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Drake Observatory series to examine role of imagination and logic in astronomy

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The role that imagination, sensory perceptions and logic
play in the exploration of astronomy will be the focus of a public presentation
at Drake Municipal Observatory on Friday, April 16.

The lecture, titled “Seeing Is Not Believing,” is
free and open to the public as part of the spring series of programs at the
observatory. The event will start at 8 p.m. at the observatory in Waveland Park
on the west side of Des Moines, 4898 Observatory Road, off of Polk Boulevard.
Parking is available adjacent to the observatory.

Imagination taking control of our perceptions where logic
should prevail will be the focus of this lecture. Topics to be discussed
include the distorted view of constellations and beliefs that defy logic, such
as lost civilizations on Mars due to the visible “face of Mars.”

“There is a lot of stuff that you see that is not
really there,” said Herbert Schwartz of Drakes Department of Physics and
Astronomy. “From our point of view, we see things and connect them to
create images and stories — even when they may be entirely unrelated.”

This semester’s series focuses on what astronomers and the
public believe to be true, but are often wrong. Topics will include basic
assumptions by the public regarding space and our universe, the doomsday
predictions of 2012 and the many questions astronomers have yet to answer.

Each week there is a
non-technical, illustrated presentation by Charles Nelson and Schwartz of
Drake’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Every presentation is followed by
the opportunity to view several stellar objects through the large refracting
telescope and several smaller reflecting telescopes.

The programs are held regardless
of the weather, although the selection for observation is subject to change due
to sky conditions or other special circumstances. Individuals, families, and
small groups are welcomed to attend. A parent or responsible adult must
accompany children.

The schedule for the remainder of the spring series is
listed below:

  • April 23: “The End of the World STAR PARTY”
  • April 30: “There Be Dragons!!!”
  • May 7: “The Mystery Remains”

For more information, contact
Drake’s Department of Physics and Astronomy at 515-271-3141.