Noeleen Lowndes is a Gold Coast-based astronomer and Campaign Member for NASA’s Saturn Observation Campaign in Australia. This is her fourth year as a guest presenter at Kingfisher Bay Resort – where she introduces recreational astronomers to Saturn, the moon and the autumn constellations in the clear night skies above Fraser Island. April 2010.
My most favourite statement made by one of the Apollo 8 astronauts Bill Anders is “We went to discover the Moon and ended up discovering the Earth.”
Anders took an iconic photographic image of Earth as his command module orbited the Moon – this image has been seen by millions around the world.
It is not widely known, but it was this mission in December 1968 that rocketed the first three human beings to the Moon, before the spectacular landing of Apollo 11 in July 1969.
The astronaut’s names were Frank Bowman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. Feel free to visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/index.html to learn more.
So what did we do here on Earth at Kingfisher Bay Resort for our Lunar Star Party over the Easter long weekend?
After the weekend’s astronomy and space presentations we raced down to the resort’s helipad to look at our beautiful silvery Moon through my large telescope. Everyone saw the magnificent crater Tycho, Copernicus and Kepler – each have huge ray systems that spread out across the Moon’s surface for hundreds and thousands of kilometres.
You can only see these stunning rays at full Moon. This is because the Sun illuminates the whole surface of the near side of the Moon that faces us in space. These rays are caused by huge impacts from asteroids or comets billions of years ago, and it is this material (that was ejected from the impact) that has spread across the surface for us to see in our telescopes.
Many of the children (who joined in the family sessions) were also showed the bunny in the moon holding his Easter egg… yes, the lunar seas on the surface of the Moon (as seen in the Southern Hemisphere) looks just like a bunny…the children loved it.
For those amateur astronomers who couldn’t join us on Fraser Island – if you are interested in downloading a FREE star map of the heavens, please visit: http://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. Thank you to Kym Thalassoudis for making these maps available to the public.
When Saturn came out behind the clouds – “WOW” – everybody was just amazed at how beautiful it was in the eyepiece of the telescope.
In fact, some people just couldn’t believe that it was for real, saying it looked just like a picture pasted onto the end of the telescope!
Saturn is indeed one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky, with its serene beauty and stunning rings.
My role with NASA’s Saturn Observation Campaign is to show this beautiful planet to the community, and to let everybody know of all the amazing discovers being made by the Cassini spacecraft that’s currently orbiting the planet and its many mysterious Moons.
Thank you again to Bec, Senior Ranger at Kingfisher Bay Resort for making me feel so welcome. I wish everybody clear skies no matter where you live on this amazing planet and look forward to seeing you again on Fraser in the not-so-distant future.