Village Hall Talks at Wootton-By-Woodstock
 
The Marek Kukula Talk

Marek Kukula

A near full-moon (the biggest for the next nineteen years) greeted everybody before the talk by Marek Kukula, the Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, in Greenwich, who gave a captivating explanation of the Universe and its many wonders.

Amazing statistics were revealed about the billions of stars in millions in galaxies, as well as the unimaginable distances that the light travel from distant stars, moving at thousands of miles per second. Light from some particularly distant galaxies, visible in the night-sky, is calculated to have set out when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Nearer home, Marek showed extraordinary images of the surface of Venus, enveloped in a cloud of gas and with a gravity force that would cruch humans, as well as Mars - a planet with large desert areas and extinct volcanoes resembling similar places on Earth.

He suggested that we are currently embarked on the most fascinating voyage of discovery in history - and that developing the equipment to carry cameras to these planets and then take the pictures was probably Man's greatest achievement. This was starkly illustrated with a remarkable video sequence, using images from the Hubble Space Telescope, which highlighted an initial distant mass of gas before zooming in - and then even further in - until individual stars filled the frame.

More images showed how technology had made it possible to penetrate clouds of gas enveloping various planets and moons, allowing their surfaces and configuration to be viewed for the first time. Other breathtaking sequences, taken a period of years, showed some stars appearing to perform a kind of dance with each other as their orbits changed.

Ultimately, though, Marek said that his favourite planet was Earth and displayed its wondrous range of environments, before showing a satellite image highlighting its tiny size in the solar system and its extreme fragility, culminating in the inescapable truth, perhaps, that - despite life's peaks and troughs - it is an extraordinary privilege to live on this planet Over a hundred people attended this fascinating talk, with profits from tickets and wine totalling 625, and it was a wonderful start to the 2011 season.

 We have had many wonderful evenings in Wootton but this had to be one of the best. Marek combined supreme knowledge of astronomy with a captivating enthusiasm in a talk which was perfectly pitched for the audience. His effortless commentary was in tandem with some of the most awe-inspiring images of the Universe and everybody sat in amazed silence as Marek listed distances in billions of light-years between stars and showed how technology has allowed Man to probe the deepest recesses of outer-space. It was a little disturbing that the Sun will eventually die - but we took solace from the fact that it will be in about five billion years time. Another terrific evening - Jon Tomlinson, Witney

 

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John Lloyd & John Mitchinson Talk, Summer 2009

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