NASA Astronaut To Headline Physics Festival at A&M

By: TAMU Press Release
By: TAMU Press Release

NASA Astronaut To Headline Physics Festival
Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Faculty and staff of the Department of Physics at Texas A&M University invite residents of the Brazos Valley to “get up close and personal” with science April 20 as part of Physics Festival 2008, which is being billed as an entertaining and informative scientific extravaganza for all ages.

The free annual event, scheduled for Sunday, April 20, from noon to 5 p.m. at Texas A&M’s Rudder Tower, will begin with a hands-on science exhibition and conclude with a public lecture by NASA astronaut and astronomer Dr. Steven Hawley.

Tickets are not required for either activity.

Attendees are encouraged to unleash their inner scientists aboard a homemade hovercraft or square-wheeled bicycle and to try out working models of historic artillery and other fun experiments and displays illustrating basic scientific concepts and principles, event organizers note. All exhibits are operated by Texas A&M physics faculty, staff and students.

Middle and high school students also are invited to compete for cash prizes in a related science contest, to be held in Room 601 Rudder Tower. Online registration for the contest is preferred at

At 4 p.m., Hawley will present “My Life with the Great Observatories” in Rudder Theater to conclude the day’s festivities.

Selected by NASA in 1978, Hawley has logged more than 770 hours in five space flights, serving as a mission specialist on STS-41D in 1984, STS-61C in 1986, STS-31 in 1990, STS-82 in 1997 and STS-93 in 1999. Prior to his NASA career, Hawley was a post-doctoral research associate at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in La Serena, Chile, where his research focused on physics of gaseous nebulae and emission-line galaxies. Hawley received his Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California at Santa Cruz and Lick Observatory.

“Steve was one of the first mission specialists at NASA,” said Nicholas Suntzeff, Texas A&M astronomer and a longtime colleague, both as graduate students at UC-Santa Cruz and as researchers in Chile. “He was the astronaut/astronomer most heavily involved in the space telescope launches. He is a tremendously funny and modest guy. His humor was legend at Lick Observatory.”

All events are sponsored by the Department of Physics in conjunction with Texas A&M’s George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy and the Texas A&M College of Science.

The Mitchell Institute was established in 2002 by the well-known Texas businessman and his wife, both of The Woodlands, to provide insights into the cosmology of the Universe and the ultimate unification of the fields of nature.

For the latest details regarding Physics Festival 2008, including event directions and parking information, please visit

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