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Drake Observatory programs to explore history of astronomy

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Drake Municipal Observatory in Waveland Park.


Aug. 21, 2008

MEDIA CONTACT: Lisa Lacher, 515-271-3119, lisa.lacher@drake.edu

Major milestones in the history of astronomy and the pioneers who made key discoveries will be explored during the fall series of Friday evening public presentations at the Drake Municipal Observatory.

The free series will begin Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. with a lecture titled “Setting the Stage,” which will discuss the Greek and Chinese astronomers who laid the groundwork for modern astronomy.

Each week there will be a non-technical, illustrated presentation on an astronomical topic by Charles Nelson or Herbert Schwartz of Drake’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. The presentation will be followed by the opportunity to view several stellar objects through the large refracting telescope and several smaller reflecting telescopes.

The observatory is located in Waveland Park on the west side of Des Moines and can be reached by turning west off Polk Boulevard onto Observatory Road and following the road into the park. Parking is available adjacent to the observatory.

The program will be 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, which begin at 8 p.m. each Friday from Sept. 5 through Oct. 24. A parent or responsible adult must accompany children.

The schedule for the entire fall series is listed below:

  • Sept. 5: “Setting the Stage — The Greek and Chinese Astronomers: Aristotle, Democritus, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus and Ptolemy”
  • Sept. 12: “The Shoulders of Giants — Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo and Johannes Kepler”
  • Sept. 19: “The Real Force — Issac Newton, Edmund Halley, Charles Messier and Joseph-Louis Lagrange”
  • Sept. 25: “A New Century of Discovery — William Herschel,  Giuseppe Piazzi, Pierre-Louis Laplace, Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers and Joseph von Fraunhofer”
  • Oct. 3: “Improving the Tools — Anders Angstrom, William Huggins, Henry Draper, Joseph Lockyer, Karl Jansky, James Van Allen and Bernhard Schmidt”
  • Oct. 10: “The Women of Astronomy — The Human Computers of Harvard: Anne Jump Cannon, Henrietta Levitt, Cecelia Gaposchkin, Margaret Burbidge, Vera Rubin and Jocelyn Bell”
  • Oct. 17: “The Modern Giants — Albert Einstein, George Gamow, Roger Penrose, Stephen Hawking, George E. Hale and Edwin Hubble”
  • Oct. 24: “The Master Educators — Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, William K. Hartmann and Daniel Morehouse, former Drake President and discoverer of the Morehouse Comet”

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