Apr 2, 2009 | 1
Stargazers take note: Today marks the beginning of a four-day celestial celebration called 100 Hours of Astronomy, part of the International Astronomical Union's International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). The IYA2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei turning his telescopes to the skies and beginning a new era of astronomical observation.
A kickoff event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia today showcased one of Galileo's surviving telescopes. According to the institute, this marks the first time one of the two remaining instruments has left Italy.
An international "star party" is scheduled to take place during which telescopes will be made available to the public at different sites around the globe. Many are amateur telescopes set up in parks or on sidewalks; the 100 Hours of Astronomy Web site has details on many of the planned activities. Most star parties are scheduled to take place on Saturday, but some are planned for other times, such as one beginning this evening in New York City, where Columbia University will set up telescopes in Harlem's Powell Plaza for viewing the moon and Saturn.
Feb 23, 2009 | 8
Early this week offers skywatchers their best shot at seeing the comet Lulin as it makes its nearest approach to Earth. In some locales it may be possible to spot Lulin with the naked eye, but a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars will help to pick it out.
To find the greenish comet in the sky, use one of Sky & Telescope's handy pdf charts, which track Lulin's location day by day. Tonight Lulin will pass just below Saturn in the night sky. (NASA has a sky map for finding Lulin before dawn on Tuesday.)
NASA's Swift satellite is already on the case, having given Lulin a once-over with its x-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes (see photo at left). Researchers are tracking what kind of dust and gas the comet is giving off as it passes near the sun—Swift measurements indicate that Lulin is losing nearly 800 gallons of water per second as it zooms through the inner solar system.
Feb 19, 2009
Meteorite hunters from the University of North Texas (UNT) have scooped up what may be two pieces of the object that lit up the skies over Austin on Sunday. Ronald DiIulio, director of UNT's planetarium and astronomy lab, and Preston Starr, the university's observatory manager, told news outlets that they found two pecan-size fragments yesterday near the town of West, about 20 miles north of Waco.
"The pieces that we found have beautiful ablation crust," DiIulio told the Associated Press, referring to the fusion crust formed by the extreme temperatures of atmospheric entry. "And it's black like charcoal. Underneath this crust the color of the rock is concrete like gray." (A phone call to DiIulio's office was not immediately returned.)
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