A Year in Space Martz-Kohl Observatory Celebrates Top Scientists


Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Martz-Kohl Observatory Board of Directors

Martz-Kohl Observatory has introduced more than a dozen of the nation’s top astronomers and space science experts to our guests, local residents, and students this year. Plans are now under way to do the same for this popular and always-inspiring special guest speaker series in 2022.

A Space Science Year

Engaging MKO audience in person and on Zoom, the guest lineup for 2021 featured:

  • Dr. Lynn Cominsky – Spacetime Symphony: Gravitational Waves and Black Holes. A scientist who watches the cataclysmic collisions of black holes across the universe.
  • Dr. Darren Williams – Probing the Earth from Astronomical Distances. Ever wonder what Earth might look like from ET’s home planet?
  • Daniel Krysak – Exploring Mars and Jupiter: The Mars Curiosity Rover and Juno Missions. Dan drives the Mars Rovers every day – our first real Martian.
  • Dolores Hill, Dr. Patrick Miller and Carl Hergenrother – Target NEOs! Searching for and Characterizing Asteroids via Citizen Science. Space explorers protecting Earth.
  • Alexandra Yep – Young Stars Amid External Radiation and Colliding Associations. This research earned Alex her PhD. Thesis defense was later conducted at MKO.
  • Ted Wolfe – Armchair Stargazing: Remote Astro Imaging in Chile. Inspiring and amazing astrophotography seen worldwide.
  • Dan Gray and Howard Banich – Upgrading the Martz-Kohl Observatory & Achieving Diffraction Limited Resolution. Making MKO fully robotic and adding ultra-sharp vision.
    Peter Williams – Machine Learning: Concepts and Use Case in Mapping the Universe. How artificial intelligence is advancing space exploration.
  • Dr. Robin Elgart – Space Radiation: It’s Everywhere We Want to Be! A NASA scientist works to keep astronauts alive in deadly environments, in space and on planets.
  • Donn Starkey – The Science of Variable Stars. The science of the Galaxy’s flashing, blinking lighthouses.

Readers can view videos of selected presentations by visiting www.martzobservatory.org and clicking on an image of any speaker. Please help MKO continue this series online by donating to the observatory. Please stay tuned! Another amazing year in space is coming in 2022.

Keep Looking Up

Rain and snow are coming, but there’s nothing like a spectacular meteor shower. The annual Taurid meteor shower is peaking this week, from November 5 through 12.

Comets fall apart. They shed their “hair”—the glowing coma—a cloud of gas and dust that trails for millions of miles behind it across the dark night sky. Sometimes they leave swarms of debris and rubble along their path and Planet Earth flies through them. Those are the bits we see as fiery meteors and fireballs—shooting stars—streaking across the sky.

The Taurid meteor shower is made from debris broken off of Comet Encke.

Moonlight will not be a problem. This week’s slender crescent moon will set around 6:30 p.m. local time. For most of the week, the night will be dark enough for meteor viewing.

And if you’d rather watch man-made sky events, try https://www.space.com/6870-spot-satellites.html and spot satellites, from the Hubble Telescope to the International Space Station, and more.

The Observatory is now reopened to the public. Please plan to visit. Masking and vaccination guidelines apply.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.