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Astronomy club to host sky viewings

COVINGTON - You don't have to go very far to take a trip to the stars.

The Charlie Elliott Chapter of the Atlanta Astronomy Club is hosting several events in hopes of igniting interest in the ancient science, or simply inspiring a sense of awe.

It starts Saturday with a display of moon rocks and dust at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, located at 543 Elliott Trail in Mansfield. The dust and rocks were brought back by Apollo missions 15, 16 and 17 in the early 1970s.

The exhibit begins at 4 p.m. and will include a lecture by astronomy and physics professor Fred Buls of Georgia Perimeter College. Buls will speak on radiometric dating, a technique scientists use to determine the age of the solar system.

A potluck dinner will be served at 4 p.m. followed by Buls' program, which will be geared to the general public.

After Buls speaks, there will be a short presentation that includes graphics of upcoming celestial events, such as comets and sky locations of visible planets.

Following the presentation, participants are welcome to enjoy an evening of observing the night sky. Saturn is expected to be very bright and high in the southwestern sky by 9:30 p.m., according to Ken Poshedly, a member of the Astronomy Club.

Participants can bring their own telescopes or use those supplied by club members.

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the club is offering three other viewing opportunities for the public April 2-4.

Weather permitting, the events are scheduled as follows:

· evening observing April 2, at 7 p.m. at the Newton County Library, located at 7116 Floyd St;

· solar observing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 4, at Wolf Camera, located at 3170 U.S. Highway 278 N.W. in Newton Plaza;

· and evening/all-night observing beginning at 7 p.m. on April 4, at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center observing field.

International Year of Astronomy is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to encourage more subdivision and sidewalk sky viewing by average citizens.

It also marks the 400th anniversary of the first use of a telescope by Galileo Galilei.

Following his historic observation of the moon, the phases of the planet Venus and other celestial phenomena, the theory of an Earth-centered universe was discarded in favor of a sun-centered solar system with all the planets revolving around it. This later led to the discovery of the Milky Way galaxy.

The public viewings are taking place during the April 2-5 time period designated as 100 Hours of Astronomy, a worldwide event consisting of a wide range of public outreach activities, research observatory Web casts and sidewalk astronomy events. One of the goals of the event is to have as many people as possible look through a telescope as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago.

"If anything, we're hoping those who are marginally interested in the subject of astronomy, in our universe and our place in it will have a better appreciation for how big everything is and how small we are," Poshedly said.

The Charlie Elliott Astronomy Club meets monthly and is seeking new members.

For more information, call Poshedly at 678-516-1366 or e-mail poshedly@bellsouth.net.