The University of Arizona


Springtime Experiences Abound at Mount Lemmon SkyCenter
Thursday, February 10, 2011
By University Communications

The UA's Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is offering a variety of public observing events, including companion experiences to the UA College of Science's public lecture series, "Cosmic Origins."

This spring the University of Arizona's Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is offering special public astronomy programs in addition to its regular observing nights. The programs include a companion experience to the UA's College of Science lecture series, "Cosmic Origins," a unique Valentine's celebration and once-a-month astrophotography workshops.

The SkyCenter will integrate its regular observing program, SkyNights, with the College of Science lectures. Wednesday through Sunday following the Tuesday evening lectures at the UA campus, visitors to the summit of Mount Lemmon will be able to revisit concepts from the week's lecture while gaining hands-on experience peering deep into the universe with the 32-inch Schulman Telescope.

Visitors can celebrate a one-of-a-kind Valentine's Day with a night under the stars through the SkyCenter's program, Astro Amore. The more elaborate version of SkyNights will be held Feb. 12, 13 and 14 and will involve viewing constellations associated with romantic myths and mysteries including star-crossed lovers such as Orion, Eros, the god of love, and the Heart Nebula.

Have you ever looked at a photograph of a swirling nebula or sparkling galaxy and wondered how it was produced? Visitors to the SkyCenter can learn the nuts and bolts of astrophotography at the special once-a-month workshop, SkyNights: Astrophotography.

During this unique version of the regular SkyNights program, renowned astrophotographer Adam Block will demonstrate how he uses the telescopes on Mount Lemmon and a special observing camera to create striking images of objects deep in space.

Participants in the six-hour program will be able to view planets, nebulae and galaxies through the largest public observation telescope in Arizona and keep their favorite photographs as souvenirs.

For details and a list of program dates, see the SkyCenter's website.

Schedule of upcoming SkyCenter companion programs to the "Cosmic Origins" lecture series:

Feb. 8: College of Science lecture: Origin of the Universe: The Big Bang

Christopher Impey, distinguished professor, department of astronomy and Steward Observatory, the University of Arizona

  • SkyCenter companion program (Feb. 9-11): Visitors will observe galaxies created in the cataclysm of the Big Bang and its aftermath. Astrophotographer Adam Block will talk about how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang: Objects on small and large scales demonstrate how our universe tends toward increasing disorder - the concept of entropy.

Feb. 15: College of Science lecture: Dark Matter, Dark Energy and Inflation: The Big Mysteries of Cosmology

Michael Turner, professor, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago

  • SkyCenter companion program (Feb. 16-20): Although we can't observe dark energy or dark matter directly, we can observe some of its effects in the way galaxies, stars and nebulae behave. Participants will look at star clusters such as the Beehive, our nearest neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy, the spiral galaxy M81 and the irregular galaxy M82.

Feb. 22: College of Science lecture: Astronomical Alchemy: The Origin of the Elements

Philip Pinto, associate professor, department of astronomy and Steward Observatory, the University of Arizona

  • SkyCenter companion program (Feb. 23-27): The universe is bathed in chemical elements - their presence colors nebulae, and they provide the substance of the planets. While observing objects, visitors will learn about the various chemical elements astronomers have discovered in them and look at their spectra through diffraction gratings. The highlights will be a glorious stellar nursery, the Great Nebula in Orion, and the glow of a supernova remnant such as the Crab Nebula, which returns elements to the cosmos to seed the next generations of astronomical objects.

March 1: College of Science lecture: Origins of Black Holes: Gravity at Its Extreme

Feryal Özel, associate professor, department of astronomy and Steward Observatory, the University of Arizona

  • SkyCenter companion program (March 2-6): Although we can't observe black holes directly, we can find evidence of their existence, from the way companion stars behave to the massive tumult at the center of galaxies. Participants will look at video of stars orbiting the Milky Way's black hole and observe Thor's Helmet, or NGC 2359, which contains a star that may eventually form a stellar black hole.

March 8: College of Science lecture: The Oldest Question: Is There Life Beyond Earth?

Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, CICLOPS/Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado

  • SkyCenter companion program (March 9-13): Where can we look for life other than on Earth? This week participants will seek out the most spectacular nebulae and galaxies the universe has to offer and look at a few stars in our neighborhood with planets orbiting them. Who knows who or what might be looking back?

The SkyCenter's regular observing program, SkyNights, is held on most clear evenings. Visit the center's webpage for more information about regular programs and special events.