Public Star Night – John Ensworth – Quantum Mechanics for 5th Graders

Our guest speaker for this public star night will be our own volunteer John Ensworth and the title of his talk will be “Quantum Mechanics for 5th Graders”.

In this month’s presentation, John Ensworth will take you through the simple observations of the world that force physicists to accept a whole set of strange behaviors seen in the very elements of nature at roughly the molecular size and downward.

Other than a few new words and some re-purposed words –  all of which will be defined – the basics of quantum mechanics will be explained through concepts and pictures.  Two main ways of ‘dealing’ conceptually with this strange small world will be explored. This talk will be followed by the sequel “Relativity for 5th Graders” later this year.

John Ensworth is currently the Senior Science Education Specialist at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies which is a non-profit organization formed to (among other things) conduct independent reviews on all Earth and space science education products produced by or for NASA. (  His position is the one responsible for directly conducting these reviews and helping with NASA education and outreach efforts through the Web ( and at large education conferences (i.e. NSTA, NCTM, and the ASP) that introduce the products that pass on the criteria of scientific accuracy and classroom usability.

In the 90’s he was a masters’ student and a PhD candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. He earned undergraduate degrees in physics, astronomy, geography and meteorology with minors in math and computer science.

He became interested in astronomy in the 2nd grade and began to teach astronomy to cub scouts and boy scouts by the 5th grade. He worked for the Arizona State University planetarium when Halley’s Comet paid the inner solar system a visit in 1985-1986 and taught the astronomy labs, was the head TA and eventually taught an astronomy course through the rest of the 80’s (as an undergraduate). He worked an internship at Steward

Observatory, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and conducted site testing for the placement of the Mt. Graham observatory complex. He also observed at the 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak, a 36” telescope at Kitt Peak, and at the Multi-Mirror Telescope (now the Mega Mirror Telescope) at Mt. Whipple.

More recently, he’s run more than 60 astronomy nights for Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia and Colorado residents. He was a lecturer and show author at the Oklahoma City Kirkpatrick planetarium for almost ten ears. He has taught astronomy for the college degree completion program at Mid-America Christian University (formerly Mid-America Bible College) for the last 15 years, the University of Phoenix for 12 years, Grand Canyon University for 6 years, and now American Sentinel University and was a member of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. He served an internship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in the year 2000 and is a volunteer at the Little Thompson Observatory in Berthoud, Colorado.  He operates his own backyard observatory, Cherrywood Observatory, in Longmont, CO.  You can view a Webcam of his this backyard observatory by searching for weather in Longmont at the Weather Underground under the Webcam links or at .

The observatory doors will open at 7:00pm and the talk will start at 7:30pm.  Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescopes at various celestial objects.

Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join us for the talk and some observing afterwards.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at:

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