Locals explore universe at local library | News

Locals explore universe at local library | News


SUMMIT Space fans of all ages received a lesson in Astronomy and Astrophotography Tuesday afternoon at the Boyd County Midland Branch Public Library.

The lesson, headed by Ashland city commissioner Josh Blanton, included an interactive talk about galaxies, black holes, planetary orbits, telescopes and how to photograph sky and space phenomenon.

The visit was part of a wide variety of summer programs offered for teens and “tweens” sponsored by the library.

During the exhibit, titled “Explore the Universe with Josh,” Blanton said in the midst of the pandemic, he had the extra time to nurture his childhood infatuation with telescopes — leading to his new hobby of astrophotography.

Blanton said recent technology developments is revolutionizing astronomy, making far away things clearer and easier to observe for the average person with just their cell phones.

With the use of apps, one can map the sky above them to notify which planets are in transit and viewable sometimes with the naked eye.

Discussing light movement, gravitational pull and planetary tilts and rotations, Blanton displayed a variety of self-shot photos — or data —that depicted comets, the Andromeda Galaxy and Aurora borealis (northern lights).

Blanton said the Andromeda Galaxy is our solar system’s neighbor, set to eventually merge with the Milky Way Galaxy in about 4.5 million years.

Taking advantage of the darkest areas in the region, Blanton is able to utilize his camera’s long exposure to pull in as much light as possible in order to gain clear data of each phenomena — including a close-up shot of the Andromeda Galaxy from over 2.5 million lightyears away.

Blanton told the group telescopes behave as a time machine, as it takes so long for light to travel the insane distances to reach what the camera lens can pick up.

For those in the crowd eager for a career in space, Blanton mentioned a couple notables that got their start in Ashland.

Susie Martinez, now an engineer for Blue Origin, started her educational journey at Ashland Community and Technical College before going on to further her education, eventually earning an internship with NASA.

Les Johnson, also a native of Ashland, is a physicist for NASA’s space propulsion program, dedicating his time and career to developing a way for humans to travel lightyears away.

Johnson is also a notable sci-fi author, recently vising Ashland for a talk at Highlands Museum and Discovery Center and book signings downtown.

At the end of the discussion, Blanton guided both children and adults outside in an attempt to view the moon with the instruction to check out the Ashland Area Astronomy and Astrophotography Facebook page.

For a full calendar of happenings at the Boyd County Public Library this month, visit www.thebookplace.org.