. In January 2004, started studying under the tutelage of Astronomer Michael Palermiti and joined the Amateur Research Group, led by Mike Palermiti. Steve is primarily interested in astrophotography focusing on lunar, planetary, and solar work. He works with a Nikon D200 Digital SLR camera and a Sony VX2100 Video camera for his photographic work. His primary telescope is a custom built 9" (228mm) f/13.5 Mak Cass with a carbon fiber tube. He also has an Intes 6" f/12 Mak Cass, and a PST-40 Ha Solar telescope.


Dr. Harold (“Hal”) McAlister was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1971, he attended the University of Virginia and received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy in 1973 and 1975. Following a two-year appointment as a post-doctoral researcher at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, McAlister joined the faculty of Georgia State University in 1977 where he is now Regents’ Professor of Astronomy. His earlier work was in the area of binary star speckle interferometry, which has now become the primary means for measuring the orbital motion in visual binary systems.

His research in high resolution astronomical imaging has been continuously supported by the National Science Foundation since 1978 with additional grant support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Naval Research Laboratory, the Space Telescope Science Institute as well as from private foundations. The total of this support exceeds $14 million. McAlister is the author or co-author of some 150 research publications and has served on numerous review, advisory, and oversight panels for the NSF and NASA. McAlister is the recipient of the 2007 Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for “significant observational results made possible by innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation.”

McAlister founded the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) at Georgia State in 1983 and continues to serve at its director. CHARA has gone on to build the world’s most powerful optical interferometric telescope array — the CHARA Array, located on the grounds of Mount Wilson Observatory. The Array produced the first image ever obtained for a resolved main sequence star — Altair — in 2007.

In addition to teaching and directing CHARA, McAlister also serves as CEO of the Mount Wilson Institute, a non-profit organization now housed at Georgia State, which manages the historic Mount Wilson Observatory under an agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He is currently leading an effort to create an extensive new Visitor Center on the mountain to celebrate the unique scientific heritage of Mount Wilson Observatory..


As a science writer and broadcaster, Ivan Semeniuk has spent much of his career covering new developments in the exploration of the solar system and cosmos. He is currently the science journalist in residence at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics where he produces the Embedded Universe blog and The Universe in Mind podcast. He is a regular contributor to Sky & Telescope and was the U.S. Bureau Chief for New Scientist magazine.

After receiving a Master’s degree in science journalism at Boston University he spent a decade with the Discovery Channel in Canada as a columnist and field producer specializing in space. He has covered all the major astronomical stories of the day, including the discovery of exo-planets, dark energy and the landings of robotic explorers on Mars and Saturn’s moon Titan. His reporting has taken him from the highest observatories on Earth to particle detectors deep underground, and extreme environments around the world where astrobiologists study the exotic frontiers of microbial life. He has also written and narrated two documentary series for television, Hubble’s Canvas and Cosmic Vistas.

Prior to his career as a science journalist he was staff astronomer at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, where he developed planetarium shows, exhibits, and public programs on a wide variety of science topics. He is a passionate public speaker and an award-winning instructor of continuing education courses. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

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