8- The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 6, 2002
Students take notice of planetary alignment
By Ashley Friedman
For the Daily
For the first time in 62 years, five planets
will line up across the sky. Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn began to align \two
weeks ago in a formation that will reach its
peak May 13. The sky show can be seen just
after sunset on the western horizon.
"The planets, in order from the horizon
upward, are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn
and Jupiter," LSA senior Peter Susalla said.
He added this is not the actual order of the
planets from the sun and that other planets
are too far away to be seen.
"Uranus and Neptune may be in the area
also, but they can't be seen without a tele-
scope," he said.
Susalla added that the sun moves across an
imaginary line, called the ecliptic, in the sky.
"The five visible planets are moving close
together on this ecliptic, as we see them from
earth," he said.
Ray Villard, news director for the Space
Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said
the alignment visible during the next few
weeks is a result of the planets "moving
around the sun like hands on a clock at differ-
ent speeds and rates."
Mars has an orbit lasting two years while
Saturn has a 30-year orbit, so finding them
along the same line in the sky is a rare occur-
"It depends on what you call a line-up. They
are not all in a straight line from the sun, but
you can draw a line between them like a game
of connect the dots," Villard said.
In the next few weeks, Mercury will begin to
appear on the western horizon close to 15 min-
utes after dusk. Astronomy Prof. Charles Cow-
ley said the best way to view Mercury is from a
clear and high point.
"Mercury is the planet that is toughest on
observation because it is the closest to the
sun and lowest to the horizon," he said.
Besides Mercury, he said the rest of planets
should be easily visible and can be seen with-
out a telescope. The four planets will appear
in what looks like a line in the night sky.
The Student Astronomical Society will be
holding an open house May 17 at the observa-
tory on the roof of Angell Hall to give stu-
dents and community members a chance to
view the planets.
Villard said the last time a similar plane-
tary alignment, called super conjunction,
occurred was in the 1980s. Superstition exist-
ed then that the alignment had effects on the
ocean tides, but Villard said the planets align-
ing should have "no measurable effect on the
This specific planetary alignment will not
happen again until 2040.
Visitors at the Cranbrook Institute of Science look
at the planets start their alignment Friday.
'U' is the top research
spender, state comes in
second after California
Engineering junior Rob Sutherland plays a game of disc golf at Brown Park earlier this week.
Continued from Page 1
pound in Ramallah where Prime Minister Yasser
Arafat and several dozen aids had been under
house arrest by Israeli forces since March 29.
Before approaching Arafat's headquarters, Saf-
fold said his team formed into two groups. One
group served as a decoy and was fired upon by
Israeli troops while the other ran into the restricted
area, he said.
When asked about the danger, Saffold said
because the ISM sees the Palestinian struggle for
freedom from Israeli domination as a civil rights
issue, the team is prepared to take the risks associ-
ated with such a struggle. "We keep thinking one of
these days, one of us will get killed and that's a test
to see if we'll continue. So far, the more people
hear about our members being wounded, the more
want to join. That's what has to happen in civil
rights movements," he said.
The ISM, which was founded by University
alum Huwaida Arraf in the spring of 2001, is fash-
ioned after the campaign of the Civil Rights Move-
ment and began by organizing non-violent
demonstrations and protests in support of the Pales-
tinian people. "The ISM awakened in people a
vision that international citizens standing on
international law can actually organize and resist
non-violently," Saffold said.
But for some, the recent rash of Palestinian sui-
cide bombers makes them doubtful about the suc-
cess of a non-violent movement.
Though Saffold said he finds suicide bombings
morally wrong, he can understand the appeal they
hold to the Palestinian people. "We can see some
very sad justification in (the suicide bombings) in
the sense that Palestinians have no weapons to use
against Israel except their bodies. Everyone over
there talks about suicide bombings but with a very
sad, very conditional support," he said.
The ISM also took part in "human shield"
actions by providing protection for occupation
protesters during non-violent weekly demonstra-
tions held in Ramallah after Friday prayers.
"(Israeli soldiers) are afraid of killing us.
They're not afraid of killing Palestinians. That's
why the organizers asked us to be there," Saffold
said, explaining that the ISM's presence influ-
enced the soldiers' decision to release tear gas
and sound bombs rather than open live fire.
Saffold returned from his trip May 2, the same
day the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives
passed resolutions that almost unanimously
pledged support for Israel. The resolutions, Saffold
said, serve to reflect the definite bias Americans
hold toward seeing Israel as the victim and the
Palestinians as the terrible aggressors. "The media
coverage (of the conflict) in America is laughable
except there's such deadly consequences," he said.
"It made me sick, angry and more committed than
ever to be standing in the face of lies."
But LSA junior Richard Dorfinan, a member of
the Michigan Student Zionists, said the coverage is
more complicated than it seems. "The truth is, the
media sells what people want to see. As a whole,
America supports Israel so the American media
supports Israel, but the media is also sensationaliz-
ing Palestinian oppression to make the story more
By Donielle Cunningham
For the Daily
According to a National Science Foundation
report released Tuesday, the University spends
$509 million on research, more than any other
college in the country. The University's spending
helped push the state's research spending to
$18.7 billion, second only to California.
"Research spending is a tool, not an object in
its own sake," University Vice President of
Research Fawwaz Ulaby said. "Money facilitates
the research and scholarships conducted by our
faculty and students. These scholarly activities
are part of what it takes for our faculty to be the
best in their respective fields."
The National Science Foundation reported that
the three main states for research and develop-
ment spending remained the same for two years
since the data was collected in 1999. The report
added that, "each state had significant increases
in research and development spending."
"Our faculty needs to be engaged in solving
problems and answering difficult research ques-
tions if they are to serve their disciplines, and our
students," Ulaby said. "Funding to support this
also makes it possible for faculty to provide
assistantships to students, to upgrade or build
new lab facilities, and so on."
Much of the investments goes toward biomed-
ical research at the National Institutes of Health.
Chemistry Prof. Larry Beck said spending is
worthwhile to the University's reputation
"We have a very large medical school. Train-
ing that many doctors and doing as much
research as the University does takes a lot of
money," Beck said.
Senior associate research scientist Thomas Fin-
holt explained how useful research is for the Uni-
"Research excellence is multidimensional.
Research energizes the faculty," he said. "I used
examples from my own research in class. It made
material that can sometimes be dry more lively
Beck added research is a supplement to the dry
material of textbooks and lectures.
"We involve undergraduate and graduate stu-
"Research excellence is
Research energizes the
- Thomas Finholt
Senior associate research scientist
dents in breaking and cutting edge research,"
Beck said. "Similar to a business student doing
an internship at a company, they are doing real
research instead of just reading about it."
Though the University is the top research
spending school in the country, it is still not the
best in research. But Ulaby said money is not
the only determinant to what makes a top
"Money is not the only measure of excellence.
It suggest that our faculty members have ideas
for research directions that funding agencies find
exciting and choose to fund," he said.
Ulaby said it may not always be obvious that the
faculty do more than just research at the University.
"Many of our faculty serve on national boards
and committees that help set national policy in sci-
ence higher education and other matters of public
importance," he said. "Our involvement in these
bodies is both valuable service to the nation and a
sign that we have many very intelligent and talent-
ed people on the faculty."
The rewards from research spending are not
always instantaneous. Finholt said it sometimes
takes many years to reap the benefits of hard
work and money spent.
"The biggest contribution is the legacy that is
sometimes difficult to measure in the near terms.
The investments the government made in social
research after the second world war, when it cre-
ated the Institute for Social Research (at the Uni-
versity) helped society with the studies of voting !
behavior, minority populations, drug use, and
crime. Things that are critical in making our
lives better," Finholt said.