Halloween

StarDate: October 31, 2009

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[SFX: various creepy sounds: wind, creaking, footsteps, banging]

Astronomers are a level-headed bunch. And yet, you can't help but wonder. During those long nights at remote observatories -- often working alone, and sometimes in the dark -- do they get goose bumps when the wind rattles the dome, or when the building creaks a little as it settles?

Things might get especially creepy when someone is buried right in the dome. That's the case at the Lick Observatory in California; benefactor James Lick is buried in the pier of the Observatory's 36-inch telescope. And the ashes of four people are buried beneath a telescope at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh.

A couple of other observatories have real-life ghost stories.

Legend says that decades ago, an astronomer hanged himself from a telescope at the Cincinnati Observatory.

And at the Perkins Observatory in Ohio, the ghost of the observatory's founder is said to roam the grounds. Hiram Perkins made a fortune during the Civil War and later devoted it to the Observatory. He was at the ground-breaking, but died before the Observatory was completed. So now, he haunts the Observatory that bears his name. In the true "spirit" of astronomy, though, he only does it on cloudy nights.

Just something to think about during your own skywatching adventures on this long Halloween night.

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Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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