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PR # 139 January 27, 2009


The Planetarium at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in North Branch will celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with the unveiling of two new galactic images. The mural-size images, which will be on display beginning February 10, were taken by NASA?s Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. The photographs depict the spiral galaxy Messier 101.

The RVCC Planetarium is the only New Jersey site selected to display the images.

The International Year of Astronomy in 2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary of when Galileo Galilei first used a telescope to look into space. Galileo, as he is known, is often called the father of modern astronomy. From Galileo?s first spyglass, telescopes have grown larger and better and have moved to mountaintops and to space. NASA's Great Observatories, representing the achievements of astronomy four centuries later, are honoring Galileo?s legacy with the national image unveiling.

One 6' x 3' photograph depicts three, striking full-color images that showcase the galaxy?s features in the infrared light observed by Spitzer, the visible light observed by Hubble and the X-ray light observed by Chandra. The images show not only the details of the grand design spiral structure for which the galaxy is famous, but also the underlying giant clouds where stars are born as well as the hidden locations of black holes and exploded stars. These multi-wavelength views provide both stunning beauty and a wealth of scientific information not even dreamed of by Galileo.

Another 3' x 3' image of Messier 101 combines the views from all three telescopes into an amazing composite. Viewing the image is like seeing with one?s eyes, night vision goggles and X-ray vision all at once.

Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope is available at http://hubblesite.org/ . For information about the Spitzer Space Telescope, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/ . To learn more about the Chandra X-ray Observatory, visit http://chandra.harvard.edu/ .

For additional information, contact the RVCC Planetarium, 908-231-8805.

RVCC, located on Route 28 and Lamington Road in North Branch, NJ, and serving Somerset and Hunterdon County residents for 40 years, offers more than 90 associate degrees and certificates. In addition, customized training programs and non-credit courses are available for those seeking personal and professional development.

The College is committed to offering a quality and affordable education through effective teaching, liaisons with the community?s businesses and state-of-the-art technology. For further information, visit www.raritanval.edu .

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