Institute Offers Free Glimpse into Space

NasaA moon casting its shadow on the surface of Jupiter. One of many sights on display at У100 Hours of Astronomy.Ф

Four hundred years after Galileo first used a telescope and revolutionized the exploration of the sky, the international year of astronomy is being celebrated around the world, including in Moscow.

The Sternberg Astronomical Institute is holding a “sky watch” every day this month as part of its project, “100 Hours of Astronomy.”

 People can look at stars and planets through professional telescopes provided by the institute and the Moscow Astronomy Club every night for free, so long as there are no clouds.

“We just want to show people the sky,” said Sergei Lamzin, deputy director of the Sternberg institute.

“They’ve stopped teaching astronomy at schools, so no one knows anything about the universe anymore. Not showing people the sky this year would be a mere sin,” he said.

The institute has five to six telescopes placed around its courtyard that can be pointed toward whichever planets are the most popular with visitors. There are also three stationary telescopes that are permanently fixed on Jupiter and the moon.

Visitors may need to search to find the telescopes as the event has been inundated with people.

“We didn’t expect that many people. We had about thirty guests on the first day, a few hundred on the second, and about a thousand on the third,” Lamzin said.

Konstantin Malanchev, one of the student volunteers who has been acting as a guide for visitors, was also surprised by the number of people turning up.

“You can see that this turnout was unexpected. I mean just look at the organization,” he said while pointing at a long line of people waiting to look through one of the stationary telescopes on the rooftop. Visitors have to take a number and are then let in every 20 minutes in groups of 10 to 15 people.

However, visitors’ fascination seems to outweigh organizational problems.

“I was thrilled to see the moon in its multiple movements with the help of a telescope on the roof, and Jupiter down in the courtyard,” said Konstantin Kharlamov, a 25-year-old finance reporting manager. “I am very glad I came.”

Inside the building, guests are met by an institute professor who lectures on the wonders of the universe. He draws many “oohs” and “ahs” as his slides show close-ups of parts of the galaxy and different planets.

After the lecture, people are taken up two narrow sets of serpentine stairs to the roof and the telescope towers.

There, guests are able to use the institute’s very own stationary telescopes to see either the moon or Jupiter and close-ups of their surfaces. Astronomy professors and students are waiting nearby to help adjust the telescope’s to suit visitors’ heights or to answer any astronomy-related questions.

Igor Safuldino, one of the student volunteers, warns of his bad English before explaining in flawless English how the stationary telescope seems still but is actually following all the moon’s movements.

“I am volunteering and really enjoy coming here and helping people discover the sky,” he said.

Since the visibility of the stars depends on the weather, the institute announces daily on Sai.msu.ru whether the skies are clear enough to give visitors an ideal view into space.

Besides the daily sky watch, the institute is also giving lectures at the Polytechnical Museum. Timetables can also be found on the institute’s web site.

Daily Sky Watch takes place every night except Sunday from 8 to 11 p.m. at Sternberg Astronomical Institute. 13 Universitetsky Prospekt. Metro Universitet, Vorobyovy Gory. Tel. 939-2046.

Polytechnical Museum. 3/4 Novaya Square. Metro Kitai-Gorod. www.polymus.ru. Tel. 625-0614.