Guests bring out-of-world experience to Astronomy Night - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Guests bring out-of-world experience to Astronomy Night

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Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 1:00 pm

Astronomy Night at Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School has evolved into an all-encompassing event designed to build up excitement about the science of exploring our universe.

At this year's event, the school will play host to two guests who can share first-hand experience regarding the wonders of scientific discovery.

Former NASA astronaut Bill Gregory and Geoff Notkin, current co-host of the TV show "Meteorite Men," will be attending Astronomy Night at the school on Dec. 1.

Gregory, lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, piloted the Space Shuttle Endeavor on mission STS-67 in 1995.

He logged over 16 days in orbit around the Earth and traveled more than 7 million miles.

"It was something I spent my whole life shooting for," Gregory said. "I spent a lot of time getting the qualifications I needed, but it is still largely a case of luck."

Being on the board of directors for the Challenger Space Center, Gregory has spent a lot of time interacting with kids.

"The question kids want to know is how do we go to the bathroom in space," he said. "The short answer is: we use suction instead of gravity."

Gregory said his favorite memory of that time was the launch.

"It's all fire and brimstone for eight-and-a-half minutes," he said. "It's something I will never forget."

Notkin, who has lived in Tucson for eight years, is entering his third year as co-host of "Meteorite Men," which airs on the Science Channel.

The show revolves around him and the co-host searching potential meteorite landing sites, an endeavor which has taken him around the world.

"There is the fascination of holding something that is from a different world," Notkin said. "Kids love space and space rocks, and the opportunity to inspire them to learn more about science is an opportunity I cannot resist."

Notkin said they recently found out that a good portion of their viewers are under 12 years old, a fact that could be a push in the right direction when it comes to interest in science.

"I've been so inspired by the fact that kids are getting dressed up and digging up rocks," Notkin said. "We used to be the leaders in space for a long time and if we want to get back there, it will start with the kids."

The two guests will be just one part of Astronomy Night. Visitors can see the Apollo moon rocks and have access to a portable planetarium. Local student presentations will also be on display.

Astronomy Night is open to the public and will take place on Dec. 1 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the school, 2720 E. Liberty Lane.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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