Date: Friday, April 20, 2012
Place: Strand Union Building, Ballroom A
Time: 4 p.m.

Title: A Nightwatchman’s Journey: My Adventures as a Comet Discoverer and Sky watcher

Sponsoring department: Physics


Dr. Levy was on his way to a high school French oral exam in October 1965 when he suddenly decided that he wanted to begin a search for comets. Although he begain searching for comets on December 17, 1965, it was not until 1984 -- 19 years or 917 hours at the eyepiece later-- that he discovered his first comet. Twenty-two finds later, he still believes that comets are more than targets to be cataloged. Thanks in part to one of his finds, Shoemaker-Levy 9, we now know more about the role that comet collisions have played in the origin and evolution of life on this world. He is still searching for comets both visually and with an automated CCD program. This illustrated talk will be about Dr. Levy’s observing career and how his childhood fascination with the night sky led to a highly satisfying career.

About the speaker:

David H.  Levy is one of the most successful comet discoverers in history.  He has discovered 22 comets, nine of them using his own backyard telescopes. With Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker at the Palomar Observatory in California he discovered Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994.  That episode produced the most spectacular explosions ever witnessed in the solar system. Levy is currently involved with the Jarnac Comet Survey, which is based at the Jarnac Observatory in Vail, Arizona but which has telescopes planned for locations around the world. 

Levy is the author or editor of 35 books and other products.  He won an Emmy in 1998 as part of the writing team for the Discovery Channel documentary, "Three Minutes to Impact."   As the Science Editor for Parade Magazine from 1997 to 2006, he was able to reach more than 80 million readers, almost a quarter of the population of the United States.  A contributing editor for Sky and Telescope Magazine, he writes its monthly "Star Trails" column, and his "Nightfall" feature appears in each issue of the Canadian Magazine Skynews.