The Woodward News

January 29, 2013

Astronomy presentation planned at Northwestern

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — One of NASA's leading scientists will be sharing his knowledge on near-Earth space objects as part of a teleconference presentation tonight (Jan. 29) at the NWOSU-Woodward campus.

The presentation, which is set to start at 8 p.m., will feature Dr. Donald K. Yeoman, a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he is manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object program office and supervisor of the Solar System Dynamics Group.

NWOSU Natural Science Adjunct Instructor Bobette Doerrie explained, "Dr. Yeoman is the primary researcher for searching for these near-Earth space rocks. The telecon is a long distance presentation in which he'll be speaking with us by phone while we show his slides."

Doerrie gave a brief summary of the areas on which Yeoman's presentation will focus.

"Yeoman will be going over what we know about comets and asteroids and how we know it, the amount of knowledge we've gained about them even within the last 100 years, the importance of studying them to learn about the history of the universe and how they might impact the Earth again, and finally what we can do in a situation where the Earth might actually get hit by a space rock," she said.

Doerrie said now is the perfect time to hold the presentation on near-Earth objects, since a space rock will be coming between the Earth and the moon on Feb. 15.

"The Earth has been struck by these things in the past," Doerrie said.  "About every 100 years we get one sizable enough to leave an impression. The last was in the early 1900s."

She says not to worry though, as the space rock passing nearby on Feb. 15 will not hit the Earth.

Tonight's presentation is sponsored by NWOSU and the Night Sky Network, which is a network of astronomy clubs connected with NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as well as the Starcreek Astronomical Society, which is a local club for amateur astronomers.

As an effort to educate the public on astronomy and the benefits of exploring space, Yeoman's presentation will be free and open to the public.

"This may be the only time people will be able to hear a speaker of this importance, so we'd love to have everyone come out. You don't have to have a college degree to enjoy the presentation, it'd even be enjoyable and educational to bring children out to as well," Doerrie said.

Doerrie went on to explain why the study of space objects is so important.

"Well, first of all, it helps you understand our place in the solar system. Some of these objects are nearly 4.5 billion years old, and they have a lot to tell us about the beginning of the universe. They also help us learn more about the Earth's surface as it explains some of the craters around the planet," she said.

Doerrie went on to explain there are additional benefits to developing a better understanding of astronomy.

"It will also help you keep from getting terrified by people who say the end of the world is coming. People should come out and gain some information so the next time they get e-mails telling them something's going to hit the Earth, this will provide them with the information necessary to keep them from being taken in. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way towards keeping people from being taken in by hoaxes," she said.