Stella Kafka, Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), gave a dynamic talk on variable stars, terming them "the good, the bad, and the explosive". Good variable stars show very regular periodic signals that can be directly tied to physical processes - like stellar pulsations. Bad variable stars have messier variability, such as star spots rotating in and out of view as they evolve. Finally, some stars explode and suddenly brighten by orders of magnitude. They may explode once (supernovae) or experience smaller surface eruptions (classical novae).
The AAVSO has been collecting data on variable stars for over a hundred years since its founding at the Harvard Observatory in 1911. They are an organization of amateurs who observe variable stars, and their data contributes to professional astronomical research. Even interested members of the public without telescopes can contribute (website).
After Stella's talk, undergraduate Tanay Bhandarkar showed recent pictures of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons mission. Post-doc Shy Genel presented movies on the 3D wall. The team on the roof, led by graduate student Yong Zheng, were mostly thwarted by clouds, but managed to briefly observe the Pleiades.
-- Steph Douglas (graduate student)