A grand sensation
to contemplate the Universe
and to honor it here with a verse
of melodious harmony.
To see the stars is a marvelous thing
that brings peace and wisdom.
A star served as the guide
for the Three Kings of the East
and for that reason at present time
I celebrate Astronomy.
Dr. Ramón López Alemán
Four hundred years have passed since Galileo Galilei took a rustic telescope, barely measured two inches, and made very important astronomic observations that magnified the Universe’s vastness, which are still accepted today. His contribution, which opened the doors for research in the field of astronomy, is commemorated today by declaring 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.
The University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) will take part in this important world event by offering a series of educational activities including: conferences, visits to the Planetarium, nights under the stars, concerts, and art exhibits, according to an announcement made this week by doctors Juan González Lagoa and Yazmín Detrés.
“This year’s objective is to promote, stimulate, and inspire the youth and the public in general, in topics related to astronomy. Through the activities that have been planned for the year, we want citizens to return to looking at the sky and discovering the Universe,” stated Detrés during the inaugural activity of the astronomic conference, which took place Tuesday, February 3, 2009, at the Planetarium of the UPRM Physics Building.
In fact, the Planetarium will be the meeting point for the majority of the events of this program. And it’s because “it’s mystical,” said González Lagoa, who is constantly receiving the hundreds of children who visit the Planetarium.
“One of the purposes of the International Year of Astronomy is so that students will have contact with scientists, who may then serve as examples. For many of these youths, it’s a new experience, seeing a telescope for the first time. This could show them the path to what they could do in the future and encourage them to do well in math and science,” Dolores Balzac, Planetarium coordinator mentioned to Foro Colegial. She added that the next Open House will be Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 8:00 p.m.
Doctor Brian Muñoz, of the Humanities Department, offered the first conference. The next conference will be February 24, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. at the Planetarium. On this occasion, doctor Nowakowski will speak about radio pulsars. The conferences will take place monthly in the Planetarium as well as at Borders Bookstore in Mayagüez.
Detrés mentioned that from the 2nd -5th of April they will celebrate 100 hours of astronomy with observations in important labs worldwide. As she indicated, the Arecibo Observatory is one of the official hosts for this event.
Saturday, April 4, 2009 UPRM invites the community to a night of observation, which will take place at La Parguera, in Lajas.
“We offer technical workshops on observations of the sky, on the use of telescopes and celestial maps, and light pollution, among others. Participants will have the opportunity to make observations and interact with amateur astronomers, including members of the Astronomy Society of the Caribbean,” explained Balzac.
Art is an essential part of the celebration; therefore, an emblematic concert will be carried out in each country, according to Detrés. In Puerto Rico, the Symphony Orchestra of Puerto Rico will perform during October 2nd, and 3rd at the Center of Fine Arts. One of the unique characteristics of the musical performance is that it will be accompanied by high definition visual effects related to astronomy, prepared by doctor José Salgado. The concert will also be presented in Mayagüez on a date to be announced.
During the month of November, the photography exhibition, De la tierra al universo (From the Earth to the Universe), a collection of astronomic images that combine art with science, will be displayed.
As part of the celebration, students of the UPRM Physics Society will be offering a festival of science fiction movies that will be analyzed by a panel.
The International Year of Astronomy is a global event that will take place in 130 countries. For more information, log onto http://www.astronomy2009pr.org.