Hubble anniversary prompts professor-presenter, too

An accident of timing placed a delightful presentation by Saint Michael’s faculty astrophysicist John O’Meara about the Hubble Space Telescope’s 25th Anniversary in the middle of Academic Symposium Week, which seemed serendipitously in keeping with the overriding theme of exploring new frontiers with sharper focus.

O’Meara, who has used the Hubble several times in his research, is on sabbatical this year, but still couldn’t resist a significant moment to share his passion for this telescope that “transcends astronomy” in his opinion and is one of the biggest accomplishments in science history.

Cheray Science Hall Lecture Hall 101 almost was filled by faculty and staff, their children, and members of the public with an interest in space who came to hear O’Meara’s PowerPoint presentation. Many of the images were stunning, and the professor’s knowledgeable and accessible by-heart riffs kept everyone’s attention.

He called the story of Hubble “The Ultimate Space Opera’” and so presented its story in “Acts” such as: “History,” “Missions,” “A Human Story,” “The Science,” “The Impact” and “The Future.” He said the telescope is going strong, and still might have five more years left in its useful life.

Audience questions included where he goes to control the Hubble for his research (it can be his laptop from Saint Michael’s or his home), how far the Earth is from the Hubble (about 200 miles), and, from a youngster, how many pictures Hubble takes in a year (it just took its millionth image recently he said before they tried some fast math together.)

The audience also heard from a NASA “solar system ambassador,” Thomas Estill from Rutland, about programs he can present to both youth and adult groups.

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