My God, it’s full of stars: Eastern Iowa Observatory to host viewing party, discussion this Saturday

 -- photo by Lynn Reihman
The Eastern Iowa Observatory’s 24″ telescope tracks Orion through the night sky. — photo by Lynn Reihman

The Cedar Amateur Astronomers (CAA) are holding their first public event of 2014 at the Eastern Iowa Observatory this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., offering amateur stargazers the opportunity to check out some breathtaking interstellar imagery.

The program, titled “Fluorescent Lights in Deep Space,” will feature a lecture by University of Iowa Physics and Astronomy Professor Steve Spangler, who uses radio telescopes to measure the speed and properties of solar wind (among other research).

“Clear skies permitting, we will [have a] viewing of the regions discussed in the talk, as well as Jupiter, and other objects of interest through the club’s many awesome telescopes,” CAA wrote in a statement released earlier this month.

The presentation will focus on H II regions such as the Orion Nebula, Horsehead Nebula and the Rosette Nebula, the group states.

CAA explains:

Spangler’s research is in the radioastronomical diagnostics of H II regions, which means he studies low-density, glowing clouds of gas called nebulas in which star formation has recently taken place. He pays particular attention to magnetic fields, pressure and temperature in an effort to learn about the conditions which allow for new stars to “be born.”

His program on March 29 called “Fluorescent Lights in Deep Space” will focus on the characteristics of these star nurseries. Spangler will show images and discuss bright nebulas like the Horsehead Nebula, Rosette Nebula and the Orion Nebula.

The Eastern Iowa Observatory boasts a 16-inch robotic telescope and 24-inch Boller and Chivens telescope, the latter of which was donated to the facility by the University of Iowa in 2003 through the efforts of those in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, including Spangler. More information about the facility’s massive 24-inch telescope (the base alone weighs 2,000 pounds) is available here.

 -- photo by Lynn Reihman
the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center. — photo by Lynn Reihman

Established in cooperation with the Linn County Conservation Department, the Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center is located on the edge of Palisades-Kepler State Park at 1365 Ivanhoe Road, about 20 miles north of Iowa City. CAA provide a map with more detailed travel information.

This event is free and open to the public.