100 Hours in Celebration of 400 Years

Thursday, April 2, is the start of the “100 Hours of Astronomy” program, a worldwide gala of free public star shows and other exciting events. The project is a key part of the International Year of Astronomy that marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope.

In Galileo’s time, the most sophisticated astronomical event was that lone scientist showing dubious Catholic Church officials wonders that are visible through a telescope. Four hundred years later, direct observation, such as available at star parties, remains the best way to experience the beautiful science of astronomy; but a new feature, the Internet, also is a significant player.

Several on-line shows are presented during the 100 hours, which continue through April 5. The headquarters site for the project (CLICK HERE) will provide live webcasts, starting 9 a.m. Thursday with a program about a special display on Galileo open at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. A 24-hour webcast, April 3-4, will stream the live program “Around the World in 80 Telescopes,” hosted by the European Southern Observatory.

This is the first time that “so many large observatories have been linked together for a public event,” notes ESO.

“Viewers will see new images of the cosmos, find out what observatories in their home countries or on the other side of the planet are discovering, send in questions and messages, and discover what astronomers are doing right now.” Anyone with an Internet browser and Adobe Flash, which is free, should be able to watch.

Also, star parties will be held in more than 100 countries, and Sunday will see a planet-wide “Sun Day” during which safe solar observing parties are to be held. Finally, remote-viewing telescopes can used free via computer connection; usually these services are available at a price.

THE 100 HOURS SITE has details on all these activities.

The Salt Lake Astronomical Society hopes to celebrate the Galilean anniversary with free public star parties. Assuming the weather cooperates — which may be a galaxy-size assumption — events will be held:

** April 3, dusk to 11 p.m., at the Harmon’s store in Midvale, 7755 S. 700 East. If the weather does not permit telescope use, SLAS volunteers plan to hand out information about astronomy and star party schedules.

** April 4, dusk to 11 p.m. at the Society’s Stansbury Park Observatory Complex. Directions to SPOC are available HERE.
Unless conditions are horrible, SLAS members will conduct tours of the observatory. “If it is cloudy, but dry, a slide show will be offered,” says an updated news release.

Clark Planetarium intended hold a free public star party, but, because of the grim weather forecast, changed its plans Thursday. It will host a free “Night Vision” planetarium show on Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4, both starting at 6:45 p.m. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Should star shows take place, members of the public will be welcome to view the heavens through telescopes set up by experts at the scene, and may take their own ‘scopes too.

“Astronomy happens naturally any time you look up and observe the sky. Astronomy is humankind’s most enduring science,” said Seth Jarvis, director of Clark Planetarium, quoted in a press release. “I hope people will take advantage of the many public events that are being offered this year.”

Dave Bernson, director of Salt Lake Astronomical Society, added, “The 100 Hours of Astronomy Project gives people all around the world a chance to get together and observe nature and the mysteries of the night sky.

“This is a great opportunity for novices and experts to come together and celebrate astronomy and the many discoveries made over the last 400 years.”

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