National Capital Section
of the Optical Society of America

 Seventh 2016-2017 meeting of the
National Capital Section of the Optical Society of America

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, 5:30 PM

At the NASA/Goddard Visitors Center, ICESat Road, 
Greenbelt, MD


Speaker: Dr.  Joseph Nuth, NASA

 Goddard Space Flight Center

 “Planetary Defense, Impact Hazards, & OSIRIS Rex”



Human civilization has come a long way since realizing that comets and asteroids posed a threat that has previously caused major extinction events on the Earth: that an asteroid impact was the probable cause for the extinction of the dinosaurs was a shock to many earth scientists in 1980 who firmly believed that forces outside the Earth had virtually no effect on terrestrial evolution. Since then the number of known asteroids has increased from ~5000 to more than 700,000 thanks to dedicated search efforts: these are tracked and their orbits are projected well into the future to search for potential threats. Following a brief overview of the OSIRIS-REx mission and its role in Planetary Defense, this presentation will focus on steps that might be followed if an imminent impact hazard were detected and how our potential actions are constrained by the time available before impact. Implications of this very serious dependence on time for future priorities in the Planetary Defense Program will then be discussed.


Joe Nuth came to Goddard Space Flight Center in the summer of 1975 as a student intern in the Astrochemistry Branch (691) after receiving B.S. degrees in Astronomy and Chemistry from the University of Maryland. He continued studies at the University of Maryland and research at GSFC receiving a M.S. in Geochemistry (1977) and Ph.D. in Chemistry (1982) based partly on this research. He won a NAS/NRC Fellowship (1981) to study the formation and properties of dust in stellar environments and spent a year (1984) as a NAS/NRC Research Management Associate at NASA Headquarters before returning to 691 as a contractor (1985), civil servant (1986) and Branch Head (1990-2008). He continued his association with NASA HQ as the Discipline Scientist for the Origins of Solar Systems (1989–1994) and for the Planetary Materials and Geochemistry (1995-6) Research Programs. He has authored more than 150 refereed publications and has been (and continues to be) involved in several proposed missions to asteroids and comets. He is currently Deputy Project Scientist for the OSIRIS-REx mission and the Senior Scientist for Primitive Bodies in the Solar System Exploration Division at GSFC.



5:30PM                       Good Luck Road Gate Opens; GSFC Center Gate Closed.

5:30 – 6:30pm             Students arrive and arrange poster projects for display

6:30 – 7:30PM            Dinner.

7:30PM –                    Student recognition & awards

8:00 – 9PM –              Featured talk – Dr. Joseph Nuth

                         “OSIRIS-Rex, Planetary Defense & Impact Hazards”

Jim Heany,


Awarded Students and Their Winning Projects in Optics & Photonics


Junior Division


Tiffany Costa   “Which Solar desalinization Process Works Best for Making Fresh Water”


Alayna D’Avino   WiFi Cannon”


David Day   “Computing the Algorithmic 3D Optical Properties of Wave Reflections in a Flood Effect Rendered on an Image”


Allen Gaskins   “Detect & Go”


Jonah Merriam   “Solar Steam Generation for Soil Sterilization”


Bryan Nichols   “The Color Nullifier”


Sophia Riazi-Sekowski     “Decoding Diffraction – Exploring Light”


Elizabeth Scherping   “Solar Distillation Effective in the Purification of Water”


Tuan-Minh Tran   “LED Fluorescent and Incandescent Bulbs: Which One is best for the Environment?”


Henry Zamore   “Refraction Action”



Senior Division


Niki Gooya   “Non-invasive Measurement of Glucose & Glutamine”

Samyukta Rao


Anna Humphrey   “The Mathematical identification of Exoplanet Candidates Through N-Body Simulations”


Danielle Jefferson & Kobi Robinson   Wait ! Watch Out for the……….”


Jarrett Lash & Hahnbee Lee  “Solar Energy Out of a Limb”


Samuel Mickel & An Nguyen   “Hydrodynamic Robotic design””


Margaret Norton   “Effect of Pulsed LED Illumination on Basil Plant Growth”


Shreya Shrete    “Efficiency of Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells using Various Natural Dyes”


Jonathan Simak   “Fish Identification Using Image Analysis”



DIRECTIONS: to NASA/Goddard Visitor Center, Greenbelt, MD

From Washington, DC:

Take the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Rt. 295) north to Greenbelt Road (Rt. 193).  Take Greenbelt Road east for approximately two miles.  The main gate will be on the left at the first traffic light after Cipriano Road.  Continue on to the next traffic light and turn left onto ICESat Road (formerly Soil Conservation Road).  Take your first left to reach the Visitor Center.


From Baltimore:

Take the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (Route 295) South to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.  Exit at Powder Mill road, turn left and go under the bridge.  Turn right at the first traffic light and go about 3 miles to Goodluck Road and turn right when you reach Greenbelt Road.  Take your first right at ICESat Road, which is what this section of what was Soil Conservation road is now called.  Take your first left to reach the Visitors Center.

A map to the NASA Goddard Visitor's center is at their website:


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Membership Dues for 2016-2017 - Dues for the National Capital Section are free during the first year of membership. After the first year, dues are $10 per year. If you have not yet paid, please send $10 ($5 for students) to the NCS/OSA secretary at the address given below. If you are not sure if you have paid, please call (301) 286-0690 or e-mail to check.

Upcoming Events: Graduate Student Poster Competition, University of Maryland, Thursday April 13, 2017; More Details to follow in our April Newsletter.




Dr. George Carruthers, right, and William Conway, a project manager at the Naval Research Laboratory, examine the gold-plated ultraviolet camera/spectrograph, the first moon-based observatory that Carruthers developed for the Apollo 16 mission. Apollo 16 astronauts placed the observatory on the moon in April 1972

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