Amateur astronomers can learn an assortment of information ranging from what it’s like to work with the Hubble telescope to the pleasure of star-gazing with high-power professional equipment at New Jersey’s annual Astronomy Day May 6, 2006 in Hackettstown. This event, now in its 33rd year, will be celebrated in similar ways by astronomy organizations around the world. The New Jersey event, now in its 18th year, is the brainchild of the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey (UACNJ).
“The day is really a wonderful opportunity for families to come out with their children and learn about science, while also having fun,” said Dale Gary, PhD, professor in the department of physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Gary is vice president of UACNJ. The program includes science displays, the chance to view the sun safely through solar telescopes, refreshments plus three informative talks.
“Our event is geared really to everyone --both children and adults alike-- with a healthy interest in learning more about the sun and solar system,” said Gary.
The afternoon begins at 1 p.m. in the northeast branch of the Warren County Library, 63 Route 46, Hackettstown. Participants can stroll through the displays and speak personally to the physicists—many of whom are teachers like Gary. Organizers will be available to discuss solar physics and astronomy.
Three talks follow from 2-5 p.m.
Lonny Buinis, of the office of instructional technology at Raritan Valley Community College, opens the afternoon program at 2 p.m. with humor: "Space is Really Big: Humor in Astronomy,” is his subject. Carleton (Tad) Pryor, PhD, professor of astronomy, Rutgers University—New Brunswick follows at 3 p.m. focusing on measuring stellar motions with the Hubble Space Telescope. “It's like watching the trees grow in Tokyo from New Jersey," Pryor likes to say. Jerome Vinski, PhD, director of Raritan Valley Community College’s planetarium speaks at 4 p.m. about the solar system’s size and scale. Speakers will be available after their talks for questions.
“At 5 p.m., we break for dinner,” said Gary. “People often head to local restaurants or bring their own provisions for impromptu picnics on the library grounds.”
At 7 p.m. the program continues at Jenny Jump State Forest when Carsten Denker, PhD, professor in the department of physics at NJIT, discusses the new solar, land-based telescope, now under construction at Big Bear Solar Observatory, Big Bear, Calif. Since 1997, NJIT has managed the observatory and currently has an active and prestigious solar physics program based at the famous observatory.
Following Denker’s talk, from 7:30-11 pm, the astronomers will offer night time viewing of the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and other sights through the club’s 16" telescope, as well as other personal telescopes belonging to club members.
“We’re all volunteers and we do this because we want people to share our enthusiasm for science, especially astronomy,” said Gary. If you have a child in high school or middle school who you think might be interested in the subject, do come. We’re experts in the field and will be very approachable for questions and information.”