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FMU Observatory to hold viewing session, Dec. 14

            FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University observatory will hold a public viewing session, Friday, Dec. 14, that will offer visitors a chance to see the new comet 17P/Holmes and the Geminids meteor shower.

            The viewing will be open from 8 until 10 p.m., and the session is open to the public free of charge.

            This periodic comet, 17P/Holmes, was discovered by the British amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes on Nov. 6, 1892. Just last month the comet brightened significantly, by nearly a million times, from magnitude 17 to magnitude 2.8 over a few hours.

            The Geminids are a meteor shower caused by an object named 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be an extinct comet. The meteors from this shower can be seen in mid-December and usually peak around 12-14 of the month.

            There will also be a viewing of other available objects such as Mars near opposition.

            The loosely structured FMU viewing program allows visitors to come and go as they please. If weather conditions block viewing of the comet, this session will be canceled. The public may call 843-661-1355 for recorded information about the prospect of a clear sky to allow the event to be held.

            Visitors to the observatory should dress appropriately for the weather, as temperatures will be much cooler in the evening hours. Flashlights may be used for walking to the observatory, but visitors will not be allowed to drive out to the observatory unless prior arrangements have been made with the observatory director, Jeannette Myers.

            The FMU observatory is located beyond the outfield fence of the FMU Softball Field, south of the Smith University Center. Visitors can park in Lot D at the southern end of the campus and follow the walkway to the observatory. 

            Persons requiring special assistance to visit the observatory, or seeking more information, may call 843-661-1441. The observatory webpage is

#90 / 12-11-07
Last Published: December 11, 2007 2:14 PM
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