FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  Date: February 8, 2002

         Contact: Donna McCracken, 206-6716

UIS schedules Star Parties for people with disabilities

SPRINGFIELD – The University of Illinois at Springfield’s popular series of Sunday Night Star Parties for people with disabilities will resume for the spring with three sessions -- March 3, March 10, and April 21, weather permitting. All sessions will begin at 8 p.m. in the UIS observatory.

Both Star Parties in March will feature Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, and Saturn, the ringed planet. The April session will feature the moon.

The Star Parties are conducted by UIS Professor of Astronomy and Physics Charles Schweighauser and use a telescope specially designed to give people with disabilities access to the sky. The modified eight-inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope employs a traditional optical design with one unusual feature -- a fixed eyepiece that brings the image to the viewer. He or she needs only to take a position at the eyepiece, which can be moved backward and forward in its tube as much as seven inches without refocusing.

“It’s mounted to swing through a 30-degree arc to accommodate anyone from a large person in a high wheelchair to children in the lowest and smallest wheelchairs,” Schweighauser explained.

Since a laptop computer runs the telescope using state-of-the-art software, there is no need for a large keyboard and monitor that can emit too much distracting light on the dark observation deck.

Reservations for these Sunday programs are required. For more information or to make a reservation, contact Schweighauser at 206-6721, no later than Wednesday, February 27.