Retired astrophysicist Dr. Ray Weymann of Atascadero weighed in on some hot and cold topics covering “Astronomy’s Role in Climate Science” last Thursday at the United Methodist Church in San Luis Obispo.
Weymann explained everything from the composition of the earth’s atmosphere to ice age cycles and the evolution of the sun in a two-hour presentation as part of the The Central Coast Astronomical Society (CCAS) monthly meeting.
He made his way to the front of the room wearing a button-up cuffed shirt, sweat pants and hiking boots. Promising to avoid getting too technical, he joked with the crowd.
“I’ve got more slides then you can shake a stick at,” he said.
Weymann talked about how study of astronomy can inform global climate change on earth.
“We can turn to other stars to see how they behave … and get a deeper understanding of our processes,” Weymann said.
Studies show that Venus has seen an exponential temperature increase from 79 degrees Fahrenheit to 880 degrees Fahrenheit from data estimating back hundreds of years. The current temperature is enough to melt a lead brick. Scientists are now thinking there were once oceans on Venus, and the planet also shows volcanic activity. Acting as a reflection of a future earth is highly unlikely, but not impossible, Weymann said.
Although the information may seem technical to some, Weymann discussed what may be considered simplistic to many of the astronomy enthusiasts in the audience.
“When children are about three to four years old, they are constantly asking, ‘Why?’” Weymann said. “Such as, ‘Why is it hotter in summer than winter?’ I hope none of you say, ‘Because the earth is closer to the sun in summer.’ It’s actually the opposite. In January, the Northern Hemisphere is closest to the sun.”
Weymann ended the night with the earth’s dismal fate followed by questions from a packed room of roughly 40 spectators.
“In 7 billion years, the sun will be over twice as bright and the earth will be completely vaporized,” Weymann said, concluding the presentation. “Doesn’t that make all of your problems seem minor?”
Aurora Lipper, President of The Central Coast Astronomical Society said she was excited to have him speak.
“He found us when he first moved to Atascadero,” Lipper said. “He is very passionate about what he does, and usually draws a pretty big crowd.”
Even at 75 years old, Weymann spoke with the enthusiasm of a little boy with his favorite toy spaceship.
“Ever since I was a little lad, I wanted to be an astronomer,” Weymann said. “My dad would take us up to the mountains, and it was so dark and beautiful. That was around the time I first went to the Griffith Observatory Planetarium and fell in love.”
Weymann went to Cal Tech as an undergraduate, and got his Ph.D in Astrophysics from Princeton University. He then taught astronomy at the University of Arizona from 1960-1986. After that, he moved to Pasadena, Ca. where he acted as Director of the Carnegie Observatories. In 2003, he retired and moved to Atascadero to be closer to his family.