Astronomy Fall Open House
The John Deere Planetarium will be open to the public from 7:30 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009.  We will feature telescope views of Jupiter and its four large moons - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. In addition, visitors will be able to attend a planetarium show with images and information on the wonders of the night sky.  The observing areas are unheated so dress appropriate to the weather.  In the event of a cloudy sky, telescope views may not be possible but the indoor programs will still be offered.  Admission is free.

International Year of Astronomy
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is in full-swing.  It occurs 400 years after Galileo turned one of the first telescopes toward the heavens. Peering through that small window, Galileo discovered that the Moon has craters, Venus has phases, Jupiter has moons, and Saturn has rings.  The slogan is "The Universe, Yours to Discover". Check here for updates on activities occurring during the year.

Augustana Observatory
The Carl Gamble Observatory shown above 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 Fall open house, "Season of Light" and Astronomy day.  It was also open for viewing Comet Hyakutake, Comet Hale-Bopp and a recent lunar eclipse.

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 Gail Parsons at the Planetarium, (309) 794-7327, or you may request information by e-mail at  The observatory and planetarium are located on the college campus at 820 38th Street.

Public Lectures
We continue to convey the excitement of astronomy to our students and to the public in various ways.  Some of our guest lecturers have been David Levy (2001), Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt (2003), Brian Greene (2004), and Donald Gurnett, "Fifty Years of Space Research at the University of Iowa" (2008).

Astronomy Information
Aurora.  There was an intense geomagnetic storm on Dec. 14, 2006.  Check out the aurora gallery and the local pictures.

Eight Planets.  The International Astronomical Union has defined planets.  Pluto became re-classified as a dwarf planet.
The International Space Station.  This view is from the Space Shuttle Discovery at the conclusion of a 12 day visit in 2006. To see the space station from your own backyard, check the general and Rock Island viewing schedules. Cassini-Huygens

This is a mission to Saturn and Titan.  The spacecraft is now in orbit around Saturn.  Here is an excellent PowerPoint summary of the mission.  Check out this Flash presentation.
Mars Rover Mission

The exploration of the surface of Mars continues.  Check out the science instruments that the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are carrying.

This is a NASA mission that flew to Comet Wild 2 (vilt 2), photographed it, captured interstellar and comet dust, and returned to Earth (Utah) on Jan. 15, 2006.  Mission details.

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.

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.

Another aurora gallery - Dec. 14, 2006.  K-indexLocal photographs.

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
 office photo
 Planetarium and Observatory:  (309) 794-7327
 Office in Science 208:  (309) 794-3405 (pdf)
This site is maintained by David R. Renneke
Last update:  September 14, 2009