Dr. Mark McConnell, a noted expert in gamma ray astronomy, will be the guest speaker of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England on Aug. 2. Gamma ray astronomy is the observation of gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. COURTESY PHOTO

KENNEBUNK —  The next meeting of the Astronomical Society of Northern New England will be at 7:30 pm on Friday, Aug. 2 at The New School, 38 York St., Kennebunk.

All programs of ASNNE are free and open to the general public. Prior to the Meeting, beginners are welcome to attend “Astronomy 101” by our own Starlady Joan, commencing at 6:30 pm.

At our August Meeting, ASNNE is proud to present Professor Mark McConnell. The title of his talk is: “Gamma-Ray Bursts – A Scientific Detective Story.”

McConnell is a full Professor in the Physics Department and Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire. His research in gamma-ray astronomy offers an insight into some of the most energetic processes that take place in the Universe.

Students are an integral part of McConnell’s research. Students, both graduate and undergraduate, participate in all aspects of his work.

His academic career started at Case Western Reserve University, where he completed his undergraduate work in 1980. Coming to UNH for graduate work, he obtained his PhD in 1987.

For his PhD thesis, he worked on the development of a balloon-borne gamma-ray telescope. Post-doctorate work at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich followed, where Dr. McConnell worked on the COMPTEL instrument for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) mission.

Returning to UNH in 1989, he continued his involvement in CGRO, which was launched by the Space Shuttle in 1991. His scientific studies with CGRO focused on research involving the accretion of matter onto compact objects (such as neutron stars and black holes), studies of gamma-ray bursts, and studies of high energy radiations from solar flares.

His recent career has focused on the development of new detectors for gamma-ray astronomy, some of which have flown on high-altitude balloons, with a focus on measuring the polarization of gamma rays in gamma-ray bursts and solar flares. He is currently working with colleagues at NASA to place a gamma-ray burst polarimeter on the International Space Station (ISS).

After having spent five years as chair of the UNH Physics Department, McConnell is now serving as Director of a branch office of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) on the UNH campus. SwRI is the organization that, among other accomplishments, leads both the New Horizons and Juno missions.

ASNNE is a local association of amateur astronomers that meets monthly at the New School, on Route 1, in Kennebunk. Meeting on the first Friday of each month, all those interested in astronomy are welcome; from stargazers and hobbyists, to serious observers, astrophotographers, and those interested in astronomical theory. The general public is also most welcome.

The ASNNE organization also hosts Star Parties at our own Talmage Observatory at Starfield on Route 35 in West Kennebunk.

For more information about ASNNE, including directions and events, or to contact the club, please visit www.ASNNE.org.