By Dan Burgos
The Department of Physical Sciences at the Ammerman campus announced on February 6, 2009 that, our college has been selected by NASA to present new and stunning images to all the people of Long Island. A breathtaking unveiling event will take place at the Smithtown Science Building, in room 109, on February 20th when two new images taken by NASA’s Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory will be unveiled to the public. Suffolk County Community College is one of only four community colleges in the nation to partake in the International Year of Astronomy celebrations.
The stunning photographs of the spiral galaxy, Messier 101, will be unveiled by Dr. Michael Inglis, Astrophysicist and Associate Professor of Astronomy at Suffolk County Community College. Dr. Inglis noted, “As part of the celebration, we will be featuring a 6-foot-by-3-foot image which shows three striking full-color images that showcase the galaxy’s features in the infrared light observed by the Spitzer Space Telescope, the visible light observed by Hubble, and the X-ray light observed by Chandra. The images show not only the details of the grand design spiral structure for which the galaxy is famous, but also the underlying giant clouds where stars are born, as well as the hidden locations of black holes and exploded stars. These multi-wavelength views provide both stunning beauty and a wealth of scientific information not even dreamed of by Galileo.” ” After the unveiling, a presentation will be delivered by Dr. Inglis, titled “The Life and Legacy of Galileo”.
The Messier 101 is a spiral galaxy about 22 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, and is nearly twice the diameter of the Milky Way. Hubble’s visible-light view shows off the swirls of vibrant stars and glowing gases. In contrast, Spitzer’s infrared-light image sees into the spiral arms and reveals the glow of dust lanes where dense clouds can collapse to form new stars. Chandra’s X-ray uncovers the high-energy features in the galaxy, such as the remains of exploded stars and matter zipping around black holes. The combination of these observations from the three telescopes provides an in-depth view of the galaxy for both astronomers and the public. Dr. Hashima Hasan, lead scientist for the International Year of Astronomy at NASA Headquarters in Washington describes the second 3-foot-by-3-foot image of Messier 101 as “using your eyes, night vision goggles, and X-ray vision all at the same time.”
2009 was designated the International Year of Astronomy Celebrations by NASA to commemorate 400 years of exploring the universe since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609. Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute and Project Manager for The International Year of Astronomy, Denise Smith commented, “During the International Year of Astronomy, we want to provide opportunities for children, youth, and adults nationwide to discover the universe for themselves. Suffolk County Community College has a tradition of providing programs for the local community that instill a personal sense of wonder and curiosity, making SCCC an ideal partner for the image unveiling. ”
The release date of the images were planed in junction with Galileo’s birthday on Feb. 15. After the presentation an observing session using many of the Astronomy Department’s telescopes will be held, if the weather permits.