Sunday, June 14, 2009

There's an asteroid 22105 called "Rick" now

THE GREAT LAKES PLANETARIUM ASSOCIATION (GLPA) announced in their Summer Solstice newsletter (Volume XLIV, Number 2, 2009) that the asteroid formerly known as 2000 LS36 has now been renamed “Pirko” in honor of Rick. If you go to its JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA) web page at, you can read its designation, as follows:

22105 Pirko

"Discovered 2000 June 11 by the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search at the Anderson Mesa Station.
"Richard G. Pirko (1952-2008) was a producer and space science educator for the Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University. An accomplished photographer, pilot and horse trainer, his passion for astronomy exposed many college students to new educational experiences.”

Its absolute magnitude is 14.4 and its orbital period is 3.6 years.

Classification: Main-belt Asteroid [e.g. Asteroids with orbital elements constrained by (2.0 AU < a < 3.2 AU; q > 1.666 AU)] SPK-ID: 2022105
absolute magnitude H 14.4 mag n/a PDS3 (MPO 8964)
Alternate Designations: 2000 LS36 = 1975 VR1 = 1993 UC4 = 1993 VE5 = 2000 WB125
Reference: 20090409/MPCPages.arc Last Updated: 2009-04-10

It is the scribe's understanding that Rob Landis lobbied the people at Lowell Observatory about the re-naming.

At the GLPA meeeting in October, also, President Cheri spoke of the group's deepest heartfelt sorrow for the loss of a great friend, colleague and planetarian, and that he would indeed be missed by their “family.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pictures At An Exhibition

We wanted to do this last October and couldn't and hope to down the road (stay tuned!) here was the idea:
Upon seeing the great extent of pictures Rick had captured, -- intense and varied, of life on the farm, of the skies he loved to be in, and of people performing -- Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition reminded us of a suitable celebration of Rick as part of the memorial service at his planetarium. We would line the hallways of the physics and astronomy department where he worked with as many pictures as physically possible and space music would play while his friends strolled the halls.

That was the same inspiration for the composition Pictures at an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann, composed by Modeste Mussorgsky in 1874, and orchestrated by Maurice Ravel in 1922. "One of the most powerful of all creative urges is to memorialize. The results can range from the trivial statues of mounted generals that clutter our parks to the awe of the Pyramids. Yet, perhaps the most powerful creations are those which try to overcome a grievous personal loss by immortalizing the evanescent.
"Modeste Mussorgsky produced his Pictures at an Exhibition to perpetuate the memory of a friend. In the process, he created a monument far more massive and lasting than his subject."1
The piece was inspired by the untimely death of a close companion of Mussorgsky. Victor Hartmann, an architect and occasional painter, died from an aneurysm in 1873. The sudden loss of the artist, aged only 39, shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia's art world.
Influential critic Vladimir Stasov helped organize an exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg a year later. Mussorgsky lent works from his personal collection to the exhibit and viewed the show in person. His visit to that show became the most famous gallery stroll of all time and fired by the experience, he composed Pictures at an Exhibition in six weeks. This masterful piano suite illustrates ten of Hartmann's images, with a recurring ``Promenade`` theme to illustrate the viewer's progress from painting to painting.

There wasn't time or resources enough to create this display shortly after Rick's death but hopefully it can be accomplished in the coming year. A coffee-table oriented book of Rick's work is also in the planning stages. Anyone who wishes to donate to the project or be kept up to date on any exhibit via e-mail, drop us an email or use the Donate button.

1. address:
title: Classical Notes - Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Classical Classics, Peter Gutmann.mht
2002 by Peter Gutmann
2. address:
title: Pictures at an Exhibition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
3. address:
title: Mussorgsky/Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
1999 by Geoff Kuenning

Friday, June 12, 2009

What use is a planetarium if...

We found this (group) Letter To The Editor in Rick's things :

An Appropriate Mix

What is an appropriate mix for IPS conferences? We must first define the end to which we are working: the accurate informative depiction of the universe in which we live. The accuracy challenge was well stated by Jeanne Bishop (IPS 1988 Richmond, March 1989 Planetarian) and widely supported by all who wrote in response.

However, we seem to quickly divide into separate camps of planetariums vs. astronomy, and entertainment vs. education. Encouraged by the mass media, many of us view learning and recreation as exclusive activities. They do not have to be, as shown by the large numbers of amateur astronomers, bird-watchers and wildlife photographers for whom a knowledge of the natural world forms the core of their recreation. Education should never be placed in a separate column from entertainment.

The marvelous technical innovations and hardware of the planetarium fields are necessary tools, but the best equipped planetarium cannot compete with the multi-million dollar effects of Hollywood. We cannot and must not try to make a show run on its effects or a big-name narrator. To do so would make us only a third-rate imitation of the mass media.

The other side of this ugly coin is the lack of modern science and the total avoidance of controversial subjects. Attitudes like "No one will understand or care" serve only to isolate our community and foster Scientific Elitism. Topics from the mainstream of modern astronomy that are given good coverage in the popular science press are often either badly distorted or altogether ignored in planetarium programming. For example, in the last five years recent advances in cosmology have been featured in Astronomy Magazine, Sky and Telescope, the National Geographic and Scientific American as well as Newsweek, Time, The Wall Street Journal and others.

With this in mind we make a plea for the continued inclusion of pure astronomy in conference schedules. We in the planetarium community have a vehicle to combat scientific illiteracy. A working knowledge of basic, up-to-date astronomy is essential for anyone making presentations to audiences who trust us as authorities.

John Beaver
Mike DiMuzio
Douglas A. Fowler
Susan Peterson
Richard Pirko

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Forever in the skies he loved

Asteroid named in honor of late YSU alumnus, planetarium producer, originally published at Tue, June 2, 2009, Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio

By Harold Gwin

YOUNGSTOWN — Richard Pirko’s name will live on forever in the skies he loved.
An asteroid has been named in honor of the late Youngstown State University alumnus and former show producer and technician of YSU’s Ward Beecher Planetarium.
It’s somewhat of a rare honor, said Warren Young, recent interim chairman of the YSU Physics and Astronomy Department.
Asteroids are traditionally named after family members of the astronomers who find them, he explained, adding that he doesn’t know anyone else who’s had an asteroid named for him.
Asteroids are planet-like bodies measuring between a fraction of a mile and 500 miles in diameter.
The asteroid named for Pirko is in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and was discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., in June 2000, as part of an ongoing survey, Young said. Formerly known as Asteroid 2000 LS36, the International Astronomical Union has officially named it Asteroid Pirko.
Young said Pirko had a friend, Rob Landis, who works at NASA who contacted astronomers at Lowell and asked that an asteroid be named for Pirko, and the observatory agreed. This particular asteroid is believed to be between one and two miles across.
“This is a fitting tribute to a very dedicated educator,” Young said. “He was an amazing person with a unique combination of talents. We feel his loss every day.”
Pirko’s passion for astronomy exposed thousands of people to the wonders of the universe, Young said.
Pirko worked at the planetarium for more than 30 years writing, producing and presenting planetarium shows to public school classes, college classes and the general public.
He died of an apparent heart attack Oct. 15 at the University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center in Chardon. He was 55.
“He was a very important person to the university and our department,” Young said.
The Astronomy and Physics Department is still planning to erect a sundial on campus as a tribute to Pirko.
Pirko liked sundials and did classes on them, incorporating them in the planetarium weekend programs.
The department announced in October that it was raising funds for the Rick Pirko Memorial Sundial, which it hopes to erect just outside the planetarium doors.
Young said the funds are now in place and the department is awaiting approval of its plans from the campus beautification committee to proceed.
Pirko was a licensed pilot and as a local organizer of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, provided hundreds of children with their first flight, according to a university spokesman.
He was also a counselor for the Astronomy and Aviation Merit Badges for the Boy Scouts of America, the spokesman said.

Contact Harold Gwin or

More on the asteroid elsewhere on this blog:   There's an asteroid 22105 called "Rick" now

Read up more on skywatching in books