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NMSU to host national gathering of astronomers

More than 100 astronomers - amateurs and professionals - are expected to gather in Las Cruces March 20-26 as New Mexico State University's Department of Astronomy hosts the spring meeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) and a workshop on high-energy astrophysics.

ting, which takes place during the university's Spring Break week, will include a public presentation at 8 p.m. Friday, March 25, by NMSU astronomer Reta Beebe, who will talk about the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon Titan. Beebe's presentation will be in Hardman Hall Room 106 on the NMSU campus.

Beebe, one of the world's leading experts on the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, chairs the Committee on Lunar and Planetary Exploration for the National Academies of Science. She manages the Atmospheres Discipline Node at NMSU, a part of NASA's Planetary Data System.

"Reta has some exciting new results on Titan from the Cassini mission," said NMSU astronomy Tom Harrison, who is coordinating the AAVSO meeting. "We think there will be a lot of interest in her talk so we are opening it to the general public."

The AAVSO is a worldwide, nonprofit scientific and educational organization for amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in variable stars - that is, stars whose luminosities change dramatically over relatively short periods of time. Its purpose is to coordinate, collect, evaluate, analyze, publish, and archive variable star observations made largely by amateur astronomers, and to make these observations available to professional astronomers, researchers and educators.

Amateur astronomers play an important role in observing variable stars and often are the first to detect an unusual outburst in the night sky. "Amateurs report what they see, and then we point the big telescopes at it," Harrison said.

The AAVSO meeting will include scientific paper sessions, a membership meeting and an awards banquet.

Held in conjunction with the AAVSO meeting will be the 3rd High-Energy Astrophysics Workshop for Amateur Astronomers.

For more information contact Harrison at (505) 646-3628 or tharriso@nmsu.edu.