Fiske Planetarium and Sommers-Bausch Observatory will celebrate National Astronomy Day on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus on Saturday, April 11, with an array of hands-on and family-oriented activities.
Most of the educational events will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will include both indoor and outdoor activities. Fiske Planetarium will close for an event at 5 p.m. before re-opening to the public at 7 p.m.
Sommers-Bausch Observatory will remain open throughout the day until 10:30 p.m. Beginning at 7:30 p.m., visitors are invited to join astronomers from the Boulder Astronomy & Space Society and professional astronomers from CU to view the night sky using observatory telescopes.
Throughout the day on April 11, observatory staff members will be available to give observatory tours and demonstrations and talk about various astronomy topics. Visitors will be invited to observe the sun through the observatory's heliostat, or solar telescope, from noon to 6 p.m.
The planetarium will host live talks, tours, demonstrations of the "Science on a Sphere" exhibit, and present hourly science lessons for kids on cryogenics - the study of very low temperatures and the behavior of materials at those temperatures. Planetarium staff also will lead balloon-rocket launches hourly between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Former astronaut and CU-Boulder aerospace engineering faculty member Joe Tanner will give a talk at 3 p.m. in the planetarium. Beginning at 4 p.m., award-winning director and classically trained violinist Kenji Williams will perform during "Bella Gaia," a show that blends visual images of Earth from space with music.
Visitors also are invited to view two new documentaries about the history of the telescope dating back to Galileo. At 7 p.m. the documentary "400 Years of the Telescope" will be shown in the planetarium, and at 7:30 p.m. the documentary "2 Small Pieces of Glass" will be shown.
2009 has been dubbed the International Year of Astronomy in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo first turning a telescope to the heavens. National Astronomy Day is intended to bring astronomy to the public and is an annual event celebrated at planetariums, observatories and astronomy clubs around the world.
The actual date of National Astronomy Day is May 2, which is during finals week at CU-Boulder. The campus is celebrating the event earlier to allow CU students to participate.
Fiske Planetarium and the Sommers-Bausch Observatory are located on Regent Drive at Kittridge Loop Drive on the CU-Boulder campus. For more information call 303-492-5002 or visit fiske.colorado.edu or cosmos.colorado.edu.