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The University of Alabama

Moon, Jupiter Team for Nighttime Show: See Via UA Telescopes; Hear Talk on Gamma Rays

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The moon and Jupiter appear to visit one another on Oct. 19 as the former will become visible in the nighttime sky resting just above our solar system’s largest planet.

Members of The University of Alabama’s department of physics and astronomy invite the public to view the pair’s atypical proximity through its 16-inch research-grade reflector telescope in the dome on top of Gallalee Hall on the UA campus.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. with a talk by Dr. Patrick Toale, assistant professor, followed by the 8 p.m. skyviewing, hosted by Dr. Philip Hardee, professor in the physics and astronomy department.

Toale will provide a brief overview of the field of gamma-ray astronomy, an area that uses high energy photons, called gamma rays, to probe some of the most violent objects in the universe. He will discuss some of the known sources of gamma rays and the instruments that observe them. He will conclude with discussion of a new project underway in Mexico, the High Altitude Water Cherenkov gamma-ray observatory.

Gallalee is located at the northeast corner of University Boulevard and Hackberry Drive, less than a block from Denny Chimes.

Sky viewings are contingent upon the weather. Cloudy skies are not conducive to viewing. For more information about scheduled events, phone 205/348-5050 or go online to

Jupiter has gained extra attention in recent week as it recently passed the closest to Earth it has been since 1963 – a mere 368 million miles away. It remains atypically big and bright in the nighttime sky.

Not only is Jupiter the solar system’s largest planet, but Astronomy magazine reminds us that it is the system’s fastest spinning planet, taking only about 10 hours to rotate. More than 1,000 Earths could fit inside Jupiter, and all the other planets together make up only about 70 percent of Jupiter’s volume, according to the magazine. It takes Jupiter about 12 years to orbit the sun once.

Additional UA sky viewings include:

Friday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. – Nebulae and star clusters, from the Moundville site – Hosted by Drs. Ron Buta and William Keel, professors, the viewing will use three telescopes on pads in a field across the road from the Moundville Archaeological Park’s museum.

Friday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. – The moon and Jupiter – The sky viewing returns to campus’ Gallalee Hall, hosted by Dr. Jimmy Irwin, assistant professor.

Monday, Dec. 20, 11 p.m. – Total lunar eclipse – The fun starts late and stretches into the early morning hours as participants can watch, from atop Gallalee Hall, as the Earth’s shadow hides the moon from view.

UA’s department of physics and astronomy is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.