Planetarium to add images from orbiting observatories

Feb 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, February 12, 2009, Issue

Mueller Planetarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum will celebrate Galileo’s birthday and the International Year of Astronomy at 1 p.m. Feb. 14 when two new mural-sized images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory will be unveiled to the public.

The photographs of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 commemorate the International Year of Astronomy and will be unveiled by Allen Beermann, executive director of the Nebraska Press Association.

Galileo Galilei was born Feb. 15, 1564, and the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary when he first turned a telescope to the heavens in 1609. From Galileo’s first spyglass, telescopes have grown ever larger and ever better, and have moved to mountaintops and to space. NASA’s orbiting Great Observatories represent the achievements of astronomy four centuries later and are honoring this legacy with a national image unveiling. Mueller Planetarium and the University of Nebraska State Museum were selected to present these images to the state.

Planetarium images
NEW IMAGES – One of the new photos to be unveiled Feb. 14 is this 6-foot-by-3-foot image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101. The galaxy is shown (from left) infrared light observed by the Spitzer Space Telescope; natural light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope; and X-ray light observed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

One 6-foot-by-3-foot image shows three full-color images that showcase the galaxy’s features in the infrared light observed by Spitzer, the visible light observed by Hubble, and the X-ray light observed by Chandra. The images show not only the details of the spiral structure for which the galaxy is famous, but also the underlying giant clouds where stars are born, as well as the hidden locations of black holes and exploded stars. These multi-wavelength views provide scientific information not even dreamed of by Galileo.

Another 3-foot-by-3-foot image of Messier 101 combines the views from all three telescopes into an amazing composite.

“It’s like seeing with your eyes, night vision goggles, and X-ray vision all at once,” said Jack Dunn, supervisor of the planetarium.

For additional information about the orbiting observatories, go to http://hubblesite.org, www.spitzer.caltech.edu and http://chandra.harvard.edu. For more information about Mueller Planetarium, go to www.spacelaser.com.

The new images will be permanently on display in the lobby of Mueller Planetarium. For more information about the museum, go to www.museum.unl.edu or call Dana Ludvik at 472-3779.

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