NASA's photo gallery of Saturn.

35th Anniversary Open House - The John Deere Planetarium will be open to the public from 8:30 to 10:00 pm on Saturday, May 1, 2004 for an evening of star gazing and science fun in honor of our 35th anniversary. The observatories telescopes will offer views of Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and other astronomical objects (weather permitting). In addition, visitors will be able to attend a planetarium show with images and information on the wonders of the night sky.  Admission is free.

"Challenging What We Know - Superstring Theory", a lecture by Dr. Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University.  This lecture will occur at 7:30 pm on Monday, May 3, 2004, in Olin Auditorium at Augustana College as part of the Lawrence Roys Fund for Science.  The public is invited.  Admission is free.  Dr. Greene will talk informally with Augustana students and faculty on Tuesday, May 4, at 10:30 am in Science 102.

Dr. Greene has lectured at both a general and a technical level in more than twenty countries and is widely recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory.  He is the author of the book "The Elegant Universe" and narrated the corresponding program on PBS.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field          small image          big image          ESA         4.5 minute video

Sedna - newly discovered red planetoid   r = 90 AU, T (around the Sun) = 10,500 y, diameter = 1800 km

Mars Exploration Rover Mission - On January 4, 2004, Spirit, the first of two golf-cart-sized rovers successfully landed on Mars.  The second rover, Opportunity, landed successfully on January 24, 2004.  The rovers will seek evidence about whether the environment in two regions might once have been capable of supporting life. After the airbag-protected landing craft settle onto the surface and open, the rovers will roll out to take panoramic images.  Then, the rovers will drive to those locations to perform on-site scientific investigations over the course of their 90-day mission.  Check out the science instruments that they are carrying.  Mars via the Exploratorium.

Stardust - This is a NASA mission that flew to Comet Wild 2 (vilt 2), photographed it, captured interstellar and comet dust, and will now return to Earth. It was successfully launched on Feb. 7, 1999.  It flew by the comet on Jan. 2, 2004.  It will return to Earth on Jan. 15, 2006.  It will deliver its cargo by parachuting a reentry capsule weighing approximately 125 pounds to the Earth's surface, in Utah.  Mission details.
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.  Dr. Carkner is a member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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: April 2, 2004