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Skywatch week of April 8, 2019

Mon Apr 8, 2019                               BEAR TALES

This weekend, a new show will be presented at Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium. It's kind of like a camping trip under the stars, in which we find out how Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Big and Little Bears, got up into the sky and how they got such long tails. The show is called, appropriately enough, “Bear Tales and Other Grizzly Stories,” and it took 3rd place in the International Planetarium Society’s Script Writing Competition. “Bear Tales” will tell you more interesting things about the spring sky and its constellations, how telescopes work, and how to look for distant galaxies out there in the Universe. There’s also campfire singing, and even a ghost story about how Blackbeard the Pirate fought his last battle! This is a great show for the whole family. Join us at the Planetarium starting Friday night. Call the IRSC Box office at 462-4750 to get tickets.

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Tue Apr 9, 2019                 NAME THAT CONSTELLATION – APRIL

Can you identify the seventeenth largest constellation in the heavens? It is bordered on the north by Auriga and Perseus, on the south by Eridanus, on the west by Aries, and on the east by Orion. Within its borders are such deep sky objects as the Crab nebula, the Hyades star cluster, and the better-known Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. This constellation’s brightest star is Aldebaran, a red giant forty times larger than the sun. One of the oldest star patterns, in mythology this animal is often a representation of Zeus, who carried the princess Europa across the sea to Crete; or as the seventh labor of Hercules; and tonight, the waxing crescent moon and the planet Mars are together between and behind its horns. Can you name this star figure, the second constellation of the zodiac? The answer is Taurus the Bull, currently visible high in the southwestern sky this evening.

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Wed Apr 10, 2019             LEVIATHAN MIRROR

On April 13, 1842, the mirror for the Irish Leviathan was completed. It was six feet across, and was built by William Parsons, the Earl of Rosse, at Birr Castle in Ireland. The mirror was not made of glass, but of metal, an alloy of copper and tin. Upon completion and installation in the fifty-six foot-long telescope tube, the instrument was named the Irish Leviathan, and for the next seventy years, it was the biggest telescope on earth. Parsons observed stars, the moon, and the planet Jupiter. Then the potato famine hit Ireland, and the Leviathan was shut down. But in April of 1845, the telescope was running again and the Earl observed M51, a large nebula in the constellation Canes Venatici. He called it the Whirlpool, describing it as a "spiral nebula". Parsons even saw individual stars in the Whirlpool, and suggested it was a distant galaxy, similar to our own Milky Way. He was right.

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Thu Apr 11, 2019               YURI GAGARIN

On April 12th, 1961, the first human was launched into space. What was his name? It wasn’t John Glenn, he was the first American to orbit the earth in a Mercury spacecraft. It wasn’t Neil Armstrong, he and Buzz Aldrin were the first astronauts to land on the moon, back in 1969. It wasn’t Alan Shepard. He also walked on the moon, and he was the first American to go into outer space, but that happened almost a month after the first man orbited the earth. That man was Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut. It was a smooth launch and a smooth orbit, but the way Gagarin came back to earth was a bit unorthodox. The Vostok spacecraft didn’t have enough parachutes to slow it down without leaving a small crater, so several miles up, Gagarin was ejected from the capsule, and then had to parachute down to the ground all on his own – those were exciting times!

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Fri Apr 12, 2019                 BEAR TALES 2

Tonight and tomorrow, a new show will be presented at Indian River State College’s Hallstrom Planetarium. It's kind of like a camping trip under the stars, in which we find out how Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Big and Little Bears, got up into the sky and how they got such long tails. The show is called, appropriately enough, “Bear Tales and Other Grizzly Stories,” and it took 3rd place in the International Planetarium Society’s Script Writing Competition. “Bear Tales” will tell you more interesting things about the spring sky and its constellations, how telescopes work, and how to look for distant galaxies out there in the Universe. If the skies are clear tonight, the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will be on hand to let folks look through their telescopes at the moon and the planet Mars. Join us at the Planetarium starting tonight. Call the IRSC Box office at 462-4750 to get tickets.