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Stargazers take flight, watch stars at night

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Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013 4:30 am

The universe, constellations, galaxies, the Hubble Telescope, planets, stars, moons and the sun were all topics of discussion at “Stars at Night over Harker Heights,” a June 28 stargazing event at the Stewart C. Meyer Library sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department. Retired astrophysicist Kevin Manning, from Long Island, N.Y., brought them all to life as part of the second year of Star Tour, which he’s taking to 200 libraries across the nation.

“I cover the very small to the very large,” he said. “Now that I’m retired, I can have fun sharing my passion and love for astronomy with others.”

Astronomy research landed Manning work on projects such as the Hubble Telescope and consulting for NASA.

During a presentation, Manning debunked myths about Earth’s and other planets’ size in relation to the universe. The sun is not the largest star in our galaxy, which exists billions of light-years away from Earth and is billions of miles larger than the sun.

He also dispelled a myth about the brightest stars in the constellations and received help from Tryston Peele, 10, of Nolanville, who quickly answered that the North Star (Polaris) is not the brightest, but Sirius.

Peele’s parents, Chris and Brenda, said their son attends school in Temple and was encouraged by his art teacher to attend the program.

“She wanted us to come because they had been studying the constellations in class,” Tryston said.

Each presentation is a family-oriented astronomy program where participants move outdoors to view celestial objects through a telescope that Manning built 20 years ago.

It was a night filled with the sounds of “oohs,” “wows,” and “that was so cool,” as entire families caught a glimpse of Saturn.

Killeen residents Steve and Liliana Maldonado said it was the first time they had seen a planet.

“It seemed as if it was moving slightly, but as Mr. Manning said, ‘It was us who were moving.’”

Liliana said the telescopic image was very clear, with the planet appearing whitish tan in color. The rings and the space between them appeared vividly separate.

“The whole rings of Saturn and the space between them were clear and precise,” said Eryana Gray, 18, a student at Sam Houston State University.

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