Celebrate International Year of Astronomy at TAMIU LBV Planetarium

Celebrate International Year of
Astronomy at TAMIU LBV Planetarium

A 9-square-foot print of the famous spiral galaxy Messier Object 101, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, will be unveiled Saturday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. at the Texas A&M International University Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium lobby to kick off International Year of Astronomy.

There is no charge to view the giant poster.

“This event will help us kick off our celebration of the International Year of Astronomy and will serve as the first of many events we have planned this year,” said Gerardo Pérez, director, LBV Planetarium.

When Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609, he gave birth to modern astronomy. To celebrate 400 years of exploring the universe, 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy.

NASA’s Great Observatories—the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory—are marking the celebration by releasing a suite of images. The Messier 101 print combines the optical view of Hubble, the infrared view of Spizer and the X-ray view of Chandra into one multi-wavelength picture.

“It's like using your eyes, night vision goggles, and X-ray vision all at the same time,” explained Dr. Hashima Hasan, lead scientist for the International Year of Astronomy at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Messier 101
A 9-square-foot of this print will be on display at the TAMIU LBV Planetarium lobby.

“We are excited to be able to bring these wonderful images to our community, our facility will be one of 100 museums, science centers and planetariums that were chosen to unveil these images,” Pérez said.

Also on display will be a matched trio of Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra images of Messier 101. Each image shows a different wavelength view of the galaxy that illustrates not only the different science uncovered by each observatory, but also just how far astronomy has come since Galileo.

Messier 101 is a face-on spiral galaxy about 22 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It is in many ways similar to, but larger than, our own Milky Way galaxy. Hubble's visible-light view shows off the swirls of bright stars and glowing gas. In contrast, Spitzer's infrared-light image sees into the spiral arms and reveals the glow of dust lanes where dense clouds can collapse to form new stars. Chandra's X-ray picture uncovers the high-energy features in the galaxy, such as remnants of exploded stars or matter zooming around black holes.

The juxtaposition of observations from these three telescopes provides an in-depth view of the galaxy for both astronomers and the public.

“The unveiling of these images is a unique opportunity for our visitors to see an image that combines three different wavelengths into one. Images like these highlight four centuries of scientific discoveries and show how far we have come since the first spyglass was aimed at the sky 400 years ago,” Pérez observed.

Although the stargazing part of the evening was cancelled, the LBV Planetarium’s scheduled shows are still on the program. “The Secret of the Cardboard Rocket” will show at 5 p.m., “Wonders of the Universe” at 6 p.m. and “Extreme Planets” at 7 p.m.

General admission is $5 and $4 for children and TAMIU students, faculty and staff.

For a complete show schedule, click on tamiu.edu/coas/planetarium or call 326.2444.

For more information, contact Pérez at planetarium@tamiu.edu or call 326.2606.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu