Winchester Academy will resume its series of free programs at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Randy Olson, a professor of physics and astronomy, will present, “The Curiosity Mission: Discoveries on Mars.”
Just after midnight on the morning of Aug. 6, 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory, named Curiosity, landed on the red planet. Containing a dozen cameras and 11 science instruments, Curiosity will be investigating whether the rocks contained water, carbon-rich material, or other unique minerals. Olson will discuss discoveries made in the past six months by the Curiosity rover.
Born and raised in Eau Claire, Olson earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his master’s and doctoral degrees in astronomy from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
In addition to being a professor, Olson is director of the Blocher Planetarium and the Arthur J. Pejsa Observatory at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He joined the faculty there after finishing a thesis on planetary nebulae structure in 1985.
Olson was involved in overseeing the purchase, upgrade, and installation of a new state-of-the-art planetarium instrument at UW-SP in 1999. In 2000, he participated in UWSP’s decision to join the WIYN 0.9m Consortium. UW-Madison, Indiana University, Yale University and the National Optical Astronomy Observatories form a group that manages the operation of the 0.9m telescope located near Tucson, Ariz.
Since his arrival at Stevens Point, Olson has directed the presentation of over 9,000 programs to more than 300,000 visitors. During this time, the UWSP planetarium has consistently been one of the busiest of the dozen or so planetariums in the state, serving over 11,000 visitors a year.
From 1997 until 2004 (when the magazine ended) he was a contributing author for New Month magazine, writing the “Sky Lights” articles. Olson has, since 1987, been heavily involved in UWSP faculty governance. He was elected faculty senate chair from 2009 – 11, re-elected to a second term through fall 2013, and currently elected for a third term ending in fall 2015.
Mary Ellen Boario of Waupaca is the sponsor of Olson’s program.
The next free Winchester Academy program, scheduled for February 25, features Peter Blitstein, professor at Lawrence University, whose topic is “Now We Know? Soviet Espionage in the United States in the Early Cold War.” Contact Winchester Academy Executive Director, David Hathaway, at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive emails on future events.