People across America will have a chance to gaze up at Jupiter and its four largest moons this weekend the same way Galileo did almost 400 years ago.
To celebrate "Galilean Nights," a project supported by the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), public observing events will be held this upcoming weekend in over 50 countries. More than 75 events in the United States are planned.
Several observatories will be available to the public for remote observing sessions and people will be allowed to take photographs of astronomical objects from their own personal computers. Participants who take photographs can also submit the images for consideration in the Galilean Nights astrophotography competition.
"Our goal is to enable people of all ages to share the wonder of the night sky by seeing the same objects that legendary Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei first observed scientifically four centuries ago," said Douglas Isbell, the U.S. national Single Point of Contact for IYA2009. "We hope to give many people their first glimpse of the marvels of the Universe through a telescope, showing them breathtaking sights such as the cloud bands of Jupiter, and the rocky desolation of craters and mountain ranges on our Moon."
A list of the upcoming nationwide events can be found on the international Galilean Nights Web site at Galilean Nights.
Meanwhile, astronomers across the United Kingdom will conduct Autumn Moonwatch from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1. Localized moon-watching events will take place across the UK, plus on Oct. 26 and 27, the Twitter Moonwatch program will involve a global network of amateur stargazers who will be live-tweeting images of the moon, planets, nebulas, galaxies and other astronomical objects.
Twitter Moonwatch followers (@newburyAS and @astronomy2009uk) will be able to post questions about the moon and astronomy and a host of experts will be on hand to answer them.