Discovering Things Never-Before-Seen: Dangers and Treasures in Deep Space

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January’s special guest speaker, Carl Hergenrother, Executive Director of ALPO, Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers.

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Martz-Kohl Observatory Board of Directors

Comets live in the deepest reaches of outer space. Some of them visit Earth’s neighborhood only once in a lifetime, or even only once in a thousand years or more. Hunting them makes the proverbial needle in a haystack seem easier to find than the nose on your own face. Yet, Carl Hergenrother has discovered four comets and a more than a dozen asteroids in search of one that might someday crash into Earth wiping out cities, continents, or even life itself.

Carl will be Martz-Kohl’s special guest speaker on Wednesday evening, January 19, 2022, at 7:30 pm. Guests at the observatory will join Carl in a Zoom teleconference with Zoom participants from across the country. This is a return visit to MKO by Carl, a fascinating and engaging speaker.

Some of the more interesting comets discovered in recent years will be presented as well as the science contributed by observers with no more than modest backyard equipment. The public is invited to visit the observatory on Wednesday evening, January 19, 2022, at 7:30 pm, and join this fascinating and inspiring conversation. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.*

Carl is the Coordinator of the Comets Section of the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, ALPO, and has just begun a term as Executive Director. Earth, unfortunately, is not entirely safe from bombardment from outer space, but professional astronomers like Carl Hergenrother along with amateur sky watchers around the world, have mounted a deep sky search for potentially deadly invaders on a collision course with Earth.

But mostly, Earth’s path around the sun is quite clear and sky watchers can experience the pure joy of observing these dynamic objects, and in the process make scientifically useful contributions to the knowledge of our Solar System.

2022 will mark ALPO’s 75th anniversary devoted to the study of all bodies in our solar system and of planets in alien systems. Their primary goals are to stimulate, coordinate, and promote the study of these bodies using methods and instruments that are available to both amateur and professional astronomers. The ALPO Comets Section has been at the forefront of citizen science comet research since the late 1950s.

Carl spent most of the past decade working on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to retrieve samples from near-Earth asteroid Bennu. His two primary contributions to OSIRIS-REx were the selection of Bennu as the target and the novel and surprising discovery that Bennu is routinely ejecting small particles of itself into space. He has since moved on to Ascending Node Technologies, LLC, a small business developing spacecraft planning and operations software.

It’s Your Observatory

Martz-Kohl Observatory is non-profit, all volunteer association mainly supported by the generosity of ordinary citizens who visit and enjoy their own experience of space travel by telescope and the naked eye. We are now reopened to the public.

*Mask and vaccination protocols apply. Thank you for your support.

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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.