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AstroTalk Lecture Series Begins in Hilo

On September 3, IfA planetary astronomer David Jewitt kicked off a new astronomy lecture series in Hilo called AstroTalk. The series is a joint effort of the IfA and the UH Hilo Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Jewitt described how, over the past five years, UH astronomers have used the telescopes on Mauna Kea to discover 60 moons of the giant planets, and what these moons can tell us about planet formation and the early solar system. He also discussed recent data from the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn.

On October 12, renowned comet hunter David Levy shared his passion for studying the night sky. Levy has discovered 21 comets. One of those, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, crashed into Jupiter in July 1994.

Steven Beckwith, the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, spoke on "Seeing the Universe When It Was Very Young with the Hubble Space Telescope" on October 29. Beckwith has family ties to Hawaii—his father was born in Honolulu, and Beckwith is part Hawaiian. His lecture brought over 100 people to UH Hilo. Beckwith showed some of the compelling images taken with Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The images comprise the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, a study that is looking at the very edge of the observable universe—at galaxies nearly 12.9 billion light-years from Earth. "Work being done on Mauna Kea is complementary to the research being made with the Hubble," Beckwith said in explaining why astronomers still require large ground-based telescopes to perform follow-up analysis.

Beckwith also discussed the stalled Hubble Service Mission. It was planned to install new, more sensitive instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope, but would require the space shuttle to resume missions other than those to the International Space Station.

Alex Filippenko, University of California Berkeley astronomy professor, gave a riveting AstroTalk, "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe," on November 15. He explained his study of type 1a supernovae and the evidence they provide for the accelerating expansion of the Universe. The questions from the audience were insightful, and the event continued well into the evening.

See the Upcoming Events section of this newsletter or for future talks. You can view the earlier talks over the Internet via streaming video. To access them, you must have a Windows XP computer, Internet Explorer, and RealPlayer, and go to