There is a chance to stargaze with someone who knows exactly what he’s looking at, when Niven Brown brings his telescopes to Orewa Library for the first time.
Niven is the outreach coordinator for the Auckland Astronomical Society and asteroids – and how to protect ourselves from them – is one of the topics he will cover. He admits that’s a curly question: the Asteroid Day website (http://asteroidday.org/) says that, for small objects, civil defence – evacuating specific areas – will be sufficient and for large objects, or a short warning time, a blast deflection of some kind will be required.
Niven’s visit, on June 29, is the day before Asteriod Day, a day that has been held internationally since 2014. It was founded by astrophysicist and Queen guitarist Dr Brian May and aims to increase awareness of asteroids while commemorating the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history – the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia.
Niven says that his interactive presentation, entitled Our Place in the Stars, takes the audience on a journey from Earth to the beginning of time and space. “You’ll get to understand just how much space there is and why big things are called astronomically big,” he says.
Matariki (or Maori New Year) begins this month and although the Matariki star cluster, also known as Pleiades, will not be visible in the evening, Niven will discuss the role of astronomy in mythology.
“If the skies are clear, there’ll be an opportunity to see some of our nearest neighbours – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – and millions of stars all at once through telescopes,” he says.
The Asteroid Day talk is free of charge and suitable for adults and children. It is on June 29 at Orewa Library, Moana Ave, Orewa, 6pm.