Biosphere 2 to Host International Year of Astronomy Program Saturday

Visitors inside the three-acre glass dome will see a new image of a famous galaxy for the first time.
Feb. 19, 2009
This image of Messier 101 is part of a composite image and was made from more than five sets of data taken primarily with the Catalina Sky Survey 1.5-meter telescope on Mount Lemmon by UA Astronomy Campers in 2006.
This image of Messier 101 is part of a composite image and was made from more than five sets of data taken primarily with the Catalina Sky Survey 1.5-meter telescope on Mount Lemmon by UA Astronomy Campers in 2006.

The University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 and Mount Lemmon SkyCenter will unveil a new museum exhibit celebrating the International Year of Astronomy 2009 inside Biosphere 2's unique glass-enclosed, three-acre dome on Saturday.

The program starts at 2 p.m. The exhibit will be uncovered at 3 p.m.

NASA selected Biosphere 2 to be among a small number of institutions to display a 9-foot-square, one-of-a-kind image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101. The image combines views from NASA's Great Observatories – the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

The multi-wavelength picture has been described as seeing the spectacular galaxy "using your eyes, night vision goggles and X-ray vision all at the same time."

The new exhibit, which includes other astronomical images and a model of the Spitzer Space Telescope, will be located on the lower floor of Biosphere 2's human habitat area.

"We're delighted to have been selected to show the new NASA images," said Matt Adamson, Biosphere 2 education and outreach coordinator. "It's a great opportunity to spotlight research and public programs available at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter."

This year has been designated the International Year of Astronomy to commemorate 400 years of exploring the universe with telescopes. Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609, marking the dawn of modern astronomy.

"Visitors might not immediately associate astronomy research with Biosphere 2," Adamson said, "but we think this provides perspective on the uniqueness of life in our world and underscores the importance of environmental research conducted at Biosphere 2 that will help us protect this fragile planet."

Speakers are:

  • UA Regents' Professor George Rieke of Steward Observatory and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who leads a team that developed and operates one of Spitzer's three science instruments.
  • UA College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz, who has forged new links among several of the college's outreach programs.
  • Renowned astrophotographer Adam Block, public observing program coordinator for the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter.
  • Doug Isbell, designated by the American Astronomical Society as the U.S. contact for IYA2009, who'll talk about several programs and events planned for Tucson and also about a new very low-cost telescope kit called "the Galileoscope."

Admission to Saturday's IYA2009 event is included with the price of tour admission to Biosphere 2. For more information, call 520-838-6200 or visit www.b2science.org.