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Celebrate Year of Astronomy at the U

March 13, 2009 – To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, the University of Utah’s Department of Physics is holding weekly star-watching parties and a monthly series of documentary and science-fiction films. All are free to the public.

The Department of Physics Film Festival’s latest screenings are Saturday, March 14, with a 6 p.m. showing of “Newton’s Dark Secret” – a NOVA production for the Public Broadcasting System – and a 7:15 p.m. showing of “Men in Black” (PG-13).

All shows in the film series will be held at the theater in the A. Ray Olpin University Union. Free popcorn will be provided, and nearby vending machines provide food and drinks.

Public star parties will be held – if skies are clear – at the observatory atop the South Physics Building every Wednesday after dark, and also on the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. You may enter the South Physics Building from the east or west and then take the stairs or elevator to the roof. There are signs to guide you and staff will be available on the roof to point you in the right direction.

South Physics can be reached by walking north from Presidents Circle. It is east of Kingsbury Hall. Or drive east on 100 South and turn right (south) on 1455 East. Before 6 p.m., proceed to the pay lot; after 6 p.m. proceed west to the large parking lot. Most reserved spots there are open for free parking after 6 p.m.

According to its organizers, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 “is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.”

Here is the schedule for the remainder of the film festival. The documentaries all are NOVA productions for PBS:

  • Saturday, April 11, 2009, 6 p.m. “Mars Dead or Alive,” 7:15 p.m. “War of the Worlds” (PG-13).
  • Saturday, May 9, 6 p.m. “Death Star,” 7:15 p.m. “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” (PG).
  • Saturday, June 13, 4:30 p.m. “Muppets from Space” (G), 6:15 p.m. “Origins: Earth is Born,” 7:30 p.m. “The Fifth Element “(PG-13).
  • Saturday, July 11, 4:30 p.m. “Space Buddies” (G), 6:15 p.m. “Origins: How Life Began,” 7:30 p.m. “Independence Day” (PG-13).
  • Saturday, Aug. 8, 4:30 p.m. “The Jetsons” (G), 6:15 p.m. “Origins: Where are the Aliens?,” 7:30 p.m. “Lost in Space” (PG-13).
  • Saturday, Sept. 12, 6 p.m. “Origins: Back to the Beginning,” 7:15 p.m. “Armageddon” (PG-13).
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, 6 p.m. “Welcome to Mars,” 7:15 p.m. “Alien” (R).
  • Saturday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. “Saturn’s Titan: Voyage to the Mystery Moon,” 7:15 p.m. “First Men in the Moon” (unrated).
  • Saturday, Dec. 12, 6 p.m. “Magnetic Storm,” 7:15 p.m. “Star Trek: First Contact” (PG-13).

For more information, go to and click on the logo for the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Star party information is at or send questions to or call the Department of Physics office during weekdays at (801) 581-6901 or (801) 58-SPACE during observatory hours.