Lake Superior State University's Ben Long Planetarium will present the first in a year-long series of monthly programs of sky-watching this week, May 1-2, with “The Sky Tonight,” a program and ‘star party' that emphasize what can be seen in the current night sky.
Both shows begin promptly at 6:50 p.m. in the planetarium, which is located in Crawford Hall of Science.
“The most publicized astronomical event at this time is the close alignment of five planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus and Mercury,” said Prof. Randy Mullin Ph.D., professor of physics and chemistry and coordinator of the planetarium. “Each of their positions and its relevance will be demonstrated on the planetarium dome.”
Mullin will point out a visible comet's location, along with prominent features of the near-full-phase moon that are visible to the naked eye. Emphasis will be on one of the moon's ‘seas' and the constellations Taurus, Gemini and Leo, which are dominating the sky now.
In addition, Mullin will detail objects best viewed through binoculars, including the Pleiades, the Crab Nebula, the Beehive Cluster, and the Orion Nebula, as well as a binocular view of the planets.
With the help of chief technical assistant Steve Roch and using the planetarium's new computer projection system, Mullin will show recent pictures and information from the Hubble Space Telescope. Those in attendance will be provided with star maps along with handouts on objects to be discussed.
“If the sky is clear, the program will be reproduced in the real sky from 9:30-10:30 p.m. each night,” Mullin said. “We'll have telescopes, binoculars and informed presenters at the new airport terminal on each of the nights.”
Star-gazers will find the airport terminal at the south end of Meridian Street, between Precision Edge and ‘Project Playground.' Besides Mullin, amateur astronomers John Shibley and Michael Doyle of LSSU will be on hand to show the highlights of the planetarium program in the sky.
Mullin said this week's shows are the first of a year's worth of programs to be offered every month. All shows will be followed by ‘star parties' that will provide those who attend with a chance to see planets, stars and ‘deep-sky' objects through large telescopes and binoculars.
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