Published: October 12, 2005
There is probably no one in the area more knowledgeable about our solar system than PJC’s Dr. Wayne Wooten.
Wooten has taught astronomy at PJC and the University of West Florida for 31 years and is the only instructor to win Teacher of the Year awards at both schools.
Wooten knew from an early age that he wanted to be an astronomer. When he was a young farm boy, near DeFuniak Springs, he remembers being so exhausted after a day’s work, he plopped down on the ground and then saw the comet, Markos.
“How do you keep a kid on a farm from seeing that,” he said.
There are some exciting upcoming events in the solar system, Wooten said. In October, all eyes will turn toward Mars, which will become the brightest it will be until 2018.
He also says that the next really big event will be a total eclipse of the sun; the main point of the eclipse will be near Charleston, S.C. on Aug. 2, 2018.
“I have had two chances to go to total eclipses and it is an awe-inspiring event,” Wooten said.
Recently, there have been questions about how the moon and sun affect our weather.
“The spring tide (which starts with every new moon) was happening at the same time Hurricane Ivan came on shore and was working against us,” he said. “That was not the case for hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”
“Studies are also being conducted with our sun to see if the increasing temperature of the sun was to blame for the recurring and intense storms lately,” Wooten said.
The debate about life on other planets also is an interesting topic to Wooten.
“We haven’t found any intelligent life yet, but the building blocks of life are definitely out there,” Wooten said.
“In the case of Mars and Jupiter’s moons, which have oceans much like our Artic Ocean (abundantly rich in marine life), just because we haven’t seen a walrus waving back at us, does not mean it isn’t there.”
Wooten also has inspired a number of students to obtain doctorates in astronomy.
“I’m glad that I’ve sparked some interest in my students,” Wooten said. “If you have just sparks of interest, get involved with your local astronomy club.”