Observatory Open Night July 22

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, July 22, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM. Featured that night will be Saturn, red supergiant star Antares, and the M4 Star Cluster in the constellation Scorpius. Other objects of interest may also be viewed.

The night’s observing depends upon clear skies and those have been in short supply this season! Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that 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.

Beautiful end to a strange and frustrating evening

Photo: Storm over Portage County, Ohio, June 24, 2017 - by James Guilford
Storm over Portage County, Ohio, June 24, 2017 – by James Guilford

 
Saturday night’s Open Night presented “interesting” situations. Shortly after arriving at the observatory, we saw rain arrive and heard thunder. Rain stopped, then started again as another compact thunderstorm passed over the village of Hiram. To the north we could see clear sky just outside the borders of the storm. To the south, over Garrettsville and Manuta, we could spy towering cumulus clouds and radar revealed intense rainfall. All of this weather around 8:30 to 9:00 and even a bit later. But at the appointed hour of 9:30, the sky began to clear overhead and we opened the dome.

There, in the southern shy, was Jupiter shining brightly. Hope? Nope! Storm delays and perhaps a bit of spring growth allowed Jupiter to slip behind the upper branches and leaves of a neighboring tree! Visitors arrived and we looked at mushy images of Jupiter pulled through little gaps between tree leaves. Surprisingly, occasional glimpses were had of the giant planet’s distinctive cloud bands and blurry dots of light — the Galilean Moons — could be seen. Then nothing, as Jupiter arced deeper into the branches. We fished around for a while, looking at a couple of bright stars through the murky atmosphere to the south. Saturn was lost in other trees and the messy air.

The faint, fuzzy Ring Nebula would be impossible, no? No. The sky to the east-northeast, inhabited by Lyra and the Ring, was crisp and clear. We rotated the dome, swung the big scope into position, and quickly found Messier 57 – the Ring Nebula. Of the night’s 19 visitors, those who were able to wait out the passage of clouds and darkening of sky were rewarded with clear, bright views of the famous planetary nebula; the beautiful end to a strange and frustrating evening.

June 24: “Rings” Open Night

Photo: The Ring Nebula (aka Messier 57). Credit: Walker County Observatory / Science@NASA - http://science.nasa.gov
The Ring Nebula (aka Messier 57). Credit: Walker County Observatory / Science@NASA – http://science.nasa.gov

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, June 24, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM. Featured that night will be Saturn, Jupiter, and the Ring Nebula. Other objects of interest may also be viewed.

The night’s observing depends upon clear skies and those have been in short supply this season! Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that 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.

August 12: Special FRIDAY Open Night!

Image: Saturn: August 12, 10:00 PM EDT - Simulated view via Gas Giants app
Saturn: August 12, 10:00 PM EDT – Simulated view via Gas Giants app

UPDATE: Due to mostly-cloudy to overcast skies and recurring scattered thunderstorms, this event has been CANCELED. — JG, 8/12/16, 8:00 PM.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Friday, August 12, from 9:30 to midnight. Hoping to catch the end of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, the observatory is hosting its monthly public event on this Friday rather than on Saturday night.

Visitors are invited to bring personal lawn chairs and sit out beneath the stars watching for meteors (mosquito repellent is strongly recommended) until midnight. Via telescope, views of beautiful Saturn, and other objects will also be offered. Saturn’s famous ring system is nicely tilted allowing for excellent viewing, given clear skies.

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

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.

I see the Moon…

Photo: Moon, Planets, Stars, Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.
Nearly-Full Moon and Stephens Memorial Observatory. In the trees, to right of the Moon, are Saturn (upper), Antares below, and Mars to the right. No, the dome isn’t about to topple – just yet – it’s a fisheye lens effect!
Photo by James Guilford.

 

We hosted a small group of 16 visitors during the July 16 Open Night but enjoyed the event very much; a group of that size is in the not-too-large and not-too-small range that affords easy conversation and sharing of the observatory experience. I the summertime we usually feature Earth’s Moon. Between summer’s late sunsets, and Daylight Saving Time extending twilight by an hour, the Moon reliably shows up even before the sky is dark! Saturday’s experience was no exception.

Photo: Nearly-full Moon. Photo by James Guilford.
Nearly-Full, Gibbous Moon, captured using an iPhone SE held to the eyepiece of the Cooley Telescope at Stephens Memorial Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.

 

We viewed the Moon through the Cooley Telescope’s remarkable optics and were rewarded with exciting detail. Moving along as the sky darkened, we turned our attention to Saturn: the planet’s subtle color and distinctive ring system showed good detail, very good at times. We briefly viewed Mars but the Red Planet is rapidly parting company with Earth and has grown small in the telescope’s eyepiece.

Photo: Earth's Moon, featuring crater Tyco. Photo by James Guilford.
Closer View of the Moon, featuring crater Tyco, using a Canon DSLR and the Cooley Telescope at Stephens Memorial Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.

 

Yes, the “star” of the night was Luna and, once the last visitors departed, we made a few images of our nearest neighbor in space to help illustrate why we love sharing the view!

Saturday, July 16: Open Night

Image: Saturn and Moons - July 16, 2016 at about 10 PM EDT. Simulated view.
Saturn and Moons – July 16, 2016 at about 10 PM EDT. Simulated view.

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, July 16, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM. Beautiful ringed Saturn, Earth’s amazing Moon, and hopefully the M4 star cluster in Scorpius will be the featured objects. Mars is rapidly distancing itself from us and will likely be uninteresting in our telescope though we may take a look anyway.

Sky conditions, of course, will determine what we see and even whether we can see anything at all. We will hope for clear skies because Saturn still presents its ring system at an excellent tilt for viewing!

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

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. DO NOT park on nearby Peckham Avenue; parking is prohibited there and violators may be ticketed!

Open Night: Saturday, June 18

Image: Simulated view of Saturn.
Simulated view of Saturn and a few of its moons as they will appear June 18, 2016. Click for bigger view!

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open for public observing Saturday, June 18, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM.

Beautiful ringed Saturn, planet Mars, Earth’s amazing Moon, and (if the Moon doesn’t interfere) the Ring Nebula will be the featured objects.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open.
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 or on nearby Peckham Avenue. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

More planets line up in our morning sky

Illustration: January 2016: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky
January 2016: Five Planets Visible in the Pre-Dawn Sky

 

Over recent weeks we have watched as several planets have appeared close together in our morning sky — when clear, that is — and even seen them shift their positions as the days passed! Beginning this frigid week and continuing into mid-February, five of Earth’s Solar System siblings will be visible, spanning the southern sky. This is the first time since 2005 that this planetary lineup has occurred. If we get a break in morning cloud cover go out, just before dawn’s early light, and look for the planetary parade. Little Mercury will be the hardest to spot being both dim and close to the horizon. Venus and Jupiter will be easy as they are the brightest of the bunch. Golden Saturn and finally reddish Mars should also be easy to find though Mars isn’t a standout. The gathering will occur again late this summer and in the evening sky. The planets aren’t really very much closer together in space during this time. The chart below illustrates the current relative positions of the planets; it’s our point of view from Earth that makes creates the scene: something like watching racers on a race track, appearing closer and farther apart as they run laps in their concentric lanes.

Illustration: January 2016: Planetary Positions - Area Between Lines of Sight Illustrates Area of Space We See
January 2016: Planetary Positions – Area Between Lines of Sight Illustrates Area of Space We See

Saturday, July 25: Observatory Open Night

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open to the public on Saturday, July 25, from 9:30 to 11:00 PM. On the observing list for the night are: the Moon, ringed world Saturn, and star cluster M4 in Scorpius.

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

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.

June 20 Open Night

UPDATE: As it turned out, although the skies turned cloudy just as the observatory opened for the night, the overcast cleared in short order giving way to very good seeing! About 20 visitors came and enjoyed views of Saturn, its moons, and the Cassini Division within the ring system, the beautiful Hercules Globular Cluster (M13), and Messier 57 aka: the Ring Nebula. Our views of M57 were the best we have enjoyed from Hiram thanks to an eyepiece on loan for testing! Next Open Night is set for July 25.

The title to this posting ought to include a question mark! So far this year, the weather has been very uncooperative on our public Open Nights and Saturday’s forecast doesn’t look very promising. We shall hope for the best because our June 20 event features the beautiful ringed world Saturn. We also hope to spy the Ring Nebula and, to break the ring theme, the diamond-dust Hercules Globular Cluster (M13). If the skies are clear enough, we will be open from 9:30 to 11:00 PM Saturday. 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. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. For updates and more information, return here or follow “@StephensObs” on Twitter.