Celestial events happen all the time, such as solar or lunar eclipses, but some astral phenomena are more rare, such as the “supermoon” that occurred last month or a meteorite falling from the sky.
Kevin Manning, a retired astrophysicist and former NASA consultant, plans to give local residents a glimpse into our mysterious universe during his program called “Astronomy for Everyone: Size & Scale of the Universe” at the Signal Hill Library on Monday, July 15 from 7pm to 8:30pm.
“It’s a program about the size and scale of the universe, from the very small to the very large,” he said. “It’s a family program for all ages.”
During the nearly hour-and-a-half-long program, which is part of the library’s free event series “Night at the Library,” Manning will give a Powerpoint presentation, showing video footage of cosmic occurrences.
Then, if weather permits, attendees will be able to peer through his powerful 200-millimeter, eight-inch-diameter-mirror reflector telescope, which he says gathers 500 times more light than the unaided eye.
The telescope will be set up outside the library, said Charles Hughes, assistant librarian, who added that the library wasn’t able to set it up on Hilltop Park, the highest peak in the area, because it would have been too difficult to direct residents up the hill and the event would have caused too much noise for nearby residents.
That doesn’t bother Manning, however, who said there should be no problem getting a good view of the moon, stars and planets, including the rings of Saturn, from the bottom of the hill. “The moon and planets are bright enough that you don’t have to have a really dark sky to view them easily,” he said.
Manning, who founded “Look Up To The Stars,” an educational program about astronomy, has given numerous presentations to libraries across the nation, promoting scientific literacy from coast to coast. He went nationwide with “Star Tour USA” about two years ago after mainly giving presentations on the East Coast, where he is from.
Hughes said he expects about 65 people to show up for the astronomy program. The library’s last space-themed event that took place in April was well attended, he said. The event included Signal Hill author Marty Steere, who talked about his book “Sea of Crisis,” a fiction thriller based around the 1976 Apollo 18 moon mission, and a Downey Space Center specialist, who discussed the Mars rover Curiosity.
Manning said space will always be an interesting subject because it’s always changing.
“There’s always new things happening in space,” he said. “I think people are innately curious about space science, and that is indicated by the number of people that show up at my programs.”
The most recent and noticeable cosmic event that occurred was the supermoon, which is when the moon is closest to Earth during a full-moon cycle, making it the brightest and largest full moon. This occurred on June 23, sending people to take snapshots of the massive-looking lunar disk.
The largest supermoons, however, occur when the moon is at its very closest point to Earth, which takes place about every 20 to 30 years, though supermoons that aren’t as quite as large in the sky may occur many times in between, such was the case with the most recent one, Manning explained.
An event when the moon is farthest from Earth on its orbital path at the same time of a solar eclipse, however, leaves a “ring of fire” around the edge of the moon, he said. Manning said he has footage of this event that occurred on May 10. It could not be seen from the United States but was viewable from Australia, Manning said.
He said a sunspot group has recently formed on the sun, stretching to about 40,000 kilometers or 11 times the diameter of the Earth. If this triggers solar flares it could send electrically charged particles to the planet, disrupting radio waves and creating an aurora borealis to migrate south of the North Pole, he said.
Upcoming celestial events include the ISON comet, which is expected to be bright enough to be seen without a telescope in November, as well as the Perseid meteor shower coming in August. “It’s always up in the air whether it’s going to be a fantastic display or it fizzles out,” he said.