Thanks for an astronomical year!

Wow – what an amazing and fun year we’ve had celebrating the International Year of Astronomy!  It has been great meeting and getting to know some of you throughout the year and thank you to everyone who has participated in the wide variety of events provided by the Wellington Astronomical Society – including talks, telescope observing, the Cosmodome, and activities for younger astronomers such as launching rockets and making comets.

Although our events at the library are now over for the year, there are still plenty of opportunities to continue enjoying all things astronomical.  The Wellington Astronomical Society welcomes visitors and new members to their monthly talks, telescope observing and other events and you can visit their website for more info.  And the much anticipated re-opening of Carter Observatory is scheduled for February 2010 – to receive regular updates and the latest news click on the Big Bang link on their website.   And of course, we hope you will continue to enjoy reading and using our books, magazines and science databases at Wellington City Libraries for information on astronomy too.

We hope you’ve enjoyed making new discoveries in the International Year of Astronomy – happy stargazing everyone!

The Christmas Star – is there a scientific explanation for the Star of Bethlehem?

A free talk by Frank Andrews from Wellington Astronomical Society

Is it possible to give a scientific explanation for the biblical account of the appearance of a bright star at the time of the birth of Jesus?  By studying the few fragments of information that are available and combining them with known historical material it is possible to exclude some theories that have been put forward over the last four centuries. In putting together this complex jigsaw puzzle over a period of nearly five decades, Frank Andrews suggests a possible new scenario which fits well with biblical accounts and known, independent historical records.

Come and join us to hear more in what promises to be an entertaining talk with Frank as we near Christmas and celebrate the last event in our International Year of Astronomy series with Wellington City Libraries and Wellington Astronomical Society.

 Tuesday 1 December, 7-8pm at Central Library

Mata Ora – Celebrating Maori Celestial Navigation

With Hekenukumai (Hector) Busby, Jack Thatcher and Hoturoa Barclay Kerr

Celebrating celestial navigation, the event Mata Ora highlights and pays tribute to the courageous deep sea voyaging explorations of Maori using the sun, moon and stars as they sought new lands.

Today there is a revival of oceanic navigation by the stars underway throughout the Pacific ocean and you can join leading star navigators Hector Busby, Jack Thatcher and Hoturoa Barclay Kerr for a special evening sharing their knowledge and firsthand experience of Maori celestial navigation.  Hear their stories of blue sea navigation using the ancient waka hourua (twin hull sailing vessels) as they traverse the history of Maori seeking out new lands that resulted in the discovery of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Ngā kanohi o te rangi – the eyes of the sky.

Thursday 26 November, 7-8pm  –  Central Library (65 Victoria Street)

All welcome and free – just come along on the night.

To find out more about Mata Ora check out the four day event Mata Ora – The Living Knowledge from 25-28 November, organised by the Society of Maori Astronomy, Research and Tourism.  Mata Ora 2009 is proudly supported by UNESCO.

Celebrate 400 years of Galileo!

As part of the International Year of Astronomy, people worldwide will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope to look at the night sky from 22-24 October. We have three great opportunities for you to join in too with Wellington City Libraries and Wellington Astronomical Society – there’s something for everyone: they’re all fun and free, no bookings required.

The Life and Science of Galileo – Thursday 22 October, 7-8pm, Central Library
Find out about Galileo’s contributions to modern science and how he used his ideas to discover the universe with a telescope in this free talk by Ross Powell from the Wellington Astronomical Society.

Best known as a genius of science for his use of the telescope, Galileo also made important discoveries about gravity and motion that laid the foundations for modern astronomy and science. Find out more about the man who was at times surrounded by controversy between science and religion, but did not let that stop his revolutionary ideas from progressing the exploration of our universe (suitable for adults).

Galileo for Kids – Saturday 24 October, 2-4pm, Central Library
Kids can join in the fun too :  find out how to make a simple telescope and try out other fun experiments exploring things such as gravity and pendulums, just like Galileo did. All young astronomers who come along will also get to make their own special Galileo badge to take home (suitable for 5-12 year olds).

Activities and experiments will be provided by the Wellington Astronomical Society and Wellington City Libraries.

Galileo’s Moons – Saturday 24 October, 7.30-11pm, Thomas King Observatory (near Carter Observatory at the top of the Botanical Gardens)
Come along to Thomas King Observatory to join in the celebrations and look through telescopes to see Jupiter and the Moon just like Galileo did 400 years ago* – it’s a fun and free night for all the family!
(*weather permitting – if cloudy or wet other activities will be held inside Thomas King Observatory)

Come along and join us as we continue to explore, wonder and discover in the International Year of Astronomy 2009!

The Dark Side of Lighting

Light pollution is an increasing problem threatening not only astronomy, but also human health, eco systems, safety and our human heritage.  But being dark sky friendly does not mean no light – it means using the light that you need for a particular task in the most efficient manner possible. 

Find out what you can do to save energy, money and keep the skies as natural as possible in this free illustrated talk with Steve Butler, Director of the Dark Skies Group, signatory to the NZ Urban Design Protocol and member of the International Dark-Sky Association, an educational organisation working to preserve the natural night skies worldwide.

When: Tuesday 6th October, 7pm

Where: Central Library (Victoria Street)

Black holes & Big bangs – Einstein’s gravity

What are the implications of Einstein’s theory of gravity for astronomy and cosmology?  What happens if you add quantum physics to the mix?  And why should we be interested?  The physics community have been racking their brains on these aspects for the last ninety years and in this illustrated talk Professor Matt Visser from Victoria University will present a non-technical and easy to understand description of some of the key issues.  You won’t need a degree in physics or anything to enjoy this free talk – just a general interest in astronomy or science. 

 Come along to find out more on Wednesday 9th September, 7pm at Central Library (Victoria Street) as we continue to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy!

Astronomy in Islam

Join us for an evening at Ruth Gotlieb Library in Kilbirnie to learn more about the importance of astronomy in Islam as we celebrate Islam Awareness Week.

There will be a presentation, displays, time for questions and if it is a clear night a chance to look at the night sky through a telescope.

Light refreshments are provided from 6pm and the programme will begin at 6.30pm, Thursday 13 August.

The Great Comets of Our Time – how do they compare with the past?

What makes a ‘Great Comet’, and how do the Great Comets of our lifetime compare with the legendary comets of the historical era? Many New Zealanders have had opportunities to marvel at these rare phenomena – including the famous Comet Halley in 1986, and more recently Comet McNaught in January 2007 with its impressive rooster tail.

Come on a journey through time and space with Ian Cooper from Palmerston North Astronomical Society as he compares the Great Comets of our time with those in the past, and witness for yourself these spectacular visions that have heralded the death of kings and other momentous events in human history

When: Wednesday 12 August, 7-8pm

Where: Central Library (Ground Floor), 65 Victoria Street

Apollo plus 40: Central Library event

40 years ago this July humans landed on the Moon for the first time – and then did it five more times over the next three and a half years. In this illustrated presentation, David Maclennan, President of the NZ Spaceflight Association, will reflect on how and why the Apollo programme came to be, its historical and cultural significance, and how we experienced it all from afar here in New Zealand.

Project Apollo reflected the heady optimism of the “Swinging 60’s”, when the world finally shook off the post-World War 2 gloom and envisaged a bright, shiny future, perhaps best epitomised by Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. That this utopian future never quite eventuated may in part explain why humans haven’t returned to the Moon since December 1972.

But all that will soon change – come along to find out more about plans for humans to be back on the Moon by 2020, and later on to Mars…

When: Tuesday 21 July, 7-8pm

Where: Central Library, 65 Victoria Street, Wellington

Cosmodome sessions booked out

The cosmodome, a portable planetarium for showing the night sky, has been so popular that all sessions for today,  its final day at Central Library, have been booked out very quickly.  We have been thrilled with the response from the public over the last five days.

More events for the International Year of Astronomy are planned, watch this blog for details as they come to hand.