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Updated 10:30 AM January 16, 2009




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LSA's Universe Theme Semester brings astronomy down to Earth

It's been 400 years since Galileo first gazed at the stars through a telescope and while many people know little about astronomy they are still fascinated by the sky.

LSA's Winter 2009 Theme Semester "The Universe: Yours to Discover" will make astronomy accessible to students, faculty and the community through star-gazing parties, special courses, lectures, films, exhibitions, science workshops for elementary school students, concerts, science cafes and even a march of the planets during the FestiFools Parade in the spring. Most of the activities are free and open to the public.

The events offer a chance to take a fresh look at the Universe in the midst of a global economic crisis, says Amy Harris, director of the Exhibit Museum of Natural History and co-chair of the theme semester.

"This is a great opportunity for us to shift the focus from the problems we face locally, nationally and globally and put things in perspective," Harris says. "The Universe is so vast, and we are such a tiny part of it. It might inspire us to look at our problems differently and collectively."

The theme Semester will showcase modern astronomy and highlight a wide variety of interdisciplinary connections across campus, says Sally Oey, an assistant professor of astronomy and co-chair of the theme semester. "We're thrilled to have so many participating units that will help us to create a rich legacy of courses, art and exhibitions."

Notable events for the theme semester, which runs from January to May, include a Jan. 16 lecture by former astronaut and Associate Dean of the College of Engineering A.W. (Tony) England and special planetarium shows at U-M's Exhibit Museum of Natural History. Also the popular Saturday Morning Physics lecture series will feature an astrophysics theme.

The Universe theme semester links the campus and the community with the worldwide celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, says LSA Dean Terrence McDonald.

"The LSA Universe Theme Semester brings this international celebration to our campus and community with a uniquely Michigan perspective," McDonald says.

The theme semester is being coordinated by the Department of Astronomy and the Exhibit Museum of Natural History. The College of Engineering, the College of Art & Design, the University Libraries and 30 other academic units are also participating, along with several community partners.

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