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Austin, TXCen-Tex Astronomy Weekend is a family event that will take place the weekend of March 12 and 13, 2004 at the Eagle Eye Observatory, located at LCRA's Canyon of the Eagles Lodge and Nature Park near Burnet Texas. There is a $5 gate fee into the park, but participation in the Astronomy Weekend is free.
Astronomers and space enthusiasts will kick off the event with guided tours of the night skies with a huge star party on Friday, from 8 to 11 p.m. "The planets are expected to steal the show from stars, galaxies, and other celestial objects. Mars has dimmed considerably since August but Saturn and Jupiter are brilliant because they have just passed opposition," said Kelley Knight, AAS Events Officer.
Other celestial wonders on the program include comets, nebulae, constellations, and galaxies. The Orion constellation will be viewable and the famed Orion Nebula may steal the show back from the planets. "Orion Nebula is in the top 20 objects I like to see. I've probably have seen it 1,000 times and each time I notice something different. Plus, children love to see the ‘brand new stars' in the Trapezium," continued Knight.
The big day will be on Saturday! During the afternoon the observatory grounds will see astronomers and space enthusiasts hosting mini-workshops from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The hands-on activities will include making comets, building a pocket sundial, viewing sunspots, and various other activities for all ages. The activities last approximately 30 minutes so one can sample everything.
From 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. there will be a gathering down at the Lake Buchanan shoreline for anyone bringing a picnic. Food will also be available for purchase. From 7 to 10 p.m., the attendees will be given a passport and whisked away via hayride back to the observatory for a trek through the universe. "If the weather does not permit stargazing, we do have talks and other activities planned," said Knight.
The Eagle Eye Observatory opened four years ago as a joint effort between the Austin Astronomical Society, Presidian Destinations and the Lower Colorado River Authority. The observatory, which sports two large telescopes, will be open to the public. One of these scopes, the beige Ealing 16-inch Educator, weighs in at 1000 pounds and permits an observer to see objects at least 6,000 times fainter and detail over 200 times finer than can be seen with the naked eye. Visitors are also encouraged to bring their personal telescopes.
"On a few nights I will use the Ealing and zoom in on an area rich with galaxies. I saw about 10 of them at once in the eyepiece. It is just so cool to know that almost all the fuzzy dots are galaxies like our own. I enjoy showing off these beauties to others," said Knight. The constellations Leo, Canes Venatici and Virgo look toward the center of the universe so there are lots of galaxies viewable. These constellations will be viewable during star gazing portion of the event.
The three organizations have created one of the best
places in the nation to view the stars according to
USA Today (August 1, 2003). For more information on
the event, please
or www.austinastro.org or