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Annual memorial lecture scheduled for April 20

David E. Miller, Professor of Physics

“Let there be dark skies . . .”


That could well be David Miller’s favored call to arms – or telescopes.


The veteran Penn State Hazleton professor of physics will talk about the dark sky, astronomical pioneer Galileo, and his own love for astronomy during a free public talk at 7 p.m., Tues., April 20 in 1 Kostos Building at the campus.  


The event marks the annual Mylar Giri Lecture in the Natural Sciences which is sponsored by the Faculty Lecture Committee and honors the late campus physics professor for whom it is named.


Miller, who is finishing his 27th year with Penn State as he readies for retirement, wants people to especially understand Galileo’s part in the development of astronomy as a science. 


“I think that Galileo has had an important part in the whole development of the whole contemporary culture,” Miller says.


“The present interest in this talk comes out of the 400th anniversary of the use of the telescope. In particular, in January 1610 Galileo used it to find the moons of Jupiter. Above and beyond his many discoveries, some of which I shall mention in the talk, I feel that Galileo as a person represents a continual struggle toward the achievement of correctness in conduct as opposed to those who would immediately subscribe to others’ ideas.” 


Watching and studying the night sky is, above all, a great pastime and it’s easy for one to get started with astronomy, Miller says. “One can start by looking at sky charts or going to a computer and using a search program to find out about certain planets or stars.” And, he says, there are many top-notch field guides to outer space on the book market.


Acquiring a telescope is a natural follow-on investment, he says.


“For between one and two thousand dollars, one can purchase a quite good telescope. Even $200 binoculars can be used for a start of the study of the nearer planets.”


Listeners of Miller’s forthcoming talk will also learn:


What are the best field guides to stars, etc.?

“There are many sky charts available on the computers, at which I regularly look. Even an old “Star Atlas” gives some idea what is present at any time of year. Then one can go to the computer and find out the needed information about rise and set times. Google or Yahoo are also sometimes useful to learn more about what one sees.”


What do you want people to really learn and appreciate about the stars and the galaxy and space?

“At the present we are learning a lot about very distant stars. A great many other structures are also present such as nebulae, novae and supernovae. Also, with higher resolution telescopes, like those in orbit on Hubble and others, one can see into distant galaxies. In the Milky Way, the research on the big ‘black hole’ in the middle is very interesting.


“This is perhaps related to the problem of the dark matter and dark energy which often is being discussed.”


Miller might also discuss the mounting problem of “light pollution” and how it affects astronomers’ work.


NASA, among many Internet sources, offers a wealth of on-line material about astronomy, issues like light pollution, and more at www.nasa.gov


Among the agency’s Internet-based resources is this fact sheet about the pollution of the night sky by artificial lighting: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast01nov_1.htm


For more information on this event or others at Penn State Hazleton, call the Office of University Relations at 570-450-3180.

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