John Martin, assistant professor of Astronomy/Physics at UIS, will host the Star Parties, which this fall will focus the observatory's three telescopes on a number of celestial objects, including the giant planet Jupiter and its moons; the Ring Nebula in Lyrae, a star like our sun which has reached the end of its life; the globular cluster M13 in Hercules, which is a ball of one million stars roughly 13 billion years old; other star clusters and double stars; and the moon, when available.
Martin noted that this year a number of activities are also planned in conjunction with the observance of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. "It's an opportunity for people to share in the history of discovery that has led to our current understanding of our place in the universe," he said.
"In 1609, using his first telescope, Galileo discovered the four moons of Jupiter," Martin explained. "These were the first bodies discovered in our solar system that clearly did not orbit around the Earth. This was an important event in astronomy as well as human history because what Galileo saw convinced him that the Copernican heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the solar system was correct.
"However, we'll offer better views than Galileo got," he added.
Friday Star Parties are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required, and groups are encouraged to attend. The entrance to the campus observatory is located outside Brookens Library on the southeast corner.
Questions about whether the weather is suitable for viewing should be directed to 217/206-8342 at 7 p.m. on the evening of the Star Party.