12 July 2009

SFAA Astronomy Lectures: Spitzer Telescope, Kuiper Belt

Every month the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers (SFAA) host a lecture by an expert in the field of astronomy. In June, the guest was Dr. Dana Backmann of the SOFIA Project and SETI Institute. Dr. Backmann spoke about the Spitzer Space Telescope and the detailed research underway to understand and photograph Exoplanets. These are planets orbiting stars outside of our own Sun, such as Epsilon Eridani, Fomalhaut and Vega. Of the 350 stars being studied by the Spitzer Space Telescope, 20% of them have "Kuiper Belts" where Neptune-like planets can be found.

This month the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers meeting and lecture takes place on Wednesday July 15th at 7:30 pm. The lecture features Dr. Eugene Chiang, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Earth & Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, in a talk entitled "The Tenth Planet & Beyond." Dr. Chiang will focus exclusively on the Kuiper Belt, the part of the Solar System beyond the orbit of Neptune that includes over 1000 icy, rocky objects, including one bigger than Pluto.

The SFAA lectures always take place at the Randall Museum in San Francisco and are open to all ages (although many of the topics are oriented toward an adult audience). Bring a friend and take advantage of the chance to get a truly in-depth perspective on a range of topics in the field of astronomy.

One additional note: a traveling display of astronomical photographs from space missions are on tour and currently at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The display, called "From Earth to the Universe (FETTU)" will remain at the CAS until September and then move to the Tech Museum in San Jose. The FETTU exhibit showcases the varying spectra of light and how scientists learn by studying the universe at wavelengths of light other than the visible spectrum, something that can help the public to better understand the SOFIA Project.

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