Michael Humphrey’s interest in space was born when he was 10 years old, after he looked up at the sky and started asking questions. Now, he plans to share his passion with Chautauquans.
Humphrey is the president of the Buffalo Astronomical Association, and he’ll give a talk titled “Wonders of the Webb Space Telescope at 9:15 a.m. today in the Hurlbut Church Sanctuary.
The lecture is organized by the Chautauqua Science Group in collaboration with the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative.
Humphrey said his talk will consist of two parts. First, he will talk about the engineering of the telescope. Then, he will provide updates on recent research and discoveries. He said he will also be presenting some NASA-generated images.
By the end of his lecture, Humphrey said he hopes attendees will have a better understanding of space and what the future of using equipment like the James Webb Space Telescope might be like. He said he will also touch on what the purpose of researching space is.
“Whenever I look into the sky, I feel connected to everyone looking at it,” Humphrey said.
The ability to “hold the future and show our past” is just one of the aspects that has helped Humphrey sustain his interest in space and astronomy over the years, he said.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope first launched on Dec. 25, 2021. Robert Hopper, president of the Chautauqua Science Group, said community members started asking for a talk about the telescope right after that, during the 2022 season.
He said the Science Group decided to wait a while before inviting a speaker for this topic.
“Let’s let it have been up for a year and gotten some results, and let’s talk about the science that came from the telescope — rather than the fact that the telescope went into space and started taking magnificent pictures,” Hopper said.
Teresa Kammerman, a member of the Chautauqua Science Group, said the wait “allows the science to be more prominent.”
Humphrey said he feels great about his upcoming talk, and is excited to return to Chautauqua. He’s previously given Special Studies classes on general astronomy and night sky viewings, and a talk on “The Power of ‘I Don’t Know,’” in which he discussed how admitting to not knowing is the first step to finding answers.
Hopper said in the last several years the Chautauqua Science Group has been “making efforts to complement what the Institution has been doing” and promote speakers who work in the realm of science.
He said they encourage Chautauquans who have or have had “interesting and successful science careers … to speak about things they have firsthand knowledge of.”
“It’s been charming and rewarding that we have been able to do that for almost 20 years,” Hopper said.
Robert Spirtas, vice president and program chair of the Chautauqua Science Group, said the Science Group also grants scholarships to students at Chautauqua Lake Central School. Hopper said the $500 scholarship has been awarded once a summer for five years.
Spirtas said this season, the group has collaborated a lot with Mark Wenzler, director of the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative, who Spirtas said was “very helpful … in finding a lot of the speakers.”
Humphrey’s talk about the Space Webb Telescope will be the first lecture in this season’s series programmed by the Chautauqua Science Group. It is also this year’s first product of the collaboration between the Science Group and the Climate Change Initiative.
Those who cannot attend the lecture in person, can also tune in virtually. To do that, Spirtas said, they will need to send an email to ScienceTalksCHQ@gmail.com and request a Zoom link.