With just over five weeks left until the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, Lowell Observatory will be hosting a free event at the Madras Performing Arts Center that will focus on recent studies of the galaxy and the potential of life outside of earth.
Jeff Hall, the director of the Flagstaff, Arizona-based observatory, will be in Madras on Wednesday, July 19. While he's certain to address and answer eclipse-related questions, his presentation will be more broad-based and stretch beyond the earth and sun. The event will begin at 6 p.m.
"Eclipses create impressive sights here on earth, but they also play a role in helping us understand the universe. Just since 1995, we have begun discovering planets orbiting other stars, and observing little eclipses as these planets pass in front of their parent stars is one way we can find them," said Hall.
"We now know there are planets everywhere in the Milky Way Galaxy, some of them small and rocky like the earth. Could some of them harbor life? We don't know yet, but we may be getting close to finding out, and to answering one of humanity's oldest questions: Are we alone?"
Hall noted that his talk will explore the "different kinds of worlds" being discovered. He'll also address the "demotion" of Pluto, and talk about what a planet is in the first place.
Local officials will also be on hand and available to answer questions regarding traffic, law enforcement, emergencies and other eclipse-related issues.
The July 19 event is a precursor to when Lowell will also be hosting a free community event in Madras on Sunday, Aug. 20 — complete with expert speakers during the day and a star party featuring huge telescopes in the evening — and a fee-entry eclipse watch party on Monday, Aug. 21. Both events will be at the PAC.