Bristol Public Library hosting former NASA Astronomer for space talk

Published on Friday, 12 July 2019 16:45


BRISTOL – Former NASA Astronomer Kevin Manning invites local youth to “Look Up to the Stars” July 19 at Bristol Public Library and learn about the stars, the universe and other stellar objects.

The program, sponsored by the Friends of Bristol Public Library, will be held at 2 p.m. at the library at 5 High St.

Valerie Toner, children’s librarian, said the program will explore the size and shape of the universe, spark an interest in the stars and planets and encourage children of all ages to develop an appreciation of the universe.

“Participants will view a screen presentation of the stars that encourages all to think big, dream big, and to foster interest, curiosity, and literacy in science,” she said.

Manning described the program as “astronomy for everyone.”

“We will be talking about the size and scope of the universe, from the very small to the very large,” he said. “We will be talking about the sun, the moon and the planets of the solar system as well as venturing out further into the Kuiper Belt and the Milky Way galaxy as a whole. Recent, cutting-edge research has also shown that galaxies are part of larger super-clusters, some as big as 100 million light years across. Our galaxy is part of the Laniakea Supercluster, which is Hawaiian for ‘Immeasurable Heaven.’”

After the program, Manning said participants will have the opportunity to gaze through a telescope. If the weather is right, they will be able to see the craters on the moon as well as Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.

It was seeing the rings of Saturn as a child that inspired Manning’s own love of astronomy.

“When I was 8 or 9 years old, my best friend had a telescope he got for Christmas,” he said. “He let me look through it at the craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn. That did something for me. I knew in that moment that this is what I wanted to do. I was also a teenager when the first man landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong said his famous words ‘One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.’”

Manning would later go on to work as a consultant with NASA and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory launched on the space shuttle with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He said he personally examined some of the first pictures it took, including pulsars and the crab nebula.

“It took three attempts to launch it,” he said. “The first two failed but we were able to launch it successfully in 1999.”

Toner said Manning founded “Look Up to the Stars” “with a mission to generate interest and foster scientific literacy in the general public nationwide through the delivery of awe-inspiring, educational and entertaining programs.”

Manning said his star tour has been going on for 10 years and he had visited thousands of libraries, observatories, and science centers from coast to coast.

“The reception is usually very good,” he said. “I keep people on the edge of their seats.”

Toner said Manning has won both national and international awards in his field. He was both a Wright Fellow and an Einstein Fellow and also did some work with Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The “Look Up to the Stars” program is being offered as part of Bristol Public Library’s summer theme – “A Universe of Stories.” This eight-week summer reading program encourages children to read and visit the library. Participants will also earn a summer reading raffle ticket.

Manning’s visit is also timed to the day before the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

“Come to the library to meet a real NASA astronomer and scientific thinker who knows a lot about outer space,” said Toner. “Discover what the universe looks like and how it works. It’s not every day that you meet an important person who has helped out at mission control.”

For more information, visit or call 860-584-7787.

For more information about “Look Up to the Stars,” visit

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News on Friday, 12 July 2019 16:45. Updated: Friday, 12 July 2019 16:48.