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Astronomy Open House features telescope viewing, guest speaker

September 27, 2007

The evening stars of the Milky Way will be the focus of astronomers and amateur stargazers on October 24 when Arizona State University’s West campus celebrates the 10th year of hosting its Astronomy Open House.

Included in this fall’s event are a presentation by Robert Pappalardo from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. in La Sala and telescope viewing from 7:30 – 9 p.m. along the bike path southwest of the West campus multi-purpose field. Pappalardo’s guest lecture is part of the Harlow Shapley Lectureship program that features campus visits by professional astronomers who bring the excitement of modern astronomy and astrophysics to colleges of all types.

“Everyone who joins us will leave with a different experience,” says Paul Schmidtke, a senior lecturer of astronomy and physics in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “For many, it may be their first opportunity to look at the stars through a telescope. For others, Dr. Pappalardo’s presentation focusing on why scientists believe Europa, one of Jupiter’s large moons, may have a hidden ocean capable of supporting life will be of particular interest.”

Pappalardo, a principal scientist and Director’s Fellow in the Planetary Ices Group at the Jet propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, received his Ph.D. in geology from ASU in 1994. His research focuses on processes that have shaped icy satellites of the outer solar system, especially Europa and the role of its probable subsurface ocean. Recently, he has studied the nature, origin and evolution of bright, grooved terrain on Ganymede, another of Jupiter’s moons.

“The question, ‘Is there any other life out there?’, is one of the most profound questions that one can ask,” says Schmidtke. “Anyone interested in the search for extraterrestrial life will want to attend our open house and sit in on the lecture. Dr. Pappalardo is a nationally recognized expert on astrobiology, and his presentation continues our tradition of bringing the very best in the field of astronomy to this event,” added Schmidtke in reference to a recent visit by Comet Hale-Bopp co-discoverer Thomas Bopp.

The telescope viewing will feature up-close looks at the Moon, stars and star clusters of the Milky Way.

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird Road in Phoenix. Admission to the Astronomy Open House is free.