JPL science educator Tom Nolan speaks at AstroCamp

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Tom Nolan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist, is a frequent presenter as part of the laboratory’s speakers’ bureau.

He is a lively and entertaining speaker who has learned from many presentations to K-12 students, as well as family and public talks, how to make science fascinating and easy to understand. “Bringing the ‘Wow! I didn’t know that!’ of NASA Earth and Space Science to both formal and informal education is my passion,” said Nolan.

Nolan is comfortable in the speaking arena spotlight. And that is possibly because he honed those presentational skills in his many years as Tommy Trojan riding his white horse Traveler at USC football and Bowl games. (Nolan is a USC graduate in biology with an emphasis in marine science.)

“I rode as Tommy Trojan from 1977 to 1980, when I moved to Alaska, and again from 1988 to 1996 after I moved back to California,” said Nolan. “I rode in four Tournament of Roses parades and Rose Bowls, the Cotton Bowl and the Freedom Bowl.”

In Idyllwild, as part of the AstroCamp Public Astronomy Lecture series, Nolan will be even less down to earth. His talk will focus on current exploration of the moons of Jupiter and the possibility that one, Europa, with a huge subterranean ocean under a thick ice crust, could even harbor alien life forms. Speculation on Europa centers on its deep saltwater ocean, warmed and moved by tidal interactions with Jupiter, with possible hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. Europa is thought to have an ocean 40 to 100 miles deep with more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. The ocean is beneath an ice crust that is believed to be 10 to 15 miles thick.

Nolan will discuss JPL’s current JUNO mission that has been conducting cutting-edge science observations in orbit around Jupiter since July 4 of last year. “The mission is making fascinating progress towards its goal of understanding Jupiter’s formation and evolution,” noted Nolan.

“This talk will explore why we are fascinated with Jupiter, what we do know, what we don’t know and what we hope to learn from the JUNO spacecraft.

“The moons of Jupiter are also fascinating, displaying great extremes, but the chance that one of them might harbor alien life tickles our curiosity and is one of the great human questions: ‘Are we alone?’”

Nolan’s talk is free to the public. It is at 6 p.m. Monday April 10, at the Star Gallery on the AstroCamp campus.

For more information on AstroCamp’s science programs, visit www.AstroCampschool.org.

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