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2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of an astronomical telescope and has been declared the International Year of Astronomy. This global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture has the aim of stimulating worldwide interest in astronomy and science and promoting a greater appreciation of the inspirational aspects of astronomy across all nations and cultures.

Join in and celebrate a fun astronomical year with the Wellington Astronomical Society and Wellington City Libraries as we bring you events, activities, displays and talks - discover, wonder and explore with us throughout 2009!

Now’s your chance to see the Cosmodome

The NightVisionz Cosmodome has been a big hit this week with over 2000 school children scheduled to visit it over a four day period.  But the dome’s not just for school groups – everyone gets their chance to visit in the late afternoon and evening.  There are two days left (4pm until 8pm Friday and 10am until 4pm on Saturday) so come along and explore the night sky (gold coin donation).  Astronomer Ron Fisher will take you on a journey of constellations including Matariki – you’ll find there’s something for everyone.

If you want more encouragement, the Dominion Post visited on Tuesday: read their article “Portable igloo gives a galactic experience” for their report of the experience.

Cosmodome opens Tuesday 9 June

The Cosmodome will be at Central Library very soon – Rebecca in this video shows what it will look like and gives further information about the event:

Check out the Cosmodome!

cosmodomeThe Young Adults area at Central Library is about to be transformed into a planetarium as it hosts the NightVisionz Cosmodome. Using a digital audio visual show to simulate the stars and a dome large enough to take 30 people inside at a time, visitors will be able to literally step into a journey through the night sky and learn about Matariki and other constellations with astronomer Ron Fisher.

The Cosmodome is a great experience for children and adults alike and will be open to the public from 4-8pm from Tuesday 9th to Friday 12th June and 10am-4pm on Saturday 13th June. Entry is by gold coin donation and sessions are on the half hour – just turn up (please allow a little extra time as the number of people allowed in the dome during each session is limited and there may be a short wait).

Armchair Astronomy

365 Days of Astronomy  (where a new astronomy podcast is posted daily during the International Year of Astronomy ‘09), had a recent post about ‘citizen science’, or science that is accessible at an amateur level. In addition to many other intergalactic gems, the podcasters spoke about BOINC, an open-source software platform which enables anyone’s PC to assist with scientific research (including the discovery of pulsars!); Stardust @ Home, a search for interstellar dust particles using a special ‘virtual microscope’; and GalaxyZoo, where you can classify whole galaxies by their shape.  Listen to the podcast for more information!

Not as we know it.

The new Star Trek movie is very enjoyable, but does its astronomy hold up under scrutiny? The writer of Discover magazine’s excellent Bad Astronomy blog has reviewed the film and the answer is yes – and no. Well, maybe. Read his review here, but do be warned that it’s full of spoilers.

Astro Mike

Mike Massimino, one of the astronauts on the STS-125 mission to the Hubble telescope, has written the first Twitter from space. You can follow him here. The mission is the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble telescope, and is the 30th flight for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is to be retired in 2010.

Edit: The first of the five planned spacewalks during STS-125 can be viewed below … (more…)

Call it Pluto, and please pass the toast.

Venetia Phair - the last person to be said to have named a planet – died two weeks ago at the age of 90. She thought up the name Pluto for the newly discovered planet in 1930 at the age of 11, and suggested it to her uncle over breakfast. He – luckily – was a good friend of the professor of astronomy at Oxford, and the name was adopted a couple of months after its discovery.

Sadly, Pluto’s classification as a planet was changed in 2006 when the definition of a planet was changed; it is now considered a dwarf planet, along with Ceres, Eris, Haumea and the delightfully named Makemake.

Interestingly, the word ‘plutoed‘ (meaning to demote or devalue something or someone) was chosen by the American Dialect Society as word of the year in 2006.

Introduction to Astrophotography

Would you like to take photographs of the night sky? Not sure what to use or where to begin? Using his own experiences, John Field from the Wellington Astronomical Society will explore and explain how to use your Digital SLR camera and software to produce images that were previously  beyond the scope of amateur photographers. Topics include what you need, how DSLR cameras work, what settings to use, how to polar align your mount using a DSLR, taking unguided images using a tripod, piggy-back and prime focus imaging through using a telescope, and image processing using freely available software. John will also include both the good, the bad and the ugly images he has taken to show what can go wrong and what you get when it all goes right!

Wednesday 13 May, 7pm - Central Library (2nd Floor), 65 Victoria Street

Tour the planets!

What would you need to know to survive a tour of the planets? Forget a Lonely Planet guide – let Ross Powell from the Wellington Astronomical Society take you on a tour through the solar system using some of the latest space probe images.

Explore these wonders and discover the hidden secrets of the solar system as we celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

7pm, Wednesday 15 April
Ground floor of the Central Library, 65 Victoria Street

Hundreds join in for the 100 Hours of Astronomy

Thank you to everyone who joined us in Civic Square over the weekend to celebrate 100 Hours of Astronomy – an event which took place worldwide. The weather held for us on Saturday and hundreds of people were able to see the Sun through the solar observing telescope, and then later on in the evening,  the stars, the Moon and Saturn.

Saturn in particular was very popular and quite a stunning sight, especially for those of us having our first look through a telescope.  We estimate around 1,000 people looked through a telescope with us over the two days – a fantastic contribution from Wellington towards the worldwide target of 1 million viewers!

To see photos taken on Saturday visit our Flickr page,  and take a look at www.100hoursofastronomy.org/photo-galleries to see further pictures from other 100 Hour events from around New Zealand and the world.


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