Published in Reflector
On September 29th,30,th and October 1st this year the provincial town of Birr will buzz with people whose common interest is the wonder of the night sky and a collective deep appreciation of the historic setting of Birr castle and Irish astronomy.
The cosmic wonder that is the Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venactici was observed in the 1840’s under the dark skies of
First discovered in October 1773 by Charles Messier, it took the Great Leviathan to bring to the worlds notice its spiral structure. The Earl captured this through an accurate rendition of its nebulous nature, in a painting of the Whirlpool which is much admired today. The Galaxy is also known as Rosse’s Nebula or Lord Rosse’s Question Mark. William Parsons is credited with assigning the name Whirlpool to this spiral Galaxy.
William Parsons, drawings of M51 in 1845 closely resemble some modern photographs. I like to think of the light from M51, thirty seven million light years away and sixty five thousand light years across, traveling down the wooden telescope tube in April 1845 to the eye of the beholder William Parsons and onto his page, a frozen moment in time. One has to ponder what William would say if he could view the Hubble images of this beautiful structure today.
William’s earlier drawings in 1844 using his 36 inch reflector of M1 did look a bit crab like and the name is now synonymous with this Messier object.
The quality of the telescope and the appetite of for discovery and science placed Birr and
Over the years the Whirlpool has been a magnet for such luminaries as the John Dobson, David Levy, and Kelly Beatty to name but a few.
The twenty first Whirlpool Star Party, has its share of illustrious speakers lining up to make it one of the most interesting gathering of astronomers ever to grace its platform.
Special guests this year include the eminent American astronomer Jane Houston Jones, Senior Outreach Specialist for the Cassini Program at JPL. Morris Jones one of
The Cassini mission to Saturn and the Saturnian system is one of the most visually breathtaking and scientifically rich space exploration missions of our time. The Saturn Observation Campaign is unique as it splices interest in robotic space exploration with amateur astronomy. This Cassini outreach program endeavors to educate at many levels in an eclectic manner to a global audience.
Jane and Morris have many awards for their astronomical achievements, including having a minor planet named in their honor (22338) Janemojo 1992 LE. This was for their work in bringing the wonder of the night sky to the public with their prolific outreach sidewalk astronomy sessions.
NASA research pilot Triple Nickel will tell Whirlpool attendees about his work training astronauts for weightlessness through stomach churning parabolic flight. Triple also helps shuttle pilots to feel like they have landed the Space Shuttle hundreds of times without even blasting off. He uses the Johnson Space Center Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) to accomplish this simulated experience which prepares the pilots for the real life achievement on their return from space.
The Great Leviathan is under repair and maintenance and it is hoped that it will rise to the occasion and thrill astronomers from around the world who will attend the twenty first Whirlpool Star party and who will enjoy the experience of observing in
Just a little view of the presentations to come at Whirlpool 2006 in