Gazing into outer space has always been a romantic pastime for humans. We have used the stars in the sky for scientific studies, to enhance our imagination and to satisfy sheer curiosity. The MTSU Astronomy Department has put together a series of free get-togethers to learn about the night sky and see the visible stars, planets and galaxies around us.
“We have been putting on the star parties for the past 10 years. They were started by Professor Klumpe and were originally on sporadic Friday nights throughout the semester; now we do them on the first Friday of each month,”
said Professor Chuck Higgins of the Astronomy and Physics Department.
The first party of the Fall 2009 semester was held Sept. 4 and included the lecture “Black Holes in Warped Space,” with observation outside the Wiser-Patten science building. The 50 people who attended were able to see a close-up of the Moon, a great view of Jupiter, the double star Albireo and the globular star cluster in Hercules. The crowd even got to see the location of a black hole forming in the sky.
Not to worry, the black hole is billions of light years away.
“What we have available for whoever wants a close look in the sky are multiple telescopes of different sizes with images projected on a TV screen,” explained Professor Jana Ruth Ford. “We have the TV screen so everyone can see the same image at once and to make it handicap accessible.”
During the first Friday of each month, the star parties gather crowds of students, faculty, parents and kids to come out and get a first-hand glance of the sky above.
Images of distant planets, stars and other galaxies can appear so close and detailed; some have even doubted the legitimicy of the telescopes.
“There was one person who kept going around to the front of the telescope seeing if we had taped a picture of a planet on the other side!” Ford said.
If a free date to go star gazing sounds appealing, the next star party will be Oct. 2 with the lecture “Atmospheric Fireworks: Aurorae in the Solar System.”
“Everyone should come out. It is a free, open to the public event that is a lot of fun. It is also a kid friendly environment,” Higgins said.
For more information on the star parties, contact Professor Chuck Higgins at
615.898.5946 or visit mtsu.edu/physicsand click on observation to get to the star party flyer.
If you go:
Oct. 2 – Chuck Higgins, “Atmospheric Fireworks: Aurorae in the Solar System”
Nov. 6 – Dr. Eric Klumpe, “400 Years after Galileo: How Our View of the Universe Changed”
Dec. 4 – Jeff Gritton, “Binary Stars: Strange Star Dance”
Lectures start at 6 p.m. in the Wiser-Patten science building (WPS) Room
102. Observation begins around 6:30-7 p.m. outside the science building.