Presented by Buzz Aldrin Middle School
173 Bellevue Ave.
Tuesday, April 24, 7 p.m.
Featuring astronomer Kevin Manning
By GWEN OREL
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The universe is vast.
Earth is small.
Appreciating the wonder and scale of space can lead to greater appreciation of planet earth, said astronomer Kevin Manning. He is the presenter at “Star Tours” on Tuesday, April 24. The event is open to the public, and will raise funds for Buzz Aldrin field trips.
Dan Taylor, who coordinates STEM (Science, technology, education and math) at Buzz Aldrin, said there isn’t an astronomy class or club at Buzz Aldrin, and hopes the presentation sparks interest in the field.
“I study the stars, and follow the location of the constellations,” Taylor said. The school was only named for Buzz Aldrin a year and a half ago, so bringing space science in for the students feels right.
Manning, who has worked as a consultant with NASA and won awards in his field, has given his presentation to libraries, schools, churches and corporations. The presentation is designed to spark interest in science and promote scientific literacy, he said.
The 90-minute presentation will include slides and clips of video. Manning will also bring some hands-on items, including a pair of giant binoculars and a model of the night sky called “The Celestial Sphere.”
Seeing the sun, and its size compared to larger stars, clusters of galleries, small subatomic particles, as well as planets, gives people an “indelible impression of how incredible the universe really is.” Human beings are “dead center in the middle” in terms of size,” he said.
Manning fell in love with space at age four, when his parents bought him a 45 rpm record about the moon. He can still sing some of the lyrics, “A place where there is no air, when you’re on the moon.”
At nine, he looked through a friend’s telescope at the craters of the moon and the rings of Saturn. Seeing the ice crystal rings of Saturn through a telescope bowled him over. “It looks like a cartoon, like it can’t be real. But it really is the planet Saturn, almost a billion miles away, and it looks like an oil painting in the telescope. Another world,” Manning said.
He got his own telescope the following year. And then a few years later, the first man walked on the moon.
While there may be life on other planets, he doubts that UFO.s come from space. Astronomers and astrophysicists have their telescopes pointed at the stars all day, he said, and yet no astronomer has ever reported a sighting. The telescopes enhance human vision by tens of thousands, so astronomers would see a flying saucer much earlier than someone on the ground.
“If an astronomer sees a sighting, you’ve got my undivided attention,” he said with a laugh.
He is a skeptic about whether life on other planets is intelligent life. “Maybe we’re it,” he said. “I’ve looked at a large number of things in the universe, through very powerful telescopes, and I’ve never seen anything quite as beautiful, quite as intriguing as the view of blue marble Earth from space. When the Apollo astronauts, en route to the moon, left earth’s orbit, they took pictures of the earth looking back. It’s so beautiful your heart just melts when you look at it. Even the rings of Saturn does not compare to that.”
Planet Earth is unique, in the “Goldilocks zone,” not too close and not too far out from the sun, but in a place where water is in a liquid form and life can exist, he said.
“We do need to take care of our world,” Manning said. “This is our one planet for now. And we need to take better care of it.”