Future scientists (from left) Gus, Cal and Wil Lackner of Orland Park were ready for space as the Orland Park Public Library unveiled images of the Milky Way Galaxy on Wednesday, Nov. 18. photo:Heather Warthen/22nd Century Media.
November 25, 2009 | 03:08 AM
Visitors to the Orland Park Public Library
traveled to the Milky Way Galaxy and Saturn on Wednesday, Nov. 18, a the library unveiled mural-sized images of the Milky Way Galaxy from NASA's Great Observatories.
The image unveiling was conducted by the library as way to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, which celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo using a telescope to view the sky. The murals will be permanently on display in the Youth Services Department of the library in mid-December. The Orland library is one of 10 in Illinois, and one of 152 libraries in the country, to receive the images.
As OPPL Library Director Mary Weimar uncovered the images, the audience of more than 40 people applauded.
"We've been very blessed in the last five years to get grants to show past and present events," said OPPL Library Director Mary Weimar. "People see the Milky Way Galaxy on the news with the discoveries, and to know that we have the opportunity to bring them closer to Orland patrons is wonderful. It's very exciting.
"We like to be on the cutting edge of information."
The images feature views from all three of NASA's Great Observatories — near-infrared light from the Hubble Space Telescope, infrared light from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the X-ray light observed by Chandra X-ray Observatory.
To also commemorate the unveiling, John Vittallo, Solar System Ambassador for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for CalTech and NASA, led a discussion about the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn.
Vittallo said that the mission, which began on Oct. 15, 1997, was a 7-year journey, with the space craft traveling at speeds of 42,000 mph to reach Saturn on July 1, 2004.
"With 61 moons, it's a very complex place," he said.
Vittallo said that the mission gave NASA much knowledge about Saturn. The mission included a landing on Titan, one of Saturn's moons, which taught scientists that the atmosphere was mostly nitrogen, with a vast expanse of dunes and a surface similar to wet sand.
"A day on Saturn lasts about 10 hours," he said. "The planet is mostly hydrogen and is sunny."
Vittallo played an audio clip of what the radio waves emitting from Saturn sounds like.
"It puts you in the mood to rent 'Forbidden Planet,'" he said jokingly.
Vittallo said that what this mission discovered at the poles of the planet was something scientists had not expected.
"Measuring 5,000 miles wide and 45 miles deep is a persistent hurricane at the south pole," he said. "It was totally unexpected."
At the north pole is a hexagon cloud.
"There is a persistent hexagon cloud feature that is about 15,000 miles across and it rotates at the same speed as Saturn," Vittallo said. "I haven't heard too many explanations as to why it exists."
Close-up photos of Saturn's numerous rings were also shown.
"I don't want to discredit [astronomer Giovanni] Cassini or [astronomer Chistiaan] Huygens, but they couldn't predict that beauty and kind of detail," Vittallo said, as he revealed an image of the creamy white and light gray rings....continued on page 2