Science Cafe

Right: Dr. Eileen Ryan speaks about asteroids to an interested crowd.

by Kathy Hedges

SOCORRO, N.M., Feb. 25, 2008 – About 60 people braved the snowbound wilds of Magdalena Ridge on the morning of Feb. 23, to participate in a Science Café at Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) with astronomer Eileen Ryan.

Ryan spoke on the search for near-Earth asteroids and took questions from the crowd, who ranged in age from 2 to 70. Most participants were from the New Mexico Tech community, although some came from as far as New York.

“Science Café” is a series of informal talks conducted by KNME, the public television station in Albuquerque, in conjunction with the PBS series “NOVA scienceNOW.”

Ryan, a scientist with more than 20 years of experience as a researcher, has spent most of that time studying various small bodies in the solar system, particularly asteroids and comets. MRO was specifically designed to respond quickly to targets-of-opportunity, in order to seek out and track bodies that could potentially collide with the Earth.

Magdalena Ridge in winter

The enthusiastic audience had to cope with an hour-long delay, caused by whiteout conditions at the observatory, which is located at over 10,000 feet. However, they were able to enjoy a safe trip up and down, along with a catered breakfast and lunch.

“Science Café” will be available for download from KNME’s website,