SoVerA to host astronomy seminar series

CHESTER, Vt. – Southern Vermont Astronomy (SoVerA) will be hosting a four-part mini-series on four consecutive Fridays at the Whiting Library in Chester, starting March 24. Each program will begin at 6 p.m. SoVerA members Rick Bates, Rick Hunter, and Claudio Véliz will be providing a little of the intrigue astronomy inspires, while imparting some of the knowledge which can help us appreciate some of its mysterious aspects. If the skies cooperate after any one of the presentations, binoculars and telescopes will be set up for the participating audience to observe some of the celestial wonders our Vermont skies provide.

Astronomy Basics, March 24.

Claudio Véliz will present one of his most popular course segments, which he teaches at Keene State College: an informal, “back to basics” review of what we now understand about the universe, distances to different celestial objects, and how astronomers collect information from “out there.” Images from the Hubble- and James Webb space telescopes will be shown and discussed.


Archeoastronomy, March 31.

Rick Bates will be presenting an overview of the information that the ancients learned about the skies, and how this information was used in navigation. We will also discuss a variety of ancient legends, myths, and beliefs about the sun, the moon, the planets, and the constellations, which early people saw every night when they looked upward.


How do we Know what we Know? April 7.

Rick Hunter will begin to answer the question: “How can we really start to know anything about what at first glance appears as only some very small, quite faint (few exceptions: planets, moon, and sun) dots in the night sky?” As recently as 1840, August Comte, a French philosopher, said nothing could ever be known about the composition of the stars. Meanwhile, Joseph von Fraunhofer had, about 30 years before, already laid the groundwork of spectroscopy, as well as building some of the best refracting telescopes to that time. In 1838, Friedrich Bessell was able to find the first accurate distance to a nearby star. The work of these two began the process of classifying stars, finding their distances, brightnesses, sizes, and makeup. It’s another one of those famous “detective stories” in science, with a fascinating cast of characters. Distance is the “perpetrator,” scientists, the sleuths.


Telescope Basics + Using the Whiting Telescope, April 14.

SoVerA members will review basic optics, how to choose a telescope, and how to enjoy the Whiting telescope, which is available for library members to check out and use. This will be a hands-on demonstration and discussion open to anyone, and especially those who may have an interest in using the telescope. Participants will learn about basic optics, how to find things in the sky, and how to adjust the various thingy-bobs on the telescope. No prior experience required.

For upcoming library events, please visit our website,, or by calling 802-875-2277.

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