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March 28, 2009

‘100 Hours of Astronomy’ marked at museum

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Written by: Bruce Snook

Two nights of celestial viewing of what Galileo saw for the first time 400 years ago in his telescope will mark the opening of the International of Year of Astronomy (IYA).

On April 3-4, the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society will join forces with the Kalamazoo Valley Museum as part of the International Astronomical Union’s “100 Hours of Astronomy” celebration by inviting the public to take a closer look at what’s up there — way, way, way up there.

Using much more sophisticated and technical equipment than Galileo had in 1609, society members and museum staff will point their telescopes to provide views of the moon, the vast plains called Maria, chains of mountains and craters.

Further east, the planet Saturn will come into focus, revealing the rings that remained a mystery to Galileo.

Eric Schreur, the museum’s planetarium coordinator, said the free stargazing will begin at 8 p.m. on both that Friday and Saturday, and continue until people’s eyes grow tired of the celestial sights.

The telescopes will be set up in the courtyard south of the museum and adjacent to KVCC’s Anna Whitten Hall.

Also planned at 7 p.m. on April 3 will be a special program for cub scouts, as well as a planetarium show about how to find constellations using a star map.  The scout program has limited seating, carries an $8 fee, and requires pre-registration.

The concept of “100 Hours of Astronomy” is derived from the fact that, beginning on the evening of April 2, backyard stargazers around the world will set up their telescopes to give public audiences the chance to look up close and personal skyward.

As the earth turns into its shadow, observers in different cities will keep a continuous watch on the night sky until four days have elapsed.

Major observatories around the world will participate by streaming webcasts to audiences in distant cities.

Throughout the four-day period, somewhere around the earth a telescope will be aimed into the night sky.

Another IYA goal is to have millions of people viewing the night sky through telescopes of their own.

Some people have telescopes buried in a closet or garage. The Telescope Amnesty Program invites people to bring them to IYA events, including those at the museum, where experienced stargazers can demonstrate how to set them up, or tune them for better performance.

Source:  News release from Kalamazoo Valley Community College


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