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Lifelong Learning Institute: Lecture: Comets: From Fearful Omens to Natural Wonders


Monday, Apr 09, 2018 10:30am
LocationHylton Performing Arts Center Gregory Family Theater
Presented ByLifelong Learning Institute

Throughout most of history, the ‘hairy stars’ that occasionally appeared in the night sky were thought to portend something very bad – the fall of empires or the death of kings. Sir Edmund Halley used Newton’s theory of gravity to deduce that three historic comets were actually the reappearance of the same object orbiting the sun, and every 76 years since then humanity is awed by the spectacle of the returning comet that now bears his name. The last return of Halley’s comet in 1986 was met by an armada of international spacecraft, which began the era of spacecraft exploration of these ancient wanderers in space. Several comets have been scrutinized by spacecraft that flew past, impacted, orbited, and even landed on the small nucleus that generates the visual spectacle of an ‘active’ comet. In this class, the instructor will review some notable comets in history, revelations obtained from telescopic studies, and the explosion of information that has resulted from spacecraft investigations of what scientists now consider to be ‘frozen remnants’ from the formation of our solar system.

Dr. James R. Zimbelman is a planetary geologist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. He has been at the Smithsonian since 1988, conducting research on analysis of spacecraft imaging data of the planets, geologic mapping of Mars and Venus, and investigations of lava flows and sand dunes on planetary surfaces. Dr. Zimbelman is a lecturer on cruises organized by the Smithsonian Journey program and on commercial cruise lines for which the Smithsonian provides lecturers. He has presented several classes for LLI-Manassas.

This event is open to the public. For more information about the Lifelong Learning Institute, Manassas, visit: lli-manassas.org

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