W.A. Gayle Planetarium to celebrate 40th anniversary with Astronomy Day

Posted: Wednesday, 22 April 2009

MONTGOMERY—The W.A. Gayle Planetarium will mark 40 years of educating the public about the night sky during the annual Astronomy Day celebration on Saturday, May 2.

The planetarium opened in 1969 and is operated for the City of Montgomery by Troy University.

“The Universe, Yours to Discover” is the theme of this year’s Astronomy Day, which is held in partnership with the Auburn Astronomical Society.

The event is free and open to the public.

“The whole intent of Astronomy Day is to introduce astronomy to the public to show it can be a great family hobby,” said Rick Evans, director of the planetarium. “Astronomy is there every night, and this event will help you understand what you are looking at.”

Events will start at 5 p.m. with a telescope clinic led by Auburn Astronomical Society members, who will have on display several types of telescopes to aid those interested in purchasing one. Current telescope owners will also be able to get direction in proper use.

“It’s a great opportunity to look at a variety of scopes,” Evans said.

At 6 p.m. scientists from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville will give a presentation in the auditorium. Guest speakers will be solar scientist Mitzi Adams, lunar studies expert Dr. Barbara Cohen and Dr. Alexander van der Horst, a scientist with the Gamma-ray Astronomy Group of the Space Science Research Center.

At 7 p.m. Evans will lead a “Tour of the Night Sky” inside the planetarium, giving an overview of what visitors will see during the evening’s viewing.

At 8 p.m. visitors will step outside for a telescopic viewing of the night sky, during which visitors can expect to see Saturn, its rings and moons and the mountains and craters of the eight-day-old moon.