TONIGHT: UND To Hold Space Observatory Fund-raiser And Astronomy Talk In Separate Events On Campus

It’s all about space and appreciation for the universe around us tonight at the University of North Dakota.

UND will play host to two major space-related events tonight, and both are open to the public. First, the  inaugural UND Observatory Banquet and Fund-raiser will take place from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Buchli/Dahl rooms of the Hilton Garden Inn in Grand Forks, to raise money for UND’s space observatory and the Space Studies program. Also, tonight, the UND Department of Physics and Astrophysics will hold an Astronomy Public Talk and telescope observing session at 8 p.m., in Witmer Hall, Room 116, on campus.

The fund-raiser will feature keynote speaker Paul Abell, a UND Space Studies alumnus now with the NASA Johnson Space Center, as well as local speakers. There also will be a social hour, a buffet dinner and a silent auction of space and technology items (and space art), to support for the development of astronomy research and education at UND. Bidding for each silent auction item will begins at 5 p.m., and conclude at 8:30 p.m. Winners will be announced shortly after the keynote presentation. All proceeds go to development and maintenance of the UND Observatory. Photos of some of the silent auction items can be viewed here: Registration for the event is $50 per person; those interested can register at the UND Observatory web site:, or here:

Individuals can also follow preparations for the banquet online at

The astronomy talk is titled “Outward Bound: Revealing the Nature of Dark Energy,” and will be presented by Dr. Wayne Barkhouse, UND Department of Physics and Astrophysics. Following the talk, attendees will be given the opportunity to observe the night sky through a telescope (weather permitting).

Additional background:

Paul Abell’s abstract follows:

Near-Earth Objects: Targets for Future Human Exploration,  Solar System Science, Resource Utilization,  and Planetary Defense

U.S. President Obama stated on April 15, 2010 that the next goal for human spaceflight will be to send human beings to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025. Given this direction from the White House, NASA has been involved in studying various strategies for near-Earth object (NEO) exploration in order to follow U.S. Space Exploration Policy. This mission would be the first human expedition to an interplanetary body beyond the Earth-Moon system and would prove useful for testing technologies required for human missions to Mars and other Solar System destinations. Missions to NEOs would undoubtedly provide a great deal of technical and engineering data on spacecraft operations for future human space exploration while conducting in-depth scientific investigations of these primitive objects. In addition, the resulting scientific investigations would refine designs for future extraterrestrial resource extraction and utilization, and assist in the development of hazard mitigation techniques for planetary defense.  This presentation will discuss some of the physical characteristics of NEOs and review some of the current plans for NEO research and exploration from both a human and robotic mission perspective.