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Drake's summer observatory series kicks off with a closer look at our solar system

June 10, 2011
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Drake Municipal Observatory

The Drake Municipal Observatory 2011 summer lecture series will begin with a discussion of our solar system on Friday, June 10.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 9 p.m. at the Drake Municipal Observatory, 4898 Observatory Rd in Waveland Park on Des Moines' west side.

The lecture is titled "Where are the Moons?" and will explore our solar system, its formation and its members. It will also examine the question, what is the true size of our solar system?

"We will be giving an account of what makes up our solar system and how big it is and how it works," said presenter Herbert Schwartz, astronomy lecturer at Drake. "We will talk a little about gravity and where we are in our galaxy."

The Drake Municipal Observatory series, presented every Friday through July 15, consists of non-technical, illustrated presentations by Schwartz, along with Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Charles Nelson. All lectures begin at 9 p.m.


Each discussion will be followed by the opportunity to view stellar objects through the observatory's large refracting telescope and several smaller reflecting telescopes.

This summer, Nelson and Schwartz will discuss:

  • June 17: "The Terrestrial Moons" -- Where did our moon come from?
  • June 24: "The Jovian Influence" -- A comparison of Jupiter's biggest moons and their unique features.
  • July 1: "The Moons of Saturn" -- Moons that are bigger than planets.
  • July 8: "The Moons of the Outer Planets" -- The strange ways moons are named.
  • July 15: "The Bath Tub Ring" -- The realm of the "dirty snowballs" (comets).

The programs are held regardless of the weather, although the selection for observation is subject to change due to sky conditions or other special circumstances. Individuals, families and small groups are welcome to attend the presentations. A parent or responsible adult must accompany children.

For more information, contact Drake's Department of Physics and Astronomy at 515-271-3141.

Nelson and Schwartz discussed astronomy and their lecture series on Iowa Public Radio this spring. You can find the segment on IPR's website.

The Drake Municipal Observatory 2011 Lecture Series: "Where are the Moons?"

The lecture will focus on a look at our solar system, its formation and its members.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, June 10.

Where: The Drake Municipal Observatory, 4898 Observatory Rd. in Waveland Park.

Cost: Free and open to the public.