Several times a week at bedtime, instead of reading a book, my son and I listen to the “Ask a Spaceman” podcast together. It’s the end of the day, and whatever’s happened – tight deadlines or tough tests, forgotten lunches or spilled coffees – it all fades away until there’s only one left. host Paul M. Sutter who talks about black holes and dark matter, the relativity of time, and the possibility of life on other planets. Sutter is funny and charismatic. It makes accessible and fascinating even the most mind-blowing concepts of astrophysics.
During the deepest isolation of the pandemic, this podcast offered us a bit of transcendence. As dark as the days were, as big as our problems seemed, the space was darker and more immense – but not in a frightening way. Ending the day thinking about the sheer magnitude or weirdness of our universe gave us a broader perspective and was oddly rather comforting.
I’m thrilled – and somewhat stunned (no pun intended) – that Paul M. Sutter is joining Westbank Libraries on Zoom on Saturday, June 11 at 11 a.m. for an unconventional, choose your own adventure type of presentation. People can connect to Zoom from anywhere with WiFi, or they can come in person to Laura’s library, where we will be streaming the program live.
According to Sutter, the show will discuss everything from “mundane comets in our solar backyard to exotic remnants of the Big Bang, from dying stars to young galaxies” to show attendees that “the universe may be beautiful, but he is a traitor”.
The program is aimed at astronomy enthusiasts of all ages and public participation is encouraged. If there’s anything my son taught me, it’s that astronomy buffs come at all ages.
Megan Oertel and her husband David, the chair of the library’s board of trustees, can’t wait to bring their family to the live-streamed program.
“We are so excited to learn from a real astrophysicist,” she said. “My 10-year-old son learned all about space before he could even speak and he has questions we can’t answer.”
The program will be interactive and will include a question-and-answer session. And luckily for us, Sutter makes a point of answering some of the toughest questions about the universe in a way that’s not only understandable, but often inspiring and fun.
The “Ask a Spaceman” program is just one of many summer events the library is planning. After two summers of online summer programming, Westbank and Laura Libraries welcome this return of more in-person library programs, starting with the launch of the Summer Discovery Program onsite at Laura’s Library on Sunday 5 June. Featuring an outdoor performance by Joe McDermott, a mini-horse backyard tour, and with on-site balloon creations and crafts, this event will be reminiscent of pre-summer kick-off festivities. pandemic, with outdoor activities providing an added measure of safety.
Leah Tatgenhorst, the library’s program manager, is thrilled with this step towards normality.
“We’ve really missed the opportunities to connect with our community that on-site programs bring,” she said. “Celebrating the start of summer with some of our favorite launch activities and favorite neighbors is just what we need.”
Some programs will remain online, allowing speakers from around the world to attend, and librarians will be able to record some programs for later viewing. The online format also allows more people to attend, so people can participate in a library program even if they are on vacation. Even if you haven’t planned a distant vacation, the library’s programs and books will allow you to travel wherever you want this summer, and even to explore the farthest reaches of the universe.
Maureen Turner Carey is the Public Service and Public Relations Librarian at the Westbank Community Library District.