By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON — Asteroids and comets are a fact of the universe, and sometimes they wind up making a crater right here on Mother Earth.
“We have been pelted through the eons,” said Greg McCauley.
McCauley is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Ambassador and executive director of the new Link Observatory and Space Science Center in Martinsville, Ind. He’s coming to Pendleton Community Public Library, 595 E. Water St. in Pendleton at 2 p.m. Saturday to shed light on those celestial wanderers, especially the ones that come a little too close.
“It’s fascinating stuff,” said McCauley. He said that he’ll discuss NEOs. That’s the acronym for Near Earth Objects, the ones that cross paths with earth’s orbital plane. He’ll describe NASA’s work on locating and tracking NEOs, and the all-important efforts to figure out how to divert them.
McCauley said that the earth has experienced five major extinction events owing to astral collisions.
“The next one is not an if, it’s a when,” said McCauley. “The next step is what we do to change its course.”
McCauley’s no armchair stargazer. He worked for NASA in mission planning and analysis during three Apollo missions. It was work that McCauley was determined to get involved with from the get-go.
“I was a kid that grew up in Kokomo and watched Neil Armstrong walk down a ladder,” said McCauley. He knew right then that the he didn’t just want to watch, he wanted to be part of it.
Since his Apollo days, McCauley has served as a NASA ambassador bringing talks on planetary exploration to Central Indiana audiences. Last year,McCauley launched a new mission – The Link Observatory and Space Science Center. The non-profit organization is dedicated to education and public outreach on astronomy and space science.
The organization is based at the Link Observatory in Martinsville, through an agreement with Indiana University. Built in 1937, McCauley said the Goethe Link Observatory boasts the largest wooden dome in the country at an observing facility. It’s also got a pretty awesome 36” Cassegrain telescope. The non-profit hosts educational and viewing events at the observatory.
Also among McCauley’s projects with LOSSC is the establishment of the Young Astronomers Club of America. They have launched their pilot program at Carmel Public Library with kids ages 10 to 16. They get together once a month to explore all things astronomical. McCauley said they hope to grow the program nationally.
Expect Saturday’s multi-media program to last about an hour. He’ll take questions following the presentation. Check out the Link Observatory and Space Science Center webpage at www.linkobservatory.org.
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If you go: What: Asteroids: Finding them before they find us, a presentation by Greg McCauley of the Link Observatory and Space Science Center Where: Pendleton Community Public Library, 595 E. Water St., Pendleton When: 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31 More info: The program is free. Call the library at 778- 7527 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.