The Royal Observatory has announced a packed programme of events in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (slogan: “The Universe – yours to discover”) - 400 years after Galileo turned his attention to the heavens and made the case for a heliocentric solar system.
The Observatory plans to get ten million people to take their first look through a 'scope in the course of the year, and as part of this will offer "a range of opportunities for visitors to gaze at the sky through its historic telescopes". In March and October, it will run two week-long "Moonwatches", described as the chance to "get a close-up view of the Moon’s mountains and craters through the Observatory’s 28-inch telescope, the largest refracting telescope in the UK".
From 6-15 March, Greenwich celebrates a week of Mars-themed events and activities, "centred around the Invaders of Mars planetarium show". The week also features an evening talk by Dr Tom Pike, mission scientist on NASA’s Phoenix Lander.
June sees Saturn showcased from the 22nd to the 28th with a series of evening talks by the international Cassini probe team. On 27 June, there's an family-based "Saturn Day" which the Observatory promises will be "action packed".
The snappers among you, meanwhile, may be interested in the first UK’s first "Astronomy Photographer of the Year" competition, run in association with Beeb's Sky At Night magazine. You'll be able to submit your entries online from later this month, with the winning photos on display at the observatory from 10 September.
More details on the above and more will be available as events unfold down at the Royal Observatory website. ®
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