September 10, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky.

The promise of a glimpse at the red planet brought would-be astronomers and the curious to the Christian County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

The skies cooperated to give a clear view of Mars to the crowd lined up for a look through a telescope. The planet moved closer to the earth than it’s been in about 60,000 years. Its closest approach was Aug. 27 but the show continues, as Mars remains bright through September.

The Sept. 4 event was the idea of David Riley, volunteer leader of the Christian County 4-H astronomy club.  As part of the event, 4-H/Youth Development agent Toni Riley held an open house at the extension office highlighting many of the activities young people can become involved in through 4-H.

“It’s one of those things that when it presents itself you take advantage of it,” Toni Riley said. “We have a small astronomy club and David suggested back in the summer that we have a Mars night. One thing led to another and we decided to do an open house. It’s an opportunity for people to find out about 4-H because a lot of people don’t know that 4-H has so many projects and activities.”

At least 20 displays around the building’s conference room highlighted everything from sport fishing to woodworking to the dog club. Young people had the chance to sign up for activities they may be interested in and Charlie Welker, 9, was planning to join the astronomy club.

“It’s fascinating and I think there could be life on other planets,” he said.

Charlie was anxious to get his turn to see Mars through the telescope and his mother, Jeannie Welker of Pembroke said she was interested in getting him involved in 4-H, something her older son had participated in as a youth.

“It’s the best club you can be in, the best,” she said.

David Riley describes himself as an amateur astronomer who’s been active in the science since the 1960s.

“I was in celestial navigation in the Navy and never lost interest in it,” he said.

He said he and his daughters have been keeping an eye on Mars all summer and that while Aug. 27 was the closest it will come to Earth, over the next few weeks it won’t be appreciatively smaller.

“I think this project shows the versatility of 4-H,” David Riley said. “It sort of shakes off the stereotype that 4-H is for rural only.”

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Toni Riley, 270-886-6328