Perseid Meteor Shower - This annual event occurs on August 12-13, 2003 as the Earth passes through a stream of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle.  The best time to look for these meteors is between 11:00 pm on August 12 and dawn on August 13.  Here is page that provides further information including an annotated photograph of the sky looking in the direction of the constellation Perseus.
The Mars Seminar - On Saturday, September 6, 2003, starting at 8:00 pm, a planetarium program, a talk in the lecture hall and telescope viewing in the observatory will feature the planet Mars.  This planet will be closer to the Earth than it has been in the last 57,000 years!  The Mars photo on the left was taken by Martin Mobberley on July 22, 2003 using a webcam and a 30 cm telescope.
Augustana Observatory
The Carl Gamble Observatory shown here features a Celestron C14 computer-driven 14-inch reflector telescope. In addition to being used by various classes, the observatory is open to the public on special occasions such as our annual Halloween open house and Astronomy day.  It was open on several evenings for viewing Comet Hyakutake and Comet Hale-BoppDr. Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut, lectured at Augustana on May 5, 2003.

John Deere Planetarium
A free illustrated program about the nighttime sky and the solar system is provided, by appointment, during the academic year for school classes (beginning with Grade 3) and other groups of up to 100 persons. The program, which lasts about 45 minutes and is in the dark, is presented by Dr. Lee Carkner, Director, using the Spitz A-3-P planetarium instrument.

Program appointments can be arranged by calling Kathy Nelson at the Planetarium, (309) 794-7327, or you may request information by e-mail to Kathy Nelson at

The observatory and planetarium are located on the college campus at 820 38th Street.

The photo on the left is of the first quarter moon taken by Mel Peterson on Mar. 21, 2002.  He used a digital camera placed on the eyepiece of the 14" telescope.

Click for a larger image International Space Station - The first module, Zarya, was successfully launched on Nov. 20, 1998.  In December, 1998, the space shuttle Endeavour installed the Unity module.  In July, 2000, the service module, Zvezda (star) was added.  In February, 2001, the U.S. Destiny Laboratory module was installed.  If you wish to see the space station from your own backyard, here are the general and Rock Island viewing schedules.  Live orbital tracking is also available.

Click for a larger image.

Comet Ikeya-Zhang

This comet was discovered on Feb. 1, 2002.  It put on a spectacular show in March and April.  The photo on the left is by Gerald Rhemann of Austria.   The Andromeda galaxy (M31) is in the lower left of the picture.  Here is a comet photo by David Renneke taken at 7:45 pm, Mar. 16, 2002, using 800 speed 35 mm film.  The exposure time was 30 s.

Aurora Borealis - A set of photographs were taken by Donna and David Renneke at 10:30 pm on Nov. 5, 2001, northwest of Davenport, Iowa.  The one on the left is a 16 second exposure using a 2 megapixel digital camera.  Larger image (59 K).  Original photo (291 K).   Plot of the estimated planetary K-index.   Details about the interplanetary magnetic field.  For the latest information on solar activity go to  Here is their spectacular aurora gallery.

David Levy and Mel Peterson - Mar. 29, 2001

Lets Talk Stars - weekly 55 minute radio show hosted by David Levy available in Tucson and here on the Internet.  He is the codiscoverer of 21 comets including Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 which broke into 20 pieces and crashed into Jupiter in 1994.
Click for a larger image Horsehead Nebula.  This photo was taken on the morning of October 5, 2000, at Kitt Peak Observatory as part of the Advanced Observing Program.  The telescope was a Meade 16 inch LX200 (f/6.3) with an SBIG ST-8E CCD camera.  Adam Block, lead observer, Betty Peterson and Mel Peterson were the photographers.  This picture was processed using LRGB color production with exposures of 48 minutes for the luminance (greyscale), 10 minutes for the red component, 10 minutes for the green component, and 20 minutes for the blue component.  The full size image is 1522 x 1006 pixels.  Kitt Peak is the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc.  See Astronomy, October, 2000, page 80, for an article on this program by Adam Block.
 Lee Carkner, Director
 John Deere Planetarium
 Augustana College
 Rock Island, IL 61201
 Planetarium and Observatory:  (309) 794-7327
 Office in Science 208:  (309) 794-3405

This site is maintained by David R. Renneke. Last update: August 8, 2003