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  Webfooted Astronomer

October 1998

UW Astronomer Views Universe Through Hubble Space Telescope

by George Best
October Meeting

Bruce Balik,
University of Washington

Wednesday, October, 21
7:30 p.m.

A-102 Astronomy Building
University of Washington

Come early at 7 p.m. to visit
with your fellow members

Bring your slides to show
after the program

The Atacama Desert of northern Chile is the driest spot on earth. There are places where it has not rained in 400 years, or since the area was first settled by the Spanish. And there is practically no water vapor. The few cities that exist here are all along the coast. Thus, inland, there is no light pollution. It is the best place on earth to view the stars. I have been there and can personally attest to this fact.

Another terrific place to see stars is the top of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. I have been there also, but not at night. The altitude is 13,796 feet, so the lack of oxygen definitely affects your ability to function if you are not used to it.

On Mauna Kea, there are the two 10-meter telescopes of the W.M. Keck Observatory. And in the Atacama Desert, the European Southern Observatory is building four 8-meter telescopes, the first of which will see first light in 1999.

However, for the best view of the stars, you must get beyond the earth's atmosphere. The 2.4-meter Hubble space telescope does just that. It was launched in 1990, but wasn't really operational until a repair mission in 1993. It orbits the earth in 95 minutes at an altitude from 586.47 kilometers to 610.44 kilometers. The views of the universe from it have been truly spectacular. Bruce Balick, a professor at the University of Washington, spent last December working with the Hubble, and he will tell us about it at the October 21 Seattle Astronomical Society (SAS) meeting. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Room A102 of the Astronomy-Physics Building on the University of Washington campus, Seattle.

Awards Banquet
The details are being finalized for the Awards Banquet in January. It will be held on Saturday, January 16. A catered banquet at the VFW Hall in Ballard is tentatively scheduled. More details and sign up forms will be available at the October 21 meeting a nd in the November Webfooted Astronomer.

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