Alumni Open House

Some photos from our Alumni College open house at the observatory on May 28.

Cooper setting up.

Looking north.
Looking east, includes the shuttle van, and someone with a red headlamp walking by.
Looking west. Mars is on the left, about 1/3 of the frame from the top.
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Transit of Venus: Public Observing

[Please also read our Transit Day Update!]

The Gettysburg College Observatory will be hosting a public observing event for the historic transit of Venus, weather permitting, on June 5 from 5:45 PM until the sun sun goes below the trees, about 7:30. Your hosts will include Dr. Jackie Milingo, astronomy professor; Dick Cooper, astronomy lab instructor; Mike Hayden, college network director and amateur astronomer; and me, Ian Clarke, planetarium director and astronomy lab instructor. We plan to set up a variety of equipment to safely observe this rare event (last until 2117). Here are the key details:

WHAT: Public Observing of the Transit of Venus.
The website and this video will get you started in understanding planetary transits of the sun.

WHEN: June 5, 2012, 5:45 PM to sunset.
The event will be held weather permitting. If it looks like there will be a chance of viewing the sun, we will be there to at least try. In the event of overcast skies with no breaks showing in satellite photos, we will not hold it. You may check this site or @GCPlanetarium twitter for an update the afternoon of the transit.

WHERE: Concrete pad outside the Gettysburg College Observatory.

The Observatory is located near the West Fields on the edge of campus. To get to the there, walk (do not drive) down the gravel road past the West Building (home of The Attic) toward the domed building. Only observatory staff are permitted to park at the observatory itself, so please allow time to park on campus and walk. If you cannot walk the distance but would still like to attend, email Ian Clarke ahead of time to make arrangements.There are no restrooms at the observatory, though there is usually a portable around the nearby athletic fields. This map, adapted from the campus map, shows the location of the observatory:

Finally, here is what the sky should look like from the observing platform at the start of the transit, just after 6:00 PM:

created with stellarium 0.11.1

The Sky this Month: March

Our monthly skyshows are coming up in a few days! (Sunday, 3/4, at 4 PM and Monday, 3/5, at noon). Subjects will include the opposition of Mars, the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, the vernal equinox, a constellation tour, and astronomy news. Hope to see you at the Hatter Planetarium!

Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon Feb 22-26

Here’s a look at the local evening sky over the next few days, as the waxing crescent moon emerges from the sunset glow and passes Venus and then Jupiter. At just about 24 hours “old” tonight, the moon will be the thinnest of crescents less than 10 degrees above the horizon. Good conditions are a must for seeing the moon this soon after new. The crescent will grow and become easy to see over the next few days as the moon orbits the earth and proceeds through its usual phase cycle. It will be near Venus on the 25th and near Jupiter on the 26th. The moon’s track is shown in the images below (moon size exaggerated for clarity). The images were created with Stellarium and combined with the GIMP.

Venus and Jupiter themselves will be only three degrees apart in early March. Hear more about that at our Sky this Month Show for March, 3/1 at 4:00 PM and 3/2 at 12 Noon.

Feb 22-24, 6:00 PM.
Feb 24-26, 7:00 PM.

Observing Report: Thurs, Feb 9

Jupiter and Venus (below) above the GC Observatory dome.

 Thursday lab had a good session at the observatory, if a bit cold (28 F at the end of the second session). Both the 7 and 8 PM groups had a sky tour, including celestial sphere concepts, Jupiter and Venus in the west, and bright stars and major constellations of the season (Ursa Major, Orion and the Winter Oval, Pegasus and more). We used Meade telescopes to observe Venus, Uranus (less than one degree away!), the Orion Nebula, star clusters M37 and M35, and the Andromeda Galaxy. Before the 8 PM session was over, Mars and the waning gibbous moon were rising in the east. Both session finished with a tour of the observatory (CCD carts, research telescope, control room). We’re looking forward to going out again later in the semester and hopefully using the CCD cameras to take some telescopic images. All images here by Ian Clarke with a Panasonic FZ-100.

From lower L to upper R: Orion, the Hyades, and the Pleiades.
Uranus (L) and Venus.

Mars and the moon.

Sky this Month Shows Coming Up

Our February “This Sky this Month” show will be offered this Sunday, Feb. 12, at 4:00 PM and Monday, Feb. 13 at 12:00 Noon. Topics will include the stars and constellations of late winter, the approach of Jupiter and Venus in the evening sky, as well as current astronomy news. Shows are free and open to the public as always. Directions, etc., are available on the web site.

Astro 102 Observing Lab, Monday, 2/6

Photo by Ian Clarke

Monday lab had a good session last night, though a little cold. After a visual tour of the sky (dominated by the almost-full moon), we used a Meade telescope to observe Venus, Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy and the moon. A look at the dome room and control room of the observatory building wrapped up the evening. The image on the right, taken at 6:38 PM, shows Jupiter (above), Venus (below), and the observing deck illuminated by moonlight. Look for Venus and Jupiter to draw closer together over the next few weeks, eventually passing about three degrees from each other on March 12.

Spring Schedule Posted

The spring schedule is up on the website, or it can be accessed directly as a Google calendar here

A couple notes about the schedule. Classes at the College did not start until Jan 23, so we will be doing the new year show the last Sunday and Monday of January. That works out well with our February sky show, which will be a week later than usual to avoid the superbowl. Other than that, it’s first Sunday at 4 PM and first Monday at noon until May.

If you are interested in a private show for a school or community group,  please contact us soon since our spring calendar tends to fill up and we typically do not schedule private shows after April due to the student workers’ busy academic schedules.