Saturday, November 6, 2010

We Are Star Stuff


Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Carl Sagan was born on November 9th, 1934, and to celebrate the anniversary of his birth there will be an event held today in Broward County Florida (that's in South Florida, folks). The event will be held to increase public involvement in the amazing field that is astronomy and space exploration.

Carl Sagan was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and you can visit his gravesite in Ithaca, New York to this day. He played an important role in the American space program starting in the 1950's as a consultant and advisor to NASA. He was involved in almost every level, even briefing the Apollo astronauts before their trip to the Moon. He was also a key player in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo missions. His own work focused on planetary atmospheres, planetary surfaces, the history of Earth, and exobiology, solving questions that we almost take for granted now: Why is Venus so hot (answer: massive greenhouse effect), what causes the seasonal changes on Mars (answer: windblown dust), and what is the reddish haze that can be seen on Titan (answer: complex organic molecules)?

Needless to say, he was an extremely productive and influential scientist. He was also known as an extraordinary communicator. Some of his speeches and books are still recognized for their accuracy, foresight, and eloquence. His book The Dragons of Eden: Speculations of the Evolution of Human Intelligence won him the Pulitzer Prize and his book Cosmos became the bestselling science book ever published in English. The lay person probably knows him best from his Emmy winning television show Cosmos, which was watched by people all over the world. Oh, yeah, and have you seen the movie Contact? You can thank Carl for that one too.

So take the day to celebrate Carl, or at least a few minutes to remember all of the amazing contributions he made to science.

Also, take a look at the website for Carl Sagan Day, it has live streaming from some of the events:
http://www.carlsaganday.com/

Learn all about the life and works of Carl Sagan here:
http://www.carlsagan.com/

Scroll through these websites as well:
http://www.planetary.org/
http://www.seti.org/Page.aspx?pid=237

p.s. No one could rock a turtleneck and jacket like Carl Sagan.
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