Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thank you for a stellar Fall 2017 semester!

Thanks to everyone for visiting the observatory this semester (or trying to- I know the weather wasn't always cooperative!). It's a privilege and a joy for me to get to share the observatory and my love of astronomy with you.

We're shutting down for the winter break, but new events will be scheduled once the Spring 2018 semester begins. I will post the dates here.

For now, here is a link to the November/December starmap.

And here is a link to my handout on finding direction using Ursa Major (Big Dipper) or Cassiopeia.

Again, thank you for your interest in our observatory. I hope to see you next semester.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Observing Log for 20 October 2017

We had a beautifully clear and Moonless evening for the observatory night.

I truly appreciate everyone's patience with us as we dealt with the troublesome 8-inch scope on the deck. (BIG thanks to observatory assistants Richard and Shahriar for working so hard last night!)

With the two 14-inch scopes, we able to see the following objects:

  • M57 (The Ring Nebula): M57 is a planetary nebula about 2,300 light-years from Earth. Planetary nebulae are the result of what happens when lower-mass stars (like our Sun) run out of nuclear fuel at the end of their lives. There are about 3,000 planetary nebulae known to exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.

    The Ring Nebula looked like a tiny smoke ring in the eyepiece, but it's actually about 3 light-years across.

  • M31 (Andromeda Galaxy): M31 is a neighboring galaxy located about 2.5 million light-years from us. It's a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way, but it's larger. M31 is about 220,000 light-years across compared to the Milky Way's 100,000 light-year diameter.

    Through the telescope M31 looked like a small fuzzy ball with a star-like center. The bright center is the core of M31 and the fuzziness is the light from the hundreds of billions of stars that make up the galaxy.

  • Albireo: Albireo is a double star system in Cygnus. The two stars (one blue, one gold) can't be resolved with the naked eye, but through our telescopes we are able to see the pair. The system is about 430 light-years distant.
  • NCG 6826 (The "blinking planetary" in Cygnus): NGC 6826 is another example of a planetary nebula, and is about 2,000 light-years away from Earth. It's called the "blinking planetary" because it appears to flicker on and off as you alternate looking to the side of it and looking directly at it. The effect works because we have more sensitive peripheral vision.

Thank you everyone for attending, and for your interest in the Montgomery College Observatory!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Event Schedule for Fall 2017

Fall 2017 dates for Observatory Guest Nights are below.

Here's hoping for clear skies!

Friday 1 September 2017 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 15 September 2017 : 8 - 9 PM

Friday 6 October 2017 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 20 October 2017 : 8 - 9 PM

Friday 3 November 2017 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 17 November 2017 : 8 - 9 PM

Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite (

Please note:

Events will be cancelled for bad weather. I will make the call as soon as I am able, usually about 2 hours prior to the event start time. An announcement will be sent to the email address you registered with Eventbrite, and I will post the status on this website.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Solar eclipse events

Happy August everyone! Below please find information on the solar eclipse event at Montgomery College. I've also included a list of August events at the nearby Latitude Observatory in Gaithersburg, MD.

Montgomery College will be hosting an eclipse event event at our Takoma Park campus on Monday 21 August 2017 from 12:30 to 3:00 PM.

During the eclipse, we will connect to sites that are in totality and project the event on to the planetarium dome for viewing. Dr. Harold Williams will also present a planetarium show explaining eclipses and occultations. If it is clear we will have telescopes set up outside to view the partial phases of the eclipse safely.

The event is free and open to the public. Additional details can be found on the Montgomery College Planetarium webpage. I hope you can join us!

The Latitude Observatory in Gaithersburg is hosting the following events in August:

  • Saturday 12 August 2017Perseids Meteor Shower (8:00 PM to 1:00 AM) Bring blankets and chairs to sit or lie out on the lawn watching for meteors.
  • Sunday 20 August 2017Preview Screening of "The Farthest: Voyager in Space", from HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, is a beautiful new PBS documentary highlighting the story of the Voyager missions. Movie is from 3:00 to 5:00 PM. Tickets will be distributed starting at 2:00 PM. Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, Md.
  • 21 Monday August 2017Solar Eclipse Party (12:30 to 4:30 PM) An afternoon of solar related activities and solar observations as well as safe solar viewers for participants.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"Love is in the Stars" - MC article on about our observatory

Montgomery College just put out a nice article about our observatory nights. You can find it here.

"Love is in the Stars"

Observing log for 30 June 2017

The towering cumulus clouds stayed southwest of Rockville and the sky cleared! Seeing wasn't great, but we did manage to observe the following objects:

Overall, not a bad night. Thank you everyone for your patience with the weather and the fantastic questions. It's an honor to get to share the observatory and night sky with you.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

June / July Starmap

The starmap for June and July is here: MCAO June / July Starmap.

I create these maps using the wonderful website and Stellarium software. (Stellarium is a free planetarium software program. If you'd like to know what's up in the sky, I highly recommend it!)