U-M's Universe Theme Semester brings astronomy down to Earth
ANN ARBOR, Mich. "It's been 400 years since Galileo first gazed at the stars through a telescope and while many people know little about astronomy, they are still fascinated by the stars. The University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts will bring astronomy down to Earth with the Winter 2009 Theme Semester "The Universe: Yours to Discover."
(Media-Newswire.com) - ANN ARBOR, Mich. ”It's been 400 years since Galileo first gazed at the stars through a telescope and while many people know little about astronomy, they are still fascinated by the stars.
The University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts will bring astronomy down to Earth with the Winter 2009 Theme Semester "The Universe: Yours to Discover."
The theme semester will make astronomy accessible to students, faculty and the community through star-gazing parties, special courses, lectures, films, exhibitions, science workshops for elementary school students, concerts, science cafes and even a march of the planets during the FestiFools Parade in the spring. Most of the events are free and open to the public.
The semester is part of the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, marking the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical observation through a telescope by Galileo Galilei.
Itâ€™s also a chance to take a fresh look at the universe in the midst of a global economic crisis, according to Amy Harris, director of U-M's Exhibit Museum of Natural History and co-chair of the theme semester.
"This is a great opportunity for us to shift the focus from the problems we face locally, nationally and globally and put things in perspective," Harris said. "The universe is so vast, and we are such a tiny part of it. It might inspire us to look at our problems differently and collectively."
The theme semester will showcase modern astronomy and highlight a wide variety of interdisciplinary connections across campus, according to Sally Oey, an assistant professor of astronomy and co-chair of the theme semester. "We're thrilled to have so many participating units that will help us to create a rich legacy of courses, art, and exhibitions," Oey said.
Kick-off events for the theme semester, which runs from January to May, include a Jan. 16 lecture by A.W. ( Tony ) England, a former astronaut and associate dean of the College of Engineering, titled "The Future of NASA." The lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Rackham Amphitheatre.
Charles Steidel, an internationally recognized expert on astronomy and the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, will deliver the Orren C. Mohler Prize Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in Room 1800 of the Dow Chemistry Building. The lecture is the inaugural event for the "Astronomy of the 21st Century" distinguished speaker series, featuring intellectual leaders in astronomy.
Performances of Bertolt Brecht's play "Life of Galileo" by students and faculty from LSA's Residential College are another highlight of the theme semester.
Special planetarium shows at U-M's Exhibit Museum of Natural History are expected to attract more than 2,700 elementary and high school students and 4,500 visitors from the community. U-M students will conduct workshops and reading programs in middle schools and libraries in southeastern Michigan to encourage students to pursue careers in science, according to Harris.
The popular U-M Saturday Morning Physics lecture series will feature an astrophysics theme. The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Program will engage thousands of area residents with a universe-themed book for the 2009 community reading program, "Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe," by Timothy Ferris.
The universe theme semester links the campus and the community with the world-wide celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, said LSA Dean Terrence McDonald.
"The LSA Universe Theme Semester brings this international celebration to our campus and community with a uniquely Michigan perspective," McDonald said. "From a lecture by a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Joseph Taylor to the wacky FestiFools Parade, there is truly something for everyone."
The theme semester is being coordinated by the Department of Astronomy and the Exhibit Museum of Natural History. The College of Engineering, the College of Art and Design, the University Libraries and 30 other academic units are also participating, along with several community partners.
Contact: Maryanne George Phone: ( 734 ) 615-6514
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