FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        Date: October 12, 2000

                                                                                                            Contact: Lezli Austen

UIS’ star parties to be held for people with disabilities

                SPRINGFIELD – The University of Illinois at Springfield’s popular Star Parties series will feature three star parties specifically for people with disabilities from 8 to 10 p.m. on Sundays, November 5, 12, and 19, in the UIS observatory. The telescope will be used to view the moon, when available, and the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

Star Parties, conducted by UIS professor of astronomy and physics Charles Schweighauser, will use a telescope specially designed to give people with disabilities access to the sky. Schweighauser uses a modified eight-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope with a traditional optical design with one very unusual feature — a fixed eyepiece. “The image can be brought to the viewer by means of a fixed focal point, only requiring him or her to take a position at the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be moved backwards and forwards in its tube as much as seven inches without refocusing in order to provide additional access to the image,” Schweighauser said.

He continued, “The eyepiece is mounted to swing through a thirty-degree arc to accommodate anyone from a large person in a high wheelchair to junior astronomers in the lowest and smallest wheelchairs.”

State-of-the-art software runs the telescope through a personal computer from a laptop computer. The laptop eliminates the need for a large keyboard and monitor, the light from which was found to be distracting in the darkness of the observation deck. A simple set of commands moves the telescope rapidly around the sky to locate planets, stars, comets, asteroids, and other celestial objects.

The star parties are free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Please call 206-6721 before October 20 for details.

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