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Wednesday, September 27 2023 @ 02:45 pm EDT

Comets - Ghosts of Myth and Legend - Tails of Creation

Education Outreach
AOAS Presents: Dr. P. Clay Sherrod of Arkansas Sky Observatory, speaking on "Comets" at our regular meeting on April 16, 2004, in the Rose Room at Creekmore Park beginning at 7 pm. The public is invited, and there is NO admission fee.

An educator and researcher in earth and physical sciences, astronomy and archeology, Dr. P. Clay Sherrod ("Dr. Clay" as his students knew him) has devoted over three decades to the advancement of public knowledge and appreciation of the pure and applied sciences. Now retired but continuing private research and outreach programs, Sherrod has published hundreds of papers and documents in scientific journals and publications worldwide, and numerous books in archeology, meteorology and climatology, archeoastronomy, astronomy and biomedical research ( http://www.arksky.org/pubs.htm ). Advanced degrees that have led to the diversity and cross-connecting of these sciences include astronomy and space science, archeology, physics and anthropology.

Complete descriptions of all past works and present pursuits from his private observatory and research facilities - Arkansas Sky, Inc - can be found at the website for the Arkansas Sky Observatory at http://www.arksky.org.Arkansas Sky Inc. and Arkansas Sky Observatory is now a completely private facility operating through the Sherrod family trusts.

With past students now teaching and doing applied research throughout North America, his methods of motivating those interested in the sciences through innovative and many times radical teaching, have led to hundreds of individuals who have success stories in their applied sciences careers. After many years in research and educational astronomy in the 1970's, Sherrod entered into the fascinating research of archeoastronomy in 1979, to decipher patterns of prehistoric North American natives who developed early calendars, engineering principals of construction using celestial orientation, and many times developed entire cultural identities around celestial events. This research, writing and subsequent lecturing world wide included studies done for two decades in Central America, Mexico, the Mississippi River valley and throughout the North American continent for ancient motifs - glyphs, art and writings - inscribed on caves and rock shelters throughout the land.

The famous prehistoric mound sites at Cahokia, Toltec, Spiro and other central USA locations are among those studied, as well as Mayan and Incan ruins throughout locations in central America. In addition, Sherrod's extensive 7-year excursions into the mountains of the Ozark and Arkansas River valleys led to the independent discovery of over 1,060 new prehistoric bluff dweller sites with pictographs and ancient glyphs number in the tens of thousands.

Astronomical studies began in 1970 with the Arkansas Sky, Inc., Sherrod's private non-profit and educational research and educational program. Although now retired, the work, publications and outreach from Sherrod and Arkansas Sky Observatory is now greater than ever and ranks among the top in private non-profit smaller facilities. His daily contributions to amateur astronomers and aspiring students is well known throughout the world: "Dochas never heard a legitimate question from some 'newbie' that he won't at least take the time to try to answer," wrote one recent correspondent.

Studies by Sherrod at Arkansas Sky include planetary atmospheres -particularly those of Jupiter and Mars, real-time computerized night surveys (The ASO Sky Patrols) of cataclysmic variable stars and novae, faint comets and NEOs. On any given clear night as many as two dozen comets are monitored by one of the three ASO facilities throughout Arkansas, with daily reports issued as part of the Harvard/MPC network of astrometric observatories worldwide. In addition, Doc Clay is known far and wide for his innovative instrumentation and adaptation of conventional telescopes for advanced use by both amateur and professional observers.

In 2001, the Sherrod family completely computerized the ASO Sky Patrol for near-real-time automated searches, data recording and acquisition of hundreds of objects nightly; it is not uncommon that by the time dawn has emerged each clear morning, that data on morphology changes on Jupiter's clouds, studies of recent passing NEO objects the night before and perhaps 18 to 20 comets are all neatly recorded, and reported to agencies throughout the astronomical community. All data on this innovative program is acquired through robotic pre-programmed sequences for the equipment, followed by precise GO TO acquisition of each object, computer measurement and downloads of data, and subsequent automated data reduction and reporting as the datastreams in.

Presently ASO operates three observatory facilities with robotic Sky Patrol studies: Conway, Arkansas where three 0.31m SCT's operate nightly, each dedicated to a specific patrol project; Petit Jean Mountain, where the newest 0.41m custom Meade f/3.6 SCT robotic telescope monitors comets to magnitude 21 on clear nights; and, Cascade Mountain in north-central Arkansas with its computerized 0.41m robotic fast photographic Newtonian telescope for asteroids and NEOs.

In addition to these pure pursuits, Sherrod still makes time for lecturing, teaching and hands-on demonstrations to thousands of young students, retirement communities, colleges and universities and the general public. In his free time, he is an accomplished and award-winning free-hand artist, poet and short story writer and trumpet player, and with his wife, sharing an occasional free moment at their homes in Conway, and on Petit Jean Mountain, Arkansas.
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