Jefferson Lab Celebrates International Year of Astronomy with Founders of Astronomy Lecture

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Jefferson Lab will host an entertaining and educational historical interpretation of the life of 16th century astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler at its Tuesday, Oct. 20 Science Series lecture.

The presentation, The Founders of Modern Astronomy, will feature John McFarland, a retired high school science teacher, as Johannes Kepler.  Dressed in period clothing, he will portray Kepler during his early school years to his time as Imperial Mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor. He will also highlight the accomplishments of Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton, with an emphasis on Galileo's astronomical discoveries. The importance of Copernicus' sun-centered universe will be explained, as will Galileo's 1610 discovery of Jupiter's four moons. The discoveries will be explained within the political and religious context of the period.

Four hundred years ago, in 1609, Galileo made the most powerful telescope on the planet and pointed it to the heavens. To commemorate the anniversary, a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO has dubbed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy.

The Oct. 20 lecture will start at 7 p.m., last about an hour and include a question-and-answer period at the end. It will take place in Jefferson Lab's CEBAF Center auditorium, located at 12000 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. It is free and open to anyone interested in learning more about science.

For security purposes, enter at Jefferson Lab's main entrance (Onnes Drive.). Everyone over 16 is asked to carry a valid photo ID. Security guards may perform ID, parcel and vehicle checks. For directions and information about other Jefferson Lab public lectures, visit, or contact Christine Wheeler, email or call 757-269-7560.

Jefferson Lab is one of 17 U.S. Department of Energy national research laboratories and facilities. It is managed and operated by Jefferson Science Associates, LLC for the DOE Office of Science.  These lectures are part of Jefferson Lab's ongoing fall and spring Science Series.

Speaker biography:
John McFarland, a retired high school science teacher, is the founder and president of the Johannes Kepler Project, a non-profit charity founded in 2004 and located in Charleston, S.C.  Its mission is twofold:  to interest students in science and technology careers and to assist teachers by collecting, creating and cataloging astronomy resources.  McFarland’s first presentation was to an 8th grade class in 2003. Since that time, he has spoken to more than 7,000 students, presented workshops at dozens of teacher conferences and spoken at numerous public forums including star parties and planetariums. (Johannes Kepler Project website:


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. JSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. (SURA).

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit