Get ready! Lecture ‘touching the sun’ launches thi...

Get ready! Lecture ‘touching the sun’ launches this fall’s MTSU Friday Star Party series

MTSU astronomy professor Chuck Higgins will help initiate the university’s fall 2018 series of Friday Star Parties this Friday, Sept. 7, with the topic of “Touching the Sun: The Parker Solar Probe.”

NASA Parker Solar Probe

The Parker Solar Probe, named for physicist Eugene Parker and launched Aug. 12, will come closer to the sun than any other spacecraft. (Graphic provided by NASA)

Higgins’ lecture, which is open to the public, is planned from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 in Room 102 of Wiser-Patten Science Hall. To find parking near Wiser-Patten, visit

MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy uses the Star Parties, which are free, to help bring the university and surrounding communities together to share topics on our solar system. After the talk, attendees will head to the MTSU Observatory for telescope observing, if weather permits.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is a historic mission because it will come closer to the sun than any other spacecraft, Higgins said.

Named after physicist Eugene Parker and launched Aug. 12, the seven-year mission is studying how energy flows from the sun. In particular, the spacecraft will fly into the corona, the outer atmosphere of the sun, and measure the properties of the solar wind.

Dr. Chuck Higgins, associate professor, Deparment of Physics and Astronomy

Dr. Chuck Higgins

Higgins, who recently spoke with heliophysics experts at NASA, said he’ll explain Friday night how the spacecraft will survive the high temperatures and heavy radiation during the mission.

He plans to show “some amazing movies of the sun,” demonstrate a solar flare — with audience participation! — and provide NASA informational handouts for the Parker Solar Probe.

“We are in a unique position to study the properties of stars because we live so close to one,” the professor said said. “The Parker Solar Probe will help scientists better understand the solar wind and the space weather environment.”

Other Star Parties this fall include:

• Friday, Oct. 5 — “The Great Southern Skies: A View of Space from Down Under,” led by associate professor Nat Smith.
• Friday, Nov. 9 — “Life in the Universe,” led by instructor Irina Perevalova.
• Friday, Dec. 7 — “Funky Fizix in Film: Creation of the Elements,” led by professor Eric Klumpe.

Children are always welcome to be a part of the Star Party experience.

Archived videos from the Friday Star Parties are available on the department website’s special “Star Parties” page and also are broadcast on MTSU’s Educational Resource Channel, or ERC, on Comcast Channel 9, each Wednesday at 11 p.m. and Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, call 615-898-2130.

— Randy Weiler (

The fall 2018 Star Party lecture series