Rob and Terry Ryan pose for a photo in the afterglow of Evenings with Astronomers IV. Photo by Sarah Anderson 2009
“The ‘Evenings with Astronomers’ lecture series has made the observatories accessible and added an exciting new dimension to our lives by including us in on the latest astronomical discoveries. The Astronomers have become part of our Island Family instead of exotic, alien strangers. -Terry Ryan
The year of 2009 marked the fourth year Keck Observatory has presented its signature “Evenings with Astronomers” lecture series to a growing and enthusiastic crowd of Hawaii residents and their guests. Designed to showcase world leading astronomers sharing their passion for unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos, the series has earned a reputation for offering quality intellectual stimulation in a spectacular setting. The presentations for the January through March lectures were: “Seeing in the Dark” by Timothy Ferris, “Galaxy Evolution in the Cosmos” by Chuck Steidel, “100 Years of Paradigm Shifts” by George Blumenthal, “M31 – The Galaxy Next Door” by Puragra Guhathakurta, and “Illuminating Black Holes” by Andrea Ghez.
For the past three years “Evenings with Astronomers” has been generously sponsored by the Rob and Terry Ryan Foundation and has taken place at the outdoor Plantation Estates venue of The Fairmont Orchid at Mauna Lani Resort. The Ryans are part time residents of Hawaii Island and, like many, were curious about the observatories on Mauna Kea and the advanced scientific research undertaken there.
The Ryans admired the achievements of Keck and recognized the series as a fundraiser as well as an opportunity to inform and educate people. Now major donors in fueling Keck Observatory’s future ambitions, the Ryans report, “we chose Keck Observatory as one of the non-profits we support in Hawai‘i because we believe that astronomy is the most awe-inspiring science in the world.”
The Ryans are persistent in inviting attendees to join them as philanthropic investors in Keck’s cutting edge technologies for astronomy. The number of contributors to Keck today is nearly 200, the vast majority of them having been introduced to Keck at the lectures and subsequently smitten.
Keck Observatory staff annually asks the lecture attendees to complete an evaluation. The responses have been resoundingly positive, noting appreciation for the “expertise of the lecturers, the outdoor ambiance, stimulating discussions, and being in an atmosphere of discovery and adventure.” One guest wrote “My wife has as much interest in science as Yogi Bear. Yet she was inspired and now knows why stars twinkle.”
Another guest stated, “The presentation was so inspiring that we wish we could turn back the clock and go back to college as students once more and experience the wonders of astronomy and the modern sciences!”
The Ryans are committed to sustaining the lecture series as long as there is an interest for it. According to Rob, the next phase is to take the lecture series to a global-level by harnessing the tools of technology and new media to increase Keck’s presence internationally.
The lectures are archived and available at http://keckobservatory.org/education/podcast.
For information about becoming a member of a Keck Nation go to http://cosmicmatters.keckobservatory.org/subscribe.htm and join a global association of individuals drawn to the awe.
Submitted July 2009