SCATS Astronomers Tour the Solar System

Astronomy Telescope

We’re all a little exhausted this Friday afternoon, not just from the days of exhilarating lessons, but the nights of activities and general non-sleeping. We had a bit of an extra-late night on Wednesday, as most of our Astronomy campers did some summer stargazing from the rooftop of the Thompson Complex. The WKU Department of Physics and Astronomy operates several 4-inch refracting telescopes and a 12-inch reflecting telescope for university classes, public events, and special events like the SCATS observation night.

Astronomy SaturnWe had particularly clear weather for a warm summer night in the middle of the brightly-lit city. Students could identify summer constellations from the star maps they had constructed earlier in the week, and through the telescopes, they saw Mars, Saturn, and such deep-sky objects as M13, a globular cluster of stars, and the Ring Nebula, a gaseous cloud in space. Special thanks go to Dr. Mike Carini and his assistants, Rebecca and Ward, for running the telescopes and answering students’ questions.

Toward the end of this week, students researched questions about our Sun and Moon, as well as observing them directly during the day with telescopes (with proper solar filters when needed!).  Common misconceptions?  The moon is only visible at night (not this week).  The sun passes directly overhead at noon (not at this latitude; not during Central Daylight Time).

The “grand finale” of the week was cooking up a comet — what scientists call a “dirty snowball” — using dry ice, water, dirt, ammonia, and a dash of organic compounds (we used Coca-Cola).  The result even had its own gas jets as the dry ice sublimated away.

On Monday, we’ll wrap up our study of the moon and planets before exiting the solar system and broadening our exploration of astronomy.

Astronomy Dry Ice