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AROUND SLOVAKIA: HIGH TATRAS

Astronomers mistaken for meteorologists

THE ASTRONOMICAL Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences' (SAV) first "day of open doors" this year took place at its sites on Lomnický štít peak and at Skalnaté pleso on May 24. The "open doors" event at Lomnický štít attracted about 100 visitors, SITA wrote.

THE ASTRONOMICAL Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences' (SAV) first "day of open doors" this year took place at its sites on Lomnický štít peak and at Skalnaté pleso on May 24. The "open doors" event at Lomnický štít attracted about 100 visitors, SITA wrote.

"Most people asked us about the weather. We have sort of grown used to it," the astronomer Vladimír Kollár from the Lomnický štít site told SITA.

Although many visitors mistake astronomers for meteorologists, employees at the Lomnický štít observatory were happy to tell them what the weather would be like, but also explained the role of the observatory.

Astronomers at Lomnický štít are among just a few around the world who can watch the sun's corona throughout the year. Visitors were also able to observe at close range a special machine - the coronagraph, designed to observe the solar corona.

The sub-alpine observatory at Lomnický štít lies at 2,634 metres above sea level. Visitors to the observatory who came between 12:30 and 13:00 witnessed a direct visual communication link between Lomnický štít and the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Ondřejov, close to Poprad. Slovak astronomers successfully managed the remote control of a two-metre telescope in Ondřejov.

Visitor numbers at Lomnický štít are limited by the capacity of the cable car, which can carry only 50 people per hour. The Astronomical Institute intends to continue with similar events for the public. The next "day of open doors" at the observatories at Lomnický štít and Skalnaté pleso will take place on June 7. Others will follow on June 21, July 5 and August 16.

Eight dead in 2007: a 'relatively good' year

IN ALMOST five months of this year, almost as many people have died in the High Tatras as during the whole of 2007. During this winter season, rescuers from the Mountain Rescue Service (HZS) have recorded six fatal accidents in the High Tatras. For the whole last year, they recorded eight, SITA wrote.

"I don't think that this year's winter was special; rather it was that last year was a lucky one, with fewer accidents," the head of the HZS, Martin Kulanga, told the SITA newswire.

On average, 13 people a year die in the High Tatras. There have been years when rescuers have attended more than 20 fatalities.

Last year, HZS rescuers had to help in 227 cases; most common were tourist, climbing, and alpine skiing injuries. In recent years, new types of so-called "adrenalin" accidents have cropped up, such as injuries involving mountain scooters.

About one third of injuries in the High Tatras happened in terrain where normal tourists are banned from venturing. Polish tourists are regarded as a special group since they often use guide-books published in Poland, which show old pathways and hunting routes. These are not official pathways, and their use is forbidden.

In most cases - up to 90 percent of cases - tourists are responsible for accidents. "Be it the overestimation of their own capabilities and physical condition, underestimation of the weather or the difficulty of the climb... only about 10 percent result from other factors, like falling rocks, or lightning strikes," Kulanga said.

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