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Custer Observatory. (Credit: Annette DeGiovine-Oliveira)

How can we see the American flag on the moon? You will find the answer to that question at the Custer Institute’s fun-filled discussion on Saturday, January 30.

If you are a space geek, NASA fanatic or have ever just looked up at the moon in wonder, this discussion is for you.

Former Grumman Aerospace engineer Steven Bellavia will lead the event, which includes a hands-on workshop.

Along with some basic facts on physics and optical analysis, Bellavia will briefly discuss the history of Galileo and what the astronomer could see through his telescope 400 years ago compared to today’s equipment.

Using hand held calculators, the audience will help calculate the performance of several telescopes, including Galileo’s, to calculate the aperture needed to see the flag(s) left behind by American astronauts on the moon.

A telescope’s aperture determines the brightness and sharpness that can be seen through it’s scope. Technically it is the diameter of the main lens or mirror. As the aperture increases so do the details of the image.

The Jan. 30 discussion will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A minimum donation of $5 for adults and $3 for children under 14 is suggested. Admission for members is free.

Having worked for Grumman Aerospace in the Thermodynamics Group of the Space Division, Bellavia had a key role in developing a nuclear rocket engine and performed the analysis, design and fabrication of the micro-gravity liquid droplet radiator that flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-029.

Now at Brookhaven National Laboratory since 1992, Bellavia is principle mechanical engineer on the camera sub-system for the large Synoptic Survery Telescope.

Established in 1927, The Custer Institute and Observatory is Long Island’s oldest public observatory. They are open to the public every Saturday evening from dark until midnight.

The Custer Institute is located at 1115 Main Bayview Road in Southold. Call (631) 765-2626 for more information or visit