Iowa State University nameplate

News Service
Gold bar
Today's News
News releases
ISU homepage


Steve Kawaler, Physics and Astronomy, (515) 294-9728
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917

Planetary nebula consists of glowing gas surrounding a hot star.

AMES, Iowa -- A 2003 calendar put together by Iowa State University's physics and astronomy department features breathtaking heavenly bodies and stunning astronomical vistas that can be viewed from Iowa -- with a large enough telescope.

The calendar, "Splendor of the Iowa Skies: The 2003 Fick Observatory Calendar," features such astronomical objects as stellar death shrouds, a supernova remnant and a near miss asteroid that passed by Earth. Most of the images were photographed using the 24-inch Mather telescope at the Erwin Fick Observatory, near Boone.

"One of the unsung resources of our state is the dark skies of rural Iowa, allowing many Iowans to enjoy a front-row seat to the Universe," noted Steve Kawaler, Iowa State University professor of astrophysics. "This year's calendar gives us an opportunity to show new state-of-the-art images, obtained right here in Iowa, ranging from the Aurora Borealis out to distant galactic collisions."

The calendars cost $10, and are available at the ISU Bookstore, the Campus Bookstore (both in Ames) and the Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines. Iowa Public Television is offering them as a premium related to their Sci-Fi Saturday night pledge drive, Kawaler said. Copies are also being sent to every high school and middle school in the state.

Most of the calendar images were obtained by Joe Eitter, manager of the observatory, using an advanced CCD camera. Each object was imaged through different filters, a practice that allows astronomers to identify stars and gases of different compositions. Color images are produced by taking three separate images and combining them.

In addition to the images and their explanations, there are descriptions of the Fick Observatory telescope and the ISU physics and astronomy department.

The monthly calendar also marks the dates of specific astronomical events, like meteor showers and lunar eclipses, and lists viewing times for alignments of the planets, stars and the moon. It includes annual and cyclical events pertaining to our planet's place in the solar system like equinoxes, solstices and moon phases.

Kawaler said the initial purpose of the calendar, the first of which was for 2002, was to raise awareness of ISU astronomy, the Fick Observatory and to spark the interest of middle and high school students in astronomy. It has since taken on a life of its own.

"We had an incredible response to last year's calendar and felt we needed to have another one this year," Kawaler said. "We certainly have plenty of images from which to choose."


To view the images that make up the "Splendor of the Iowa Skies" calendar, go to

Iowa State University
... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2002, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.