Thank you so very much for your continued interest in the observatory.
Friday, May 18, 2018
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
This Sunday 22 April 2018 is Rockville Science Day! The Montgomery College Rockville campus will be transformed into a dazzling array of science demonstrations and activities for all ages.
I'll be at the observatory with telescopes for safe solar observing with white light and hydrogen-alpha filters. The weather forecast is for clear skies, but if turns out to be cloudy, I'll have an indoor activity set up in Science Center room SC406. No reservations are necessary. I hope you can join me.
Rockville Science Day
Sunday 22 April 2018
Observatory open from noon to 4 PM
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Here's what we looked at:
- The planet Venus: Venus was too low for the the 14-inch scopes inside the observatory so we looked at our sister planet with the 8-inch scope on the deck.
- M42 (Orion Nebula) : At 1300 light-years distant, the Orion Nebula is one of the closest regions of star formation to us. Because the constellations set a little bit earlier each evening, Orion and the Orion Nebula won't be visible in the night sky too much longer.
- M35 (open cluster) : We were also able to see M35 in the constellation Gemini. Like Orion, Gemini is not visible in the night sky during the summer months, so I'm glad we were able to catch this object as well. M35 is an example of an open star cluster and is about 2800 light-years from Earth.
- M3 (globular cluster) : We also looked at the globular cluster M3. This cluster can be found in the constellation Canes Venatici (the hunting dogs), and is about 33,900 light-years from Earth. The cluster showed up as a faint fuzzy ball in the eyepiece.
- Mizar (double star) : The star Mizar is the the second star in the handle of the Big Dipper. With the naked eye you can see Alcor, a fainter star very close to Mizar. (Although with a layer of haze last night, catching Alcor was a bit of a challenge!) Mizar itself is a quadruple star system, but not one you can split without a telescope. With the 14-inch, we were able to resolve Mizar A and Mizar B- both of which have companions, but not even our scopes are big enough to see these.
Sincere thanks to Shahriar for his assistance with the event, including setting up and operating the 8-inch scope on the deck.
And of course, Thank you everyone for attending. I especially loved the seeing enthusiasm of the kids! It's such an honor to get to share the universe with you. I hope to see folks again at another event.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Finally! Spring 2018 dates are here!
Friday 23 March 2018 : 8:30 - 9:30 PM
Friday 13 April 2018 : 8:30 - 9:30 PM
Friday 27 April 2018 : 8:30 - 9:30 PM
Friday 4 May 2018 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 18 May 2018 : 9 - 10 PM
Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite.
Spring 2018 reservations can be made here:
If I'm able to add dates, I will.
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.
About the Guest Nights:
During Observatory Guest Nights we will use Montgomery College telescopes to view and learn about visible solar system objects, star clusters, and nebulae. We will also spend some time looking at the sky with just our eyes in order to locate constellations and planets that can be seen this time of the year.
You'll leave with a star chart and the ability to find celestial objects on your own.
Astronomy faculty and students from the MC Stargazers Club will be on hand to answer questions about the universe.
Some things to note:
- Dress for the weather. The observatory is located outside on the roof of the Science Center.
- We meet in Science Center room 406 (SC406). We go up to the roof as a group. If you're late, there will be a student in SC406 to escort you upstairs.
- Children are welcome (and encouraged!) to attend, although campus policy prohibits children younger than five years of age on the roof.
- Parking is free.
I want to continue to improve the observatory nights. If you have suggestions or comments, please let me know.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
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.
Again, thank you for your interest in our observatory. I hope to see you next semester.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
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
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
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.