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Observatory Speaker Shares Wonder For Astronomy

Lecturer Phil Evans speaks at the Martz-Kohl Observatory and shares his wonder inspired by astronomy while holding a magazine which asks “Are We Alone?” with the subtitle “The Search for Alien Life.” P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

FREWSBURG — “I hear about the human condition,” Phil Evans said. “That’s what astronomy is to me.”

Evans, a long-time guest speaker for the Martz-Kohl Observatory, delivered another lecture for like-minded visitors who find mutual enjoyment in the science of space and stars. The longstanding member of the observatory displayed several books and magazines regarding astronomy and various subjects from black holes to UFO sightings.

Encouraging those present to continue learning about what interests them, Evans shared his personal story of how he grew to love astronomy. He said he doesn’t need to know the exact science behind the stars to be fascinated by them. He joked that not everyone who spends time at the observatory is like famous astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan.

“Nobody can know everything,” Evans said. “It’s physically impossible. It’s whatever you want to make it. The skies are out there for all of us.”

Evans mentioned how amazing it was that the world of astronomy was developing so quickly while he was growing up. As an adult, Evans is mystified by everything from the moon landing to more obscure projects, like Operation Argus in 1958 that featured tests that were performed by the Defense Nuclear Agency to study radiation belts.

Astronomy lives on with future objectives like possible expeditions to Mars, something Evans said he hopes he sees happen in his lifetime.

“I want to be alive to see it if it’s possible,” Evans said.

Evans talked about some of the influential women in astronomy as well, including Henrietta Leavitt, who worked as a computer at Harvard College Observatory to measure the brightness of stars, and Venetia Burney, who reportedly named the dwarf planet Pluto when she was 11 years old by suggesting the name to her grandfather, who passed the suggestion onto colleagues at the Lowell Observatory.

There’s a lot still unexplained in the field of astronomy, which excites Evans and the audience he shared his stories with. UFO sightings over Los Angeles and the Cosmos Mystery Area in South Dakota, where gravity seems to be out of whack, are among the subjects that have made Evans wonder over the years.

“Are there more universes out there?” he later asked.

Evans brought up the Island Universe theory, black holes acting as potential wormholes and Halley’s Comet passing so close to Earth in 1910, that left people so mystified it was mentioned in a beginner’s astronomy book published in 1925 that Evans showed to the audience.

“I just find that charming,” Evans said.

He urged people to learn through the convenience of the internet but told them not to lose the rush of finding scraps of information when it’s not expected to be found.

Evans shared a postcard a tourist wrote on after visiting an observatory in Germany in the early 20th century.

It described how disconcerting it was for this tourist to sit through a lecture basked in the artifical dark to go outside again and see daylight.

“Astronomy lifts the human mind to greater heights than any science,” Evans said.

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