Photo and story by Sabrina Tyson / Contributing Writer
On Friday evening, Middle Tennessee State University held a First Friday Star Party on campus. The star parties take place the first Friday of every month during the fall and spring semester and include lectures on topics such as meteors, black holes and stars. The lectures are followed with telescope-viewings if the weather permits.
The lectures are held in the Wiser-Patten Science Building and are free to the public. Many of the people who attend the star parties tend to be amateur astronomers and local Murfreesboro residents and families looking to better their knowledge of the night sky, according to Jana Ruth Ford, an MTSU physics and astronomy professor.
“We are just giving them information we hope they find interesting, and maybe it will encourage them to go out and look at the night sky,” Ford said.
Friday’s lecture, provided by Ford, was focused on the subject of shooting stars. The lecture discussed the difference between the terminology of meteoroids, rocky or metallic debris in space; meteorites, which is when meteoroid debris travels to the face of the earth; and meteors, the streak of light we see as a meteoroid enters earth’s atmosphere. Ford also explained the three different types of meteorites: stone, iron and a mix of both stone and iron.
“There are some asteroids that cross Earth’s orbit, but those aren’t the ones that typically cause meteor showers,” Ford said. “If an asteroid collides with another surface, what breaks off is what causes our meteorites.”
Important dates for upcoming meteor showers were also provided during the lecture. One shower, coming up on, approximately, Nov. 17 and 18, is the Leonids meteor shower, named for its proximity to the constellation Leo. The Leonids shower is responsible for the 1833 meteor storm, which has been recorded as one of the most impressive meteor showers by famous people in history, such as Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
The next star party is on Dec. 1 and is on the topic of black holes. The parties will also take place in the spring semester.
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