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Tech’s Observatory Hosts Meteor Shower Party

SOCORRO, N.M. July 8, 2013 – The Magdalena Ridge Observatory is hosting a special sky-observing event during the Perseid Meteor Shower on Saturday, August 10.

Professional organizations and observatories from all over the globe are collaborating to organize the International Starry Night event, set to coincide with the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. The shower is visible beginning in mid-July each year, with the peak of activity between August 9 and 14. During the peak, the rate of meteors reaches 60 or more per hour. Magdalena Ridge Observatory is one of several locations in various countries participating in this public global event. To find out more about Starry Night and see a list of participating observatories, visit starry-night.org.

The event coincides with the annual New Mexico Tech Regents’ Retreat. Members of the Board of Regents, their guests and the public can experience a memorable evening at the Observatory.

"I'm excited to be showcasing our facilities to visitors,” said Dr. Daniel Lopez, President of New Mexico Tech. “Taking part in an international event like this lets people experience the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and how serious we are about our role in the global astronomical scientific community.”

This free event kicks off with tours of Magdalena Ridge Observatory’s world-class instruments, including the 2.4-meter fast tracking telescope, the interferometer, and Langmuir Atmospheric Laboratory, which are located at an elevation of 10,600 feet.

Dr. Ifan Payne, Program Director of the Observatory, said “We are proud to be a part of this international event and thrilled to be able to open to the Observatory to the public.”

The schedule of public events:

4 to 5 p.m. – Meet at Water Canyon to caravan

5:30 p.m. – Tour of the Langmuir Laboratory

6:30 p.m. – Tour of the MRO Interferometer

7:30 p.m. – Tour of the 2.4-meter telescope

8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Observing!

Guests are encouraged to set out blankets and chairs, don warm clothing (the ridge can get quite cold and windy after dark), and bring bug spray. Guests should also bring food and drink. The Perseids are visible by the naked eye, but guests are welcome to bring telescopes or binoculars. Only flashlights that emit red light should be used. The meteor shower will peak after midnight, so guests should be prepared to stay as late as 2 a.m. to see the wonder.

The Perseid Meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The debris burning up in Earth’s atmosphere produces the dazzling sight we call a meteor shower.

The MRO isn’t doing this alone. Besides the many other observatories participating in the first-ever International Starry Night, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array has also lent its support and will be assisting MRO in coordinating this event. This event is part of ongoing public outreach and education efforts at MRO.

Starry Night at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory is free and open to the public. However, registration is required. To learn more and to register, visit  http://www.mro.nmt.edu/education-outreach/star-parties/international-starry-night-august-10-2013/.

– NMT –

By Elizabeth Barteau/New Mexico Tech