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Astronomy Week activities from Sunday

The Astronomical Society of Malta and the Malta Council of Arts, Science and Technology are holding the first Astronomy Week from November 17 to 24.

The event marks the 25th anniversary of the society's foundation. The society was established from a merger between the Astronomical Society (set up in 1977) and the Students Astronomical Circle (1998).

The activities being organised include observations and lectures open to the public and an activity for school children.

The society has invited Alain Lecaveleir, an astrophysicist from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique de Paris, to visit Malta during the week of activities. He has worked on the FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) satellite launched into space in June, 1999. He will deliver a public lecture on the search for planets beyond our solar system.

The main objective of the Astronomical Society has always been to bring the knowledge of astronomy closer to the public and it is also endeavouring to have a public observatory set up

The astronomy week coincides with the Leonid meteor shower, which is associated with the comet Tempel Tuttle, first discovered in 1865. Earth encounters the comet's orbit on the night of November 18 (Monday/Tuesday night). The debris left behind by the comet has been studied very closely and it is predicted that this year Earth will pass through a dense filament of particles just before dawn on November 19.

If these predictions are correct, hundreds of meteors can be seen for a short time - what is known as a meteor storm. A presentation about this unique occasion will be organised at l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha before the actual observation.

The highlights of the week are a public observation session at Ghar id-Dud, Sliema on Sunday at 7 p.m., a public lecture on the discovery of the planet Neptune at the Malta Council for Science and Technology hall in Bighi on November 20 at 7 p.m., a public lecture on "Comets and Asteroids - a Threat to Earth?" at Stella Maris College, Gzira on November 21 at 7 p.m., and the lecture on "The Search for Extra-Solar Planets" by Dr Lecavelier in English at the college on November 22 at 7 p.m.

On November 23 at 10 a.m., there will be a public observation of the sun from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

The astronomy week ends with an observing session for the public at Hagar Qim Temples car park in Qrendi on November 24 at 8 p.m.

www.maltastro.org

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