The Universe (Cosmic Apocalypse)

April 29, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Cosmic Apocalypse.” Here’s a preview…

The Universe as we know it is condemned to death. Space, matter and even time will one day cease to exist and there’s nothing we can do about it. Harsh realities are revealed about the future of our Universe; it may collapse and burn or it might be gripped by a galactic ice age. Either of these scenarios might be a long way off. However, our Universe could suddenly be destroyed by a “random quantum fluctuation”, a bubble of destruction that can obliterate the entire cosmos in the blink of an eye. No matter how it ends, life in our Universe is doomed.

Check local listings for the time of the show.


Veen Observatory Public Night – April 26

April 24, 2008

If the skies are clear Saturday night, the James C. Veen Observatory – located south of Lowell, MI – will be open for public tours and telescopic observations, weather permitting. Here are the particulars:

Time: 9.00pm – Midnight
Admission: $3 – Adults, $2 – kids 17 and under, under 5 free

If you are not sure whether we will be open or not, there are a couple of ways to check. First, you can call 616.897.7065 after 6.30pm where a recorded message will be updated with the latest information, or you can visit the club’s website, which will be updated at that time as well.

Full information on Public Nights can be found on the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association website – Just click on the Public Night link in the menu.

There you will find a map showing directions to the observatory, and a FAQ about visitors’ nights. On the main page of the site, click on the OPEN sign, and you will be taken to a page with particulars about the specific night detailing what objects will be featured through the telescopes.

The main feature will be the planet Saturn. Views through the telescope will show its rings, and several of its moons. Along with Saturn, we will show off some of the finest objects of deep space as well, including nebulas and star clusters. And who knows what else. The sky’s the limit.

If you go out to the observatory, we’d love to hear your thoughts about the experience. You can leave comments here, or drop an email to graaa @

The Full Moon? How about the Full Earth?

April 23, 2008

Back in November we reported about some amazing images released by the Japanese Kayuga spacecraft orbiting the moon, reminiscent of the famous Apollo 8 photograph of earthrise over the moon. Now, Kayuga has done it again, only presenting a stunning image of the full disc of the Earth above the lunar horizon.

Full Earth

If you read the press release, you will find a high resolution version where you can see more detail on the earth’s disc. Also, you can view the movies that were taken at the time.

The Universe (Gravity)

April 22, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Gravity.” Here’s a preview…

Gravity is the most powerful and exacting force in the universe. It is pervasive and penetrating. Gravity binds us together, its reach hangs stars in the sky and its grip crushes light. Gravity holds planets together, and leashes them to their suns. Without gravity, stars, comets, moons, nebulae, and even the Earth itself would not exist. Explore how science and humanity discovered, overcame and utilized gravity. Learn what it takes to propel objects into the heavens, to ride a wave or to ski down a slope. Take a front row seat as an astronaut subjects himself to the weightless wonders of the specially modified aircraft used to train astronauts known as the “Vomit Comet.”

Check local listings for the time of the show.

April’s Full Moon

April 19, 2008

The Full Moon for the month of April will be at 6.25am Eastern Time on Sunday, April 20th. The April moon is called the “Full Pink Moon” due to the early blossoming of “grass pink” or wild ground phlox, one of the first spring flowers. I guess you could say the moon this month is “in the pink.” 🙂

The moon will be one of the featured objects to look at during public nights at the James C. Veen Observatory this year. Please check the Public Night page on the GRAAA website for more information.

Hey! Want to Visit an Observatory?

April 17, 2008

In just a little over a week, the 2008 Public Night Season will begin at the James C. Veen Observatory, located south of Lowell, Michigan. If you haven’t been there before, or it has been a while, you are in for a great experience and a fun time.

Twice a month (if the skies are clear) – beginning at the end of April and continuing through the end of October – the members of the local astronomy club (Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association, or GRAAA) open the facilities to the public for tours, A/V presentations, and the opportunity to look at some of the wonders of the night sky. Some of the objects including the Moon and the planets, and even things further out into space: galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae full of gas and dust.

Listed below are the dates of the 2008 Public Observing Sessions, along with the times the observatory will be open…

April 26 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
May 10 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
May 31 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
June 14 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
June 28 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
July 12 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
July 26 – 9:30pm until 12:00am
August 9 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
August 30 – 9:00pm until 12:00am
September 13 – 8:00pm until 11:00pm
September 27 – 8:00pm until 11:00pm
October 11 – 7:30pm until 10:30pm
October 25 – 7:30pm until 10:30pm

Although we have these dates listed as being open, we will be open if the sky is clear only. Really, you can’t see much through a telescope if it’s raining.

So if you are interested in coming out on one of these nights, your best bet is to visit the club’s website (listed on the right) on the night you wish, and see if we are open. If you’re not near a computer, you can call us at 616.897.7065 and a recorded message will tell you if we are open or not.

The Public Night page on the website has a full schedule, plus some of the featured objects for each session. You will also find detailed information on the Public Nights, plus a FAQ.

It’s a fun time for the whole family. We hope to see you at the observatory this year.

The Universe (Biggest Things in Space)

April 15, 2008

The next episode of the amazing series The Universe continues tonight. The new episode is called “Biggest Things in Space.” Here’s a preview…

Imagine a tornado so powerful, it can form a planet, or winds sweeping across a planet but blowing at 6,000 miles per hour! How about rain….made of iron? Sounds like science fiction, but this type of weather is occurring daily in our solar system. Scientists are just beginning to unlock the secrets of these planets and their atmospheres. Can this research help scientists solve long unanswered questions that we have about Earth? As our own planet churns with the effects of global warming, it’s natural to look into the heavens and wonder about the rest of the real estate.

Like the book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says… “Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindboggingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. Listen …”

And there are big things in the big space.

Check local listings for the time of the show in your area.