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Planetarium to unveil Milky Way

The Margaret C. Woodson Planetarium at Horizons Unlimited will take visitors on a journey to the center of the galaxy when it unveils unprecedented mural-sized images of the Milky Way’s core as seen by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
These stunning photographs commemorate the International Year Of Astronomy.
The images will be unveiled to the public Friday during Downtown Salisbury’s Holiday Night Out. They will be on display in the window of Just The Thing, 103 N. Main St. from 5 to 9 p.m. and will remain at that site through Dec. 7.
During the evening, planetarium staff will be on hand to answer questions about the images and hand out materials. In addition, the Astronomical Society of Rowan County will have several telescopes set up for sidewalk viewing of the moon.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning a telescope to the heavens. Since Galileo’s spyglass, telescopes have grown ever larger and ever better and have moved to mountaintops and into space.
NASA’s Great Observatories represent the crowning achievements of astronomy four centuries later and are honoring this legacy with a national image unveiling. Horizons Unlimited, one of nine sites in North Carolina selected to receive the images, will permanently display these unprecedented images for all future visitors.
One image is a giant 6-foot-by-3-foot image that presents a unique view showcasing the galaxy in near-infrared light observed by Hubble, infrared light observed by Spitzer and X-ray light observed by Chandra. This combined image was carefully assembled from mosaic photo surveys of the core by each telescope. It provides the most wide-ranging view ever of our Galaxy’s mysterious hub.
The second image is a matched trio of Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra images of the Milky Way’s center on a large panel measuring 3 feet by 4 feet. Each image shows the telescope’s different wavelength view of the central region of our galaxy and illustrates not only the unique science each observatory conducts, but also how far astronomy has come since Galileo.
Within these images, one can trace the spectacle of stellar evolution from vibrant regions of star birth, to young hot stars, to old cool stars, to seething remnants of stellar death called black holes. This activity occurs against a vivid backdrop in the crowded, hostile environment of the galaxy’s core, the center of which is dominated by a supermassive black hole millions of times more massive than the sun.
Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope is available at http://hubblesite.org/. Additional information about the Spitzer Space Telescope is available at http://www.spitzer. caltech.edu/. Additional information about the Chandra X-ray Observatory is available at http://chandra.harvard.edu/. Additional information about NASA’s celebration of the International Year of Astronomy is available at http://astronomy2009.nasa.gov/.

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