Eyes to the Skies
By Courtney Russell
If you want to see some stars—not the ones in Hollywood, but the ones suspended in the black night sky—attend the University of Texas at Austin’s free public star parties, held at the Robert Lee Moore Hall rooftop observatory on Wednesdays, one hour after sunset, starting January 19.
The cylindrical observatory has a domed top, which rotates and retracts to create a window to the stars, thanks to the modern lens of the 16-inch Moore telescope. If you want to see something special, an astronomer can enter its coordinates into the telescope’s computer, and it will automatically focus the scope on the requested star or planet.
If a large crowd gathers, like one did during last October’s red lunar eclipse, the astronomers will bring several eight-inch telescopes outside. They also distribute hot-pink planet pins and copies of StarDate, a magazine published by the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, home of one of the world’s largest optical telescopes—the Hobby-Eberly.
Plan ahead to see comets during a meteor shower, like the Quadantrids, which will stream through the Southern Hemisphere January through March. Check the 2009 Meteor Shower Calendar online to plan a visit during optimal viewing conditions. T
So, is that a satellite or a planet? If you want to stop guessing, come sneak a peek through the telescope and see white light, moon craters, and flying objects—though no confirmed UFOs have been spotted yet.
Robert Lee Moore Hall is on the southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway. UT holds star parties only when classes are in session, and cancels them if it’s too cloudy.
Call 512/232-4265 (weather hotline and schedule) or 471-5007 (skywatcher’s report); http://outreach.as.utexas.edu/public/parties.html.
From the January 2005 issue.