Minutes of Y’s Men Meeting of April 13, 2017

      Martin Yellin. PhD.

It is rare that we enjoy a presentation about astronomy delivered by a member of the Y’s Men that combines brilliance with wit and humor.

Marty noted that his interest in astronomy began as a ten year old sleeping on a fire escape and looking up at the stars. 

Marty began his formal education obtaining a BS and MS in engineering and later achieving a PhD. He worked on the Hexagon Project, a spy satellite critical to national defense and the Hubble telescope which revolutionized the study of the universe. After retirement, Marty studied genetics, cell biology, and cancer. His previous Y’s Men lectures on those subjects were as fascinating as this one and displayed a mastery of the subject matter.  Marty is our very own engineering and science renaissance man.

With the Hubble telescope and the Webb currently under construction, this is an exciting time in astronomy with new discoveries suggesting that we are three years away from confirming that life exists on other planets and twenty years from communicating with them. The Webb has ten times the power of the Hubble to see the stars and planets. The vastness of the universe with galaxies, planets, borders on the incomprehensible with the number exceeding all the grains of sand on the earth.

Potentially one planet has the elements that support life, as we are made of those elements that reached this planet from exploding stars-super novas. We are made from star dust. The study of a planet’s atmosphere can determine if life can be supported.

The Hubble telescope weighing 25m tons is a milestone is space study compared to land based instruments.  In the sky, it is always night, excellent resolution, good weather and works 24/7

It took seven years to design and the mirror is the largest. Once in space the mirror had to be repaired. To date there have been five space missions to update technology and enhance pointing accuracy. The Hubble will eventually become obsolete, as there is no longer capacity for space missions to update/repair the equipment.  The training of the personnel to launch the Hubble from the space craft required space simulation-no gravity with all the technical activities to launch practiced under water.

Time/distance is measured in light years.  Marty referred to a telescope as being a “time machine” in that the light we see may be from stars that are no longer in existence. Time is measured in light years with stars being a number of light years away. If a star or planet is ten light years away the distance in one light year is the number of seconds in a year-31,449,600 x 186,000 –the speed of light x ten.


What is theory of gravity?  Answer-very complicated. 

How is planet heat measured?  Answer-very complicated

What is Higgs-Boson? Answer-smallest piece of nothing and very complicated