Poster of galaxy opens up new view

By Elliot Mann

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

"She’s on fire!" shouted 10-year-old Michael Jones as he watched an infrared video of a woman using a hairdryer.

Jones, 10 was one of a dozen students who toured the planetarium at Mayo High School in Rochester on Tuesday afternoon when it officially unveiled a new picture of spiral galaxy Messier 101. The local center is one of 100 museums and planetariums in the nation that received the picture from NASA.

The 6-foot by 3-foot poster shows three full-color images that showcase the galaxy’s features taken from three space telescopes.


The International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning the telescope to the sky.

"It’s a nice complement to our room," planetarium director Larry Mascotti said.

The students traveled to the virtual space center with the Rochester Police Athletic/Activities League.

"It’s the most amazing place ever," Jones said. "Everything is so realistic."

Attracting students toward science in different ways was exactly the aim, said Jamie Lea Wellik, the police activities league operations director.

"We want them to get that educational piece they wouldn’t usually be exposed to," she said.

Jones and his twin brother, Anthony, helped uncover the new image. After, all the students watched a video about why the poster showed the same star three distinctly different ways.

The twins both enjoyed the infrared video the most when they were shown how ice cubes and heat elements that are invisible to the naked eye can impact infrared cameras.


The students also watched "Two Small Pieces of Glass," a program that traces the history of the telescope from Galileo’s first modifications to the future of astronomy.

"It’s amazing," Michael Jones said. "Because it’s like real life."

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