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Contact: Kelly Carroll, (775) 234-7331
Saturday March 5, 2011 Great Basin National Park will host its annual Winter Star Party Astronomy Night. Traditionally called the Messier Marathon, one of the two times of the year (during the new moon in March and October) that star gazers can see all of the 110 cataloged Messier objects.
Join park rangers and experience out of this world family fun, excitement, and learn about nighttime astronomy. Astronomers will be on hand to guide you through our winter night sky, with their many telescopes of different makes, shapes, and sizes. There will be many opportunities to look at the stars, planets and other deep sky objects including nebulae and galaxies. Great Basin National Park is noted for the some of the best air quality in the nation.
The program starts at 5:30PM PST at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. Telescopes will be setup for the public to view.
Charles Messier, a French astronomer (1730 – 1817), was interested in discovering comets and used a network of European astronomers to help locate potential new comets. These astronomers would report certain objects in the night sky and send reports back to Messier. Messier noticed that many different astronomers where sending back the same objects that he knew not to be comets. To avoid future confusion (and repeat reporting) in 1774 Messier created Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles (Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters). These objects consist of galaxies, nebulas, open and globular star clusters, and planetary nebula. The catalogue of Messier objects uses the convention of M1-M110 to number deep sky objects.
To find out more about the upcoming festival schedule, take a look at the Great Basin National Park website at http://www.nps.gov/grba.