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February 2009

Release Date: Feb. 24, 2009ASU Logo

Moon and Venus Viewing, New Display at ASU Planetarium

The Angelo State University Planetarium will host a special viewing of the crescent moon as it passes near Venus and will unveil a new display celebrating the International Year of Astronomy on Friday, Feb. 27, at the ASU Vincent Nursing-Physical Science Building.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27, telescopes from the ASU Physics Department and San Angelo Astronomy Association will be set up in the Vincent Building parking lot to view the moon as it passes near Venus in the western sky. Then, at 7:15 p.m., Planetarium director Dr. Mark Sonntag will unveil two new mural-sized images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Following the unveiling, attendees will be invited to attend a program in the Planetarium theater. All the evening’s events are open free to the public.

The murals each contain stunning photographs of the Messier 101 spiral galaxy. A six-foot-by-three-foot image shows three striking, 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 details of the grand design spiral structure for which the galaxy is famous, the underlying giant clouds where stars are born and the hidden locations of black holes and exploded stars.

The other three-foot-by-three-foot image of Messier 101 combines the views from all three telescopes into an amazing composite. It has been compared to seeing the galaxy with your eyes, night vision goggles and X-ray vision all at once.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo first using a telescope to study celestial bodies. From Galileo’s first spyglass, telescopes have grown ever-larger and more powerful and have moved to mountaintops and to space. NASA's great observatories represent the achievements of astronomy four centuries later and are honoring this legacy with a national image unveiling. The ASU Planetarium was selected by the Space Telescope Science Institute to present these images to the San Angelo community.

The new images will be on permanent display in the Planetarium lobby, which is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Public Planetarium shows are presented at 8 p.m. each Thursday when ASU classes are in session. For more information, call the Planetarium at 942-2136 or go online to

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