Friday, April 12, 2019

Observatory night for Friday 12 April canceled due to weather

This weather! It's so unfair. We basically have zero chance of clear skies tonight.

Once again, I am truly sorry to have to cancel the event this evening.

As always, thank you for your interest in our observatory. I hope to be able to host an event soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Spring 2019 event schedule is available!

Observatory nights for Spring 2019 are below:

Friday 22-Mar-2019 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 29-Mar-2019 : 8 - 9 PM

Friday 12-Apr-2019 : 8:30 - 9:30 PM
Friday 26-Apr-2019 : 8:30 - 9:30 PM

Friday 3-May-2019 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 10-May-2019 : 9 - 10 PM

Events are free, but because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite.

Spring 2019 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 use Montgomery College telescopes to view and learn about visible solar system objects, star clusters, and nebulae. We 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 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 staff member or 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.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Observing log for Friday 20 July 2018

The clouds held least for a little while!

Here's what we managed to sneak in:

  • The Moon was delightful through the 14-inch, being just a day past first quarter.
  • We also observed Jupiter and Saturn through both the 14-inch and 8-inch scopes.
  • I think at least a few folks got to see Venus through the 8-inch before it was lost to clouds.
  • The beautiful double star Albireo showed up nicely through both scopes. Even with the clouds, the difference in color between the two Albirio A and Albirio B was apparent.
  • Deep sky objects were out of the question, but I did make an earnest attempt to show NGC 6826, "the blinking planetary" before we closed up. I thought I could (maybe) see it, but the clouds had taken over by then.

Once again, big thanks to Maryam and Iadviga their assistance with the event.

And of course, thanks to everyone for attending and asking such great questions! I absolutely loved the enthusiasm of the kids, and wow, I was super impressed with their astronomical knowledge. You all make doing these events such a pleasure! :)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Observing log for Friday 13 July 2018

We had a beautiful, warm, and Moonless and evening for our observatory night.

Here's what we looked at:

  • Venus: Venus appeared as the brightest object in the evening sky. As a planet interior to Earth, Venus is seen to go through phases like the Moon. Through the telescope we could see Venus in its gibbous phase.
  • Jupiter : We were able to make out cloud bands on the planet and the four Galilean satellites- Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • Saturn : Saturn was too low for the the 14-inch scopes inside the observatory, therefore we looked at the ringed beauty with the 8-inch scope on the deck.
  • M13, (the Hercules cluster): We also looked at the globular cluster, M13. M13 can be found in the constellation of Hercules and is about 22,000 light-years from Earth.
  • M57 (the Ring Nebula): Next up was M57, a planetary nebula. M57 can be found in the constellation of Lyra and is located about 2,300 light-years from Earth. Planetary nebulae are the remnants of lower mass stars after they've used up their nuclear fuel. The Ring Nebula appeared as a delicate smoke-ring in the eyepiece.
  • 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.

Sincere thanks to Maryam, Iadviga, and Ryan for their assistance with the event.

And of course, BIG thank you everyone for attending, and for your enthusiasm about all things astronomical! I hope to see folks again at another event.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

MC Observatory open for solar viewing this Sunday at Rockville Science Day

Hello Hello!

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

Observing log for Friday 13 April 2018

We had a Moonless and mostly clear evening for our observatory night. It was a bit breezy, but the warm air felt wonderful. Spring has finally arrived!

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, 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.