SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

JAMESTOWN, N.C. — Guilford Technical Community College’s Cline Observatory and the GTCC Foundation will present a free public lecture, “The MESSENGER Spacecraft Mission to Mercury: Surprises from the Innermost Planet,” by Sean C. Solomon, director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Sean SolomonThe lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2 in the Joseph S. Koury Auditorium on GTCC’s Jamestown Campus, 601 E. Main St., Jamestown. Following the lecture, Cline Observatory will be open for viewing — weather permitting. Both events are free and open to the public.

Solomon is the principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. The MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury in March 2011 and completed its mission in April 2015. MESSENGER gave planetary scientists an unprecedented look at the innermost planet. In his talk, Solomon will discuss the mission’s findings.

This year’s lecture is dedicated to the memory of Jo Cline, who passed away in the summer. Jo and her husband Don were instrumental in making Cline Observatory and its programs possible, and they could always be found in the front row of all the astronomy lectures.

The observatory offers a free public lecture each fall by a notable astronomical researcher. The first lecture was given at the observatory’s dedication by UNC-Chapel Hill astronomer Bruce Carney. Since then, the observatory has continued to bring some of the top researchers in the field to GTCC to share the wonders of the cosmos. Topics have spanned the universe, from the solar system to galaxies, to great observatories and cosmology.

For more information about Cline Observatory, contact Tom English, director of Cline Observatory, at (336) 334-4822, ext. 50023 or or visit

About Sean Solomon: Sean Solomon is the director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the largest of the research centers in Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Prior to that, Solomon served for 19 years as director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., where his research focused on planetary geology and geophysics, seismology, marine geophysics and geodynamics.

From 1972 to 1992, Solomon was a member of the faculty of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has led or been involved in oceanographic expeditions on Earth as well as spacecraft missions to the moon, Venus, Mars and Mercury.

In 2011, when he stepped down as a director at Carnegie, colleagues arranged to have a previously discovered asteroid named after Solomon. Asteroid 25137 Seansolomon — about a mile and half wide — is currently orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter. Solomon is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Medal of Science given to him by President Obama in 2012.

Solomon is a graduate of the California Institute of Technology (1966) and MIT (Ph.D., 1971). He was born and raised in Los Angeles and now lives in New York City.

Guilford Technical Community College is the third largest of 58 institutions in the NC Community College System. GTCC serves more than 40,000 students annually from five campuses and a Small Business Center. Learn more at


— Carla Kucinski/GTCC