Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Starry Nights: IYA 2009

Did you know that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy? My post about it here on I.N.K. includes several web links about a passing comet you can see next week(!), star parties, NASA resources, plus recommendations for great books for kids on the topic.

I wanted the artistic readers of my studio blog to know about a good resource for celestial images. From Earth to the Universe puts up a new image of planets, nebulae, or galaxies every day on their home page. They have desktop images in various sizes such as the one above (look under the For Visitors button.) If you click on Tour the Images, a page with dozens of thumbnails of beautiful images will come up. It takes a while to load, but it’s worth it. The colors are fantastic and the thing is, they’re really out there! This is W49B, a supernova that’s 35,000 light-years beyond our solar system.
Credit: Image made by J. Keohane et al in x-ray light for NASA / Chandra X-ray Center and infrared light for Palomar / SSC

I haven’t done a lot of peering into telescopes myself, but did have one memorable experience some time ago. A local astronomy club has open viewing events where members bring their ‘scopes and you can walk around and see what’s on view. These are not dinky telescopes either, some are several feet long. One guy had his focused on two galaxies that are (were?) colliding. It was quite compelling to see it with my own eyes. So if you get a chance, check out the International Year of Astronomy web site, and see if you can attend a star party near you.

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