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Tuesday, July 23 2024 @ 11:35 pm EDT

Galileo Events and Star Party Set for January

Galileo Galilei
Fort Smith, Arkansas — The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith will host special events and provide a “star party” in January to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo's historic discovery of the moons of Jupiter with the newly invented telescope.

Dr. Todd Timmons of Fort Smith, professor of mathematics and history of science, said multiple events will be scheduled on Jan. 19 and 21.

“Each activity is devoted to Galileo, his work and his significance,” said Dr. Timmons. “Galileo's discovery of the moons of Jupiter is one of the most important events leading to the eventual acceptance of the Copernican system and a critical component of the scientific revolution.”

Sponsors are the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society and UA Fort Smith's College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; and the Center for Lifelong Learning.

A showing of “Galileo's Battle for the Heavens,” a PBS dramatization of Dava Sobel's best-selling book “Galileo's Daughter,” is planned for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 in room 101 of the Math-Science Building.

Dr. Kerry Magruder, curator of the history of science collections at the University of Oklahoma, will present a multi-media talk titled “The Works of Galileo: A Guided Tour” at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 21 in the Boreham Conference Center, room 101 of the Baldor Technology Center.

Those attending Magruder's talk will move to the Campus Green immediately after he speaks to view the moons of Jupiter and other revelations discovered by Galileo.

“All events are free and are open to the public,” said Dr. Timmons. “We encourage everyone interested in the PBS documentary to read the book prior to the event.”

Dr. Timmons said he was excited about what Dr. Magruder will share when he comes to Fort Smith.

“OU's Galileo exhibit is one of the most extensive in the world,” said Dr. Timmons, “and this is a wonderful opportunity for residents of our area to glimpse what is included in the exhibit.”

Dr. Timmons said Dr. Magruder's talk will present Galileo's life and works, showing what Galileo accomplished and what made him an international sensation.

The Sidereus Nuncius, or "The Starry Messenger"
“To combine Kerry Magruder's talk and the star party afterward gives us a wonderful evening of activity that's informative, historical and exciting,” said Dr. Timmons. “Add in the documentary earlier in the week and anyone can see that UA Fort Smith is providing a significant educational contribution for this community. Plus, it's going to be a lot of fun.”

Dr. Timmons said the opportunity to hear about Galileo and then view some of what Galileo saw, through the assistance of the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society, will “bring it all together.”

David Grosvold, president of the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society, agreed, saying he and other members of the AOAS were eager to share in the January activities.

“AOAS will be bringing several telescopes to the campus for this event,” said Grosvold, “telescopes that are far larger than the type Galileo used to perform his observations. In fact, some of the telescopes we bring will enable us to reach not only the outer edges of the solar system, but to the edges of the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond.”

AOAS member Bob Moody, who is also a past president of the group, said the star party would be an event that appeals to all ages.

“We regularly offer these free public observing events all around the River Valley to people from 5 or 6 years old to as much as 95 or 96, and everyone has a great time,” said Moody. “I've seen many seniors get more ‘giddy' than the kids due to their being able to understand what they're seeing a little better.”

He said that seeing something through a telescope is like taking a trip back in time.

“Consider our moon is about one-half light-seconds away,” said Moody. “Our sun is 8.3 light-minutes way. Even lowly Pluto is only 5.5 light-hours away. Everything else is light-years away, with each light-year equal to about 5.88 trillion miles, at 186,280 miles-a-second.”

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian mathematician, physicist and astronomer whose work and discoveries fundamentally changed views of the world.

Dr. Timmons said Galileo was arguably “the most important figure in the Scientific Revolution, laying much of the foundation for modern physics and astronomy.” Galileo recorded his observations of the heavens made with his telescope in “Sidereus Nuncius,” translated “The Starry Messenger.”

“These observations sent shock waves throughout the world due to their implications for humanity's long-held scientific and theological beliefs,” said Dr. Timmons. “His adherence to the new Copernican sun-centered cosmos would eventually lead to his arrest and conviction by the Inquisition.”

Dr. Rebecca Timmons, executive director of the UA Fort Smith Center for Lifelong Learning, said the Galileo events are a perfect example of one of the ways UA Fort Smith reaches out to all ages and all audiences.

“The 400th anniversary of Galileo's discovery gives us a chance to share history in unique ways,” she said. “I believe we're doing that with what we have planned for Jan. 19 and 21. These programs and activities can bring together various ages, from younger students and college students to working adults and senior citizens. We can all learn from this and enjoy the fun of it all.”

Although the events are free, registration is requested by contacting UA Fort Smith's Center for Lifelong Learning, by e-mail at cll@uafortsmith.edu or by telephone at 479-788-7220.
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