Archives For Open Night

COVID-19 coronavirus - Image Credit: CDC I don’t need to tell you the sort of impact the spread of the novel coronavirus has had on plans for, well, just about everything this spring. Around now is when we at Stephens Memorial Observatory would be scheduling and opening to the public for monthly stargazing.

As we noted in a recent post here, a small observatory dome is no place to collect a group of people — a group of any size — when there is a pandemic disease circulating. If you’ve been to one of our Open Nights, you know it gets crowded and loud with not very many people present!

So early on we independently decided to postpone our public openings.

The novel coronavirus is “out there” and circulating. It is foolhardy to believe that after two weeks or so it will simply go away. With no vaccine available, the only true preventative is isolation. So that’s what we’re doing.

Remember this when you think about whether widespread closures are actually needed: The virus that causes COVID-19 appears to spread about as easily as the common cold. But this disease can be much more severe — sometimes deadly. A deadly disease that can be caught and spread as easily as a cold! That’s the reason for current shutdowns of bars, restaurants, and other businesses that bring people together. Think about that, please, as you go about your daily living.

I believe relative isolation will be advised for the general public for some months to come. I enjoy our public nights together under the dome but I don’t want anyone, myself included, to become ill because of our little gatherings. So there’s a very good chance Stephens will not open to the public any time this year.

In the meantime, I’m putting together technologies that will allow us to share either live or recorded live views of astronomical objects from a local telescope. We may also do some video presentations about the observatory and its telescope. I’ll keep you informed about future developments along those lines.

I’ll close here by thanking you for your interest in what we do, and thanking those who are repeat visitors to our humble observatory. Please help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and stay well. We’re all in this together and it will take sensible behavior from all of us to get out.

 

Best wishes and stay healthy,

James Guilford, Director and Janitor
Stephens Memorial Observatory

For trustworthy information about the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19 disease, visit the Ohio Department of Health website: https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/home

Well, it looks like we’ll not be opening our Public Nights season this month after all.

Outside of the usual concerns over wet and cloudy weather, and issues with our old building, now we have public health matters to take into consideration.

While the observatory is pretty much open to outside air when in use, people are quite close together under the dome — closer than public health experts recommend.

We’d rather everyone enjoy the night sky in good health and not have Stephens become a place where illness is spread; so we will watch and wait for resolution of the pandemic COVID-19 disease. When gatherings again make sense, we’ll announce and commence our season of Public Nights.

Until then, we’ll point out opportunities for home stargazing when clear nights occur and most of those suggestions come via our Twitter feed. You don’t need to have a Twitter account to see what’s going on, simple visit:  https://twitter.com/StephensObs

Through this all, we’ll fall back on the wisdom of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy upon which is written in large, friendly letters, “Don’t Panic”. No need to hoard toilet paper or bottled water. Just be smart about what you do to protect your health and the well-being of others. There’s plenty of good information available online if you choose wisely.

Here are a few good resources:

Ohio Department of Health

Ars Technica — Updated Daily

World Health Organization

 

Photo: The Orion Nebula by James Guilford, 2012

The Orion Nebula, Messier 42, as it may appear to viewers through small telescopes. Photo by James Guilford, 2012.

UPDATE: Over the course of the event 29 visitors enjoyed exquisite views of the Orion Nebula. Excellent seeing conditions allowed the nebular cloud to fill and extend beyond the telescope’s field of view at 104X magnification; possibly the finest view of that astronomical object that we have enjoyed. Also viewed was the red supergiant star, Betelgeuse, which is at the left shoulder of the constellation’s mythic figure. Betelgeuse has been the topic of discussion lately because the variable star has dimmed noticeably from its more typical brilliance.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will host a special Public Night Saturday, December 21, from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. The Great Orion Nebula will be the featured object on a night billed as a “holiday gift.” The observatory is usually closed for the winter but organizers wished to offer views of the nebula this year. Clear skies will be especially important for this event.

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event in which case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Updates on programming are available via the Observatory’s Twitter feed: @StephensObs and on this website.

Photo: First Quarter Moon, October 5, 2019.

Our First-Quarter Moon on International Observe the Moon Night, as seen through the Stephens telescope at 9:04 PM EDT. iPhone SE at eyepiece.

 

Our October 5 Open Night was the local event of the International Observe the Moon Night — an annual occurrence meant that encourages observation, appreciation, and understanding of our Moon and its connection to planetary science and exploration. Over the course of the night at Stephens Memorial Observatory some 34 enthusiastic and inquisitive visitors attended and were treated to beautiful and unusual views of Earth’s Moon and planet Saturn.

Unusual? The earliest visitors arrived just as the telescope was set to go … with the sky still bright with twilight. The Moon appeared light and against a power-blue sky background instead of the usual darkness of space. Saturn, invisible to the eye in the bright sky, was also viewed through the telescope in surprising detail.

 

Zooming in on the previous image: That dot in the center of dark-floored crater Alphonsus is its central peak. Over the course of two hours sun rose over that pinnacle making it brighter, and other features began to emerge as we watched. Alphonsus slightly overlaps the crater Ptolemaeus.

After darkness fell enthusiastic visitors took turns looking at a crater and watching a mountain peak become illuminated at sunrise on the Moon! It was a fine night appreciating a sight too often ignored: the wonder of Luna, our nearest neighbor in space.

Image: Saturn and Moons

Simulated View: Saturn and Moons, September 14, 2019 at 9:30 PM EDT. Image via Gas Giants

 

UPDATE: Thanks to the 29 visitors, of a wide variety of ages, who came out Saturday night to share the view with us. Early arrivals got good views of Saturn. In the middle of our evening our guests saw Saturn under improving conditions and the rising Moon as it cleared neighboring trees. Those who visited or stayed late viewed the Full Harvest Moon (sometimes through tree leaves). Our Moon, though fascinating to view through our telescope even when Full or nearly so, created huge amounts of natural light “pollution” as it illuminated atmospheric haze and thin clouds — we were unable to see the Great Andromeda Galaxy or the M15 star cluster. The Moon got tangled in trees again as it arced higher into the sky. Our final visitors of the evening, however, were rewarded for their patience with views of the Perseus Double Cluster after it cleared trees. We love trees but not so close to the observatory!

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will host a Public Night Saturday, September 14, from 9:00 to 11:00 PM. On the observing list are: Earth’s Moon, Saturn, the Messier 15 star cluster, and, if sky conditions permit, the Andromeda Galaxy, and Perseus Double star cluster. Given good viewing conditions the Observatory’s 1901 vintage telescope delivers outstanding detail of the Moon and impressive views of Saturn and distinctive rings.

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event in which case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Updates on programming are available via the Observatory’s Twitter feed: @StephensObs or its website: StephensObservatory.org.

Saturn and Moons, July 10, 2019. Simulation via Gas Giants.

 

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will host a Public Night Saturday, August 10, from 9:00 to 11:00 PM. On the observing list are two Stephens favorites: Earth’s Moon, and the Ringed World – Saturn! Other objects of interest may also be viewed using the Observatory’s 1901 vintage telescope. Given good viewing conditions the telescope delivers outstanding detail of the Moon and impressive views of Saturn and distinctive rings.

Cloudy skies at the scheduled starting time cancel the event in which case, the observatory will not open. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Updates on programming are available via the Observatory’s Twitter feed: @StephensObs or its website: StephensObservatory.org.

Our 2019 Schedule

StephensAstro —  July 13, 2019 — Leave a comment

Personal, atmospheric, and astronomic factors have played havoc with planning our 2019 public observing schedule. We have, however, finally posted a list of Open Nights for the remainder of the year; it includes a special night and time in December in an effort to show off the Great Orion Nebula — something we’ve not done in years!

To view and/or print a copy of the newly-published schedule, CLICK HERE.

Please note that we may make changes as the season progresses. Of course weather plays a dominant factor and cloudy skies can, and often do, cancel scheduled events. Please check this website and our Twitter feed for updates

Keep looking up!