Friday, October 21, 2016

Observatory Guest Night Canceled for Friday 21-Oct-2016

As of about 4 PM, both accuweather.com and Clear Sky Chart are predicting cloudy skies and possible thunderstorms.

I'm going to make an early no-go call and cancel the event for tonight.

November and December tend to be busy months, so there are no events scheduled for the time being. Nevertheless, if I can make something work, I'll post here on the website.

You can receive email updates by selecting "Follow by Email" (upper portion of menu on the right). If you're worried about too many emails, please know that I post infrequently. You'll only receive an email if I add a date to the schedule.

Thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Observatory Guest Night Canceled for Friday 7-Oct-2016

The Observatory Guest Night for Friday 7 October 2016 is canceled due to the weather.

It looks like we'll continue to see clouds from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew throughout the evening.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We are a "go" for observatory tonight (Thursday 22-Sep-2016)

For folks who have reservations tonight, we are a "go"!

We'll meet at 8 PM in SC406.

The Clear Sky Chart is predicting clear skies, and Accuweather.com is predicting conditions will be "good for stargazing".

If you couldn't get a reservation for this evening, you can get on the waitlist for for one of the October events. Go to https://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com to reserve.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday 16-Sep-2016 Observatory Night : UPDATE at 7:20 PM

UPDATE at 7:20 PM : Oh my goodness it's cloudy everywhere. It looks like we're not going to see anything tonight. If you haven't left the house yet, stay home and try to get to another event.

We are a "go" for observatory tonight (Friday 16-Sep-2016)

For folks who have reservations tonight, we are a "go"!

We'll meet at 8 PM in SC406.

The Clear Sky Chart is predicting clear skies, but Accuweather.com is saying partly cloudy, and the satellite is showing some clouds in the west.

I'm hoping the Clear Sky Chart will be the correct prediction, but if it does cloud up, we'll have to close up early.

If you couldn't get a reservation for this evening, you can get on the waitlist for 22-Sep-2016, or you can register for one of the October events. Go to https://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com to reserve.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Event Dates for October

Two October dates for Observatory Guest Nights have been added to the schedule:

Friday 7 October 2016 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 21 October 2016 : 8 - 9 PM

Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite (http://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com).

New for Fall events:

Events will be cancelled for bad weather. I will make the call at least 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.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

We are a "go" for observatory tonight (Thursday 8-Sep-2016)

For folks who have reservations tonight, we are a "go"!

The Clear Sky Chart is predicting 10% cloud cover. I can't promise we'll have perfect skies, but we will open up tonight and see what we can.

We'll meet in SC406 at 8 PM. We'll observe until 9 PM assuming we aren't clouded out.

If you couldn't get a reservation for this evening, you can get on the waitlist for the remaining September events. Go to https://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com to reserve. I will be posting a couple of Friday nights in October soon.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Observatory Guest Night Canceled for Friday 2-Sep-2016

The Observatory Guest Night for Friday 2 September 2016 is canceled tonight due to the weather.

It looks like Tropical storm Hermine is moving northeast, giving us cloudy skies for the evening.

Sign-up for additional August and September events can be found here: http://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com, and I will be posting October dates soon.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Observing log for 25 August 2016

Despite some haze and high cirrus we were able to see the following objects:

  • Saturn: The ringed planet will be visible until mid-September.
  • Mars: Mars was at opposition on 22 May 2016, making it very well-placed for observing this summer.
  • M13, (the Hercules cluster): M13 is an example of a globular cluster and is about 25,000 light-years from Earth.
  • M57 (the Ring Nebula): M57 is a planetary nebula about 2,000 light-years from Earth.
  • NCG 6826 (The "blinking planetary" in Cygnus): NGC 6826 is another example of a planetary nebula, also about 2,000 light-years from Earth.
  • 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.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

We are a "go" for observatory night tonight (Thursday 25-Aug-2016)

For folks who have reservations tonight, we are a "go"! There may be a few clouds, but if we're lucky they'll hold off until later.

We'll be meeting in SC400 (the conference room across from the elevator) instead of SC406.

If you couldn't get a reservation for this evening, there are spots open in the September events. Go to https://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com to reserve.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Too many clouds - cancelling tonight

Clouds have now overtaken the southern and western sky (where Mars, Saturn, and the Moon happen to be).

I'm cancelling for tonight.

Apologies for the late call. Thank you for your patience! Wishing everyone a restful weekend and clear skies. I'm looking forward to seeing folks at another event.

Friday, August 12, 2016

August / September Starmap

Last night I had a couple of requests for an electronic version of the August / September starmap. You can find it here: MCAO August / September Starmap.

And here is the handout on Getting Oriented in the Night Sky.

We were able to see the following before the sky clouded up:

  • Saturn: The ringed planet will be easy to find in the in the southwest until mid September.
  • Mars: Mars was at opposition on 22 May 2016, making it very well-placed for observing this summer.
  • 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.
  • International Space Station: We watched the ISS pass overhead just before 10 PM. Heavens Above has timetables and maps for ISS visible passes.

More information about all of the planets can be found on NASA's Solar System Exploration page.

Last night I recommended the planetarium software package Stellarium. Stellarium is free and operates on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I've used it on all three platforms without issue. There is a mobile version ($2.49, last time I checked) as well.

I also use the website Heavens Above for astronomical and satellite data.

Finally, the US Naval Observatory's Data Services page is a fantastic resource and one I use frequently.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

We are a "go" for observatory night tonight (Thursday 11-Aug-2016)

For folks who have reservations tonight, we are a "go"!

I can't promise that the skies will stay clear, but we will open up tonight and see what we can.

We'll be meeting in SC400 (the conference room across from the elevator) instead of SC406.

If you couldn't get a reservation for this evening, there are spots open in the September events. Go to https://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com to reserve.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Observatory Guest Night Cancelled

The Observatory Guest Night for Friday 5 August 2016 is cancelled tonight due to cloudy skies.

Sign-up for additional August and September events can be found here: http://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Event dates for August and September

August and September dates for Observatory Guest Nights are below. (Note we've added Thursday evenings!)


Friday 5 August 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Thursday 11 August 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 19 August 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Thursday 25 August 2016 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 2 September 2016 : 8 - 9 PM
Thursday 8 September 2016 : 8 - 9 PM
Friday 16 September 2016 : 8 - 9 PM
Thursday 22 September 2016 : 8 - 9 PM

Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite (http://mcobservatory-fall2016.eventbrite.com).

New for August and September:

Events will be cancelled for bad weather. I will make the call at least 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.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Observing log for 1 July 2016

The thunderstorms cleared out before 9 PM. We had a few clouds, but also some clear sky, particularly by the end of the evening.

Here is a recap of what we observed last night:

  • Jupiter and the Galilean satellites (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto) : As mentioned, NASA's Juno Mission arrives Jupiter on Monday 4 July.
  • Mars: Mars was at opposition on 22 May 2016, making it very well-placed for observing this summer.
  • Saturn: The ringed planet will be visible until mid-September. On 24 August, look to see Saturn near in sky to both Mars and the beautiful red supergiant star, Antares.
  • M13, (the Hercules cluster): M13 is an example of a globular cluster and is about 25,000 light-years from Earth.
  • M57 (the Ring Nebula): M57 is an example of planetary nebula and is about 2,000 light-years from Earth.

More information about all of the planets can be found on NASA's Solar System Exploration page.

Last night I recommended the planetarium software package Stellarium. Stellarium is free and operates on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I've used it on all three platforms without issue. There is a mobile version ($2.49, last time I checked) as well.

I also use the website Heavens Above for astronomical and satellite data.

Finally, the US Naval Observatory's Data Services page is a fantastic resource and one I use frequently.

Thank you everyone for attending, and for your interest in the Montgomery College Observatory! Event dates for August, September, and October will be posted soon.

Friday, May 6, 2016

About tonight

For folks who are registered for tonight's event- Clouds and rain are predicted for this evening. If there are clouds we won't be able to see anything through our telescopes. If you'd rather not attend tonight because of the weather, that is absolutely fine! I am in the process of scheduling additional events for the summer months. The observatory nights are a volunteer effort, so the schedule depends on the availability of our student helpers. As soon as I have dates, I will advertise right here on this website. You can also sign up for email updates under the "Follow by Email".

Because of the weather, my recommendation is that folks avoid driving and stay home tonight.

If you do wish to visit MC this evening, I'll be here with a few of the astronomy club students in the Science Center building, room SC 406 on the fourth floor from 9-10 PM.

I also want to take this opportunity to let you know my colleague Dr. Harold Williams at the Takoma Park / Silver Spring campus will be hosting an event for the Mercury transit on the morning of Monday 9 May 2016. Details can be found here: http://www2.montgomerycollege.edu/departments/planet/

Thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April / May Starmap

The latest starmap is here: MCAO April/ May Starmap.

Of particular interest in May is a rare transit of Mercury across the Sun the morning of Monday 9 May 2016. Earthsky.org has lots of good information about the event here.

What we saw Friday night / Leo constellation info

We had a beautiful clear sky for our first observatory night of the season. Here's what we observed:

Through the 14-inch scope

Through the 8-inch scope

  • M42 (Orion Nebula)
  • Waxing gibbous Moon
  • Jupiter

Binoculars

  • Alcor and Mizar (double star in Ursa Major)
  • M44 (Beehive cluster in Cancer)
  • Waxing gibbous Moon

Jupiter is currently in the constellation Leo, the Lion. The information sheet on Leo from the observatory night can be accessed here.

Many thanks to Kim and Ryan for operating the 8-inch telescope and binoculars, respectively, and thanks also to the MC Stargazer club members. These events would not be possible without the time and talent of Montgomery College students.

The upcoming spring and summer events are full, but we've added a wait list to the Eventbrite ticket reservations. If you are on the wait list, you will be notified by email if a slot opens up.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spring 2016 observatory event schedule is live!

We have dates for the Spring 2016 Observatory Guest Nights (yay!). Reservations can be made on the Eventbrite website.

Friday 15 April 2016 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 6 May 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 20 May 2016 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 3 June 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 17 June 2016 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 1 July 2016 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 15 July 2016 : 9 - 10 PM

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Observatory nights will be back Spring 2016 semester

I've gotten a few inquires about when the next observatory nights will be. We don't run the observatory nights during the winter, but we will begin again during the Spring 2016 semester. The first events will be scheduled in March. I will post the dates here as soon as I have them.

I truly appreciate all the interest there has been in the observatory! I am planning to schedule as many events as I (and the student astronomy club) can manage during the upcoming semester.

Thanks to everyone who has visited the observatory. It's a privilege to be able to share the observatory and the joy of astronomy with you.

-carrie