Planet Uranus featured at Nov. 8 at Behlen Observatory public night
Lincoln, Neb., October 28th, 2013 - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Behlen Observatory near Mead will be open to the public from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Nov. 8.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Lincoln, Neb., October 28th, 2013 — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Behlen Observatory near Mead will be open to the public from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Nov. 8.
If the sky is clear, visitors will be able to view a variety of objects with the observatory's 30-inch telescope and with smaller telescopes set up outside of the observatory. These include the Moon early in the evening, the planet Uranus, two kinds of star clusters, double or multiple stars, and the Ring Nebula in Lyra.
Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun, is visible to the naked eye, but was believed to be a star until Sir William Herschel confirmed its planetary status in 1781. It was the first planet discovered with a telescope. Uranus has the third-largest planetary radius in the solar system ( more than 15,800 miles, four times that of Earth ) and orbits the Sun every 84 years. It also has the coldest atmosphere in the solar system, with a minimum temperature of minus-371 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Ring Nebula in Lyra is one of the best-known and most easily observed examples of a type of object known as planetary nebulae. It is the remnant of an old, dying star which expelled its outer layers several thousand years ago. They now form a cloud about 3 light years in diameter around the star. Due to its extremely high surface temperature of about 225,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the star emits intense ultraviolet radiation that heats the gas cloud to a temperature of around 17,000 degrees, causing it to glow.
At 8 p.m., a member of the observatory staff will give a presentation on comets and his best prediction for the behavior of comet ISON when it becomes visible in Nebraska skies in early December. Some have predicted it would be the "Comet of the Century" and will be easily seen by the naked eye. However, comets often fail to live up to expectation and the close encounter of the comet with the Sun in late November could cause it to break up.
There is no admission charge for the public night. Further information, including maps and directions, can be found on the observatory website, http://astro.unl.edu/observatory, or by calling UNL astronomer Edward Schmidt at 402-472-2788.
Writer: Edward Schmidt
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