Friday, September 15, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 15 September is on (but we may have a few clouds)

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go! We may have a few clouds, but I'm hopeful the sky will be mostly clear.

We'll get started at 8 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together and see what we can see.

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Observatory night for Friday 1-Sep-2017 cancelled due to clouds

For folks who have registered for tonight, the event is cancelled. We've had clouds all day, and it looks like they aren't going anywhere this evening. Sincere apologies for not being able to host the event.

I'm hoping the fall season will bring us some clearer nights!

As always, thank you SO much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 18-Aug-2017 Cancelled due to severe thunderstorm watch

For folks who have registered for this evening, the event is cancelled. There is a severe thunderstorm watch for Montgomery County tonight.

The Fall 2017 dates are posted on the website, or you can go straight to the Eventbrite reservations link: https://mcobservatory-fall2017.eventbrite.com/

Just a reminder- MC is hosting an event for the solar eclipse at our Takoma Park campus planetarium. We'll get started Monday 21 August at 12:30 PM.

Details are here.

I'll be there with Dr. Harold Williams. I hope you can join us. :)

As always, thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

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 (https://mcobservatory-fall2017.eventbrite.com).

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.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 4 August is on (but we may have a few clouds)

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go! We may get clouded out before 10 PM, but I'm hopeful we'll at least be able to see the Moon and planets. With the expected haze and that nice big gibbous Moon, viewing deep sky objects will be limited.

I'm going to open up tonight in the hopes that we'll have more clear sky than clouds, but with the caveat that the seeing might not be good.

We'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together and see what we can see.

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

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.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 21-Jul-2017 Cancelled due to clouds and possible thunderstorms

For folks who have registered for tonight, the event is cancelled. Once again, the skies are cloudy and we have the potential for thunderstorms.

I will be scheduling Fall 2017 semester observatory events for the months of September, October, and November. Please check for dates on this website mid-August.

Below is the satellite view from accuweather.com.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 7-Jul-2017 Cancelled due to clouds

For folks who have registered for tonight, the event is cancelled. The skies have clouded up and it's extremely unlikely conditions will be acceptable for observing. Sincere apologies for the late call on this. I've been watching the satellite and sky hoping the clouds would stay north, but they have moved in on us.

Below is the latest satellite from accuweather.com and conditions at the observatory around 7:30pm.

As always, thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

UPDATE Observatory Night Friday 30 June - sky is clouding up

Apologies for the late notice but the sky is becoming significantly cloudier and now there is a chance of a thunderstorm. We will be open, but we will not be able to to up to the observatory if there is a thunderstorm.

Observatory Night for Friday 30 June is on (but we may have a few clouds)

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go! Both accuweather.com and Clear Sky Chart are predicting partly cloudy skies tonight.

With light clouds and haze we can still see the Moon and planets, but we may not be able to view deep sky objects. I'm going to open up tonight in the hopes that we'll have more clear sky than clouds, and with the caveat that the seeing might not be good.

We'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together, see what we can see, and finish up at 10 PM.

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

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 http://www.heavens-above.com/ 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!)

Observing Log for 2 June 2017

Skies were clear and beautiful last night! We observed the following objects:

  • Jupiter (planet) : Jupiter was easy to find between the Moon and the bright star Spica. It will be even closer to the Moon tonight (Saturday 3 June). We were able to make out cloud bands on the planet and the four Galilean satellites- Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • M13, (the Hercules cluster): We also looked at the globular cluster, M13. M13 can be found in the constellation of Hercules and is about 25,000 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 is a particularly beautiful example.
  • M3 (globular cluster) : We also looked at a second 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.
  • Mizar (double star) : With the smaller telescope, we split the double star Mizar in the constellation Ursa Major.
  • ε Lyrae (double star) : We also looked at the "double double" star in the constellation Lyra.
  • .
Thank you everyone for attending the event last night, and for your interest in the Montgomery College Observatory.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 2-Jun-2017 is on!

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go! Both accuweather.com and Clear Sky Chart are predicting good conditions for astronomy tonight.

We'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together, see what we can see, and finish up at 10 PM.

I'm looking forward to seeing folks this evening, or at another event. Thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 12-May-2017 Cancelled due to weather

For folks who have registered for the event tonight: Cloudy skies and rain are predicted for this evening and it's extremely unlikely conditions will be acceptable for observing. I'm going to make an early no-go call and cancel the event for tonight.

Sincere apologies for not being able to hold the event.

Summer 2017 dates are now available. The event schedule can be found here.

As always, thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Event Schedule for Summer 2017

Summer 2017 dates for Observatory Guest Nights are below.

Friday 2 June 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 30 June 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 7 July 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 21 July 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 4 August 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 18 August 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite (https://mcobservatory-summer2017.eventbrite.com).

Please note:

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.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 5-May-2017 Cancelled due to weather

For folks who have registered for the event tonight: The weather forecast is for cloudy skies and possible thunderstorms. I'm therefore going to make a no-go call and cancel this evening's observatory night.

Summer 2017 dates are now available. The event schedule can be found here.

I also have available the MC Observatory starmap for May/June 2017 here.

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 28-Apr-2017 is on!

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go!

My usual caveat holds- the sky is mostly clear right now, but accuweather.com is predicting partly cloudy skies. Nevertheless, I think we still have a good chance of seeing a few celestial objects before more clouds roll in later this evening. If it does cloud up early, I won't be able to show you anything through the telescopes.

We'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together, see what we can see, and finish up at 10 PM.

I'm looking forward to seeing folks this evening, or at another event. Thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Observing Log for 14 April 2017

Last night we had mainly clear skies with just a bit of haze. We observed the following objects:

  • Jupiter (planet) : Jupiter was at opposition on Friday 7 April 2017 and will therefore be well-placed for observing throughout the summer months. We were able to make out cloud bands on the planet and the four Galilean satellites- Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
  • 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.
  • M81 (galaxy): The last deep sky object we saw was M81 in the constellation Ursa Major. M81 is a spiral galaxy (like our own Milky Way) and is about 12 million light-years distant. Last night we saw it as a faint fuzzy through both the 8-inch and 14-inch scopes.
  • Castor (α Gemini) : Castor is a multiple star system in the constellation of Gemini. Though our telescopes we could resolve two of the stars in this sextuple (six star!) system.
We also tried (and failed!) to find Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak. Comet 41P is currently in the constellation Draco with an apparent magnitude of 7.5. It should be visible through a small telescope, but unfortunately part of the Science Center roof blocked its location. We'll try again next time.

Thank you everyone for attending the event last night, and for your interest in the Montgomery College Observatory.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 14-Apr-2017 is on!

For folks who have reservations for the observatory night this evening, we are a go!

Just a quick caveat- the sky is absolutely beautiful right now, but accuweather.com is predicting cloudy skies for this evening. Nevertheless, I think we still have a good chance of seeing a few celestial objects before those pesky clouds roll in.

We'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together, see what we can see, and finish up at 10 PM.

I'm looking forward to seeing folks this evening, or at another event. Thank you so much for your interest in astronomy and our observatory!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Observatory night status for Friday 7 April 2017

It's another frustrating evening in Rockville. It's completely overcast now, and the forecast is calling for clouds. I'm going to stay at the observatory tonight in the hopes that we get a hole big enough to peek at the Moon. That being said, I don't think tonight will be good for observing. If there are clouds we can't see anything through the telescopes. Also, there is a hypothermia alert on, so it is very cold on the roof. If you live nearby and want to come to MC, I will be here, but the doors to the Science Center will lock after 9:30 PM.

I am working on scheduling additional dates for the summer. The weather has been extremely disappointing thus far!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 31 March 2017 Cancelled due to weather

For folks who have registered for the event tonight: As of about 2 PM, both accuweather.com and Clear Sky Chart are predicting cloudy skies and possible thunderstorms.

I'm going to make a no-go call and cancel this evening's observatory night.

Early spring weather tends to be unpredictable. Sincere apologies for not being able to host this event.

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Observatory Night for Friday 24 March 2017 Cancelled due to clouds

I apologize for the late notice. I've been obsessively watching the sky and the satellite. At this moment there are large portions of sky visible, but clouds are rolling in from the west. I think by 9 PM we will be overcast.

On nights when it's partly cloudy I can often show bright objects, but tonight we are without Moon or planets. The objects on the agenda this evening were deep sky objects, which will not be visible through clouds or haze.

I sincerely apologize that I couldn't offer an observatory night this evening. My feeling is that it's better to cancel than to have folks make the trip and then not be able to see anything. Additional nights will be scheduled over the next few months.

For folks who are registered for tonight's event: Clouds are predicted for this evening. If it's cloudy, we won't be able to see anything with the telescopes and I will cancel the event. I'll make the final call between 7 and 7:30 PM. You will receive an email message at that time and I will post the status here.

If it is clear, we'll get started at 9 PM on the fourth floor of the Science Center in room SC 406. Please use the Science Center main entrance. Signs will be posted directing you. We'll go up to the observatory together, see what we can see, and finish up at 10 PM. The student astronomy club (MC Stargazers) will be here with me to answer your questions about the universe or anything else.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Event schedule for Spring 2017

Spring 2017 dates for Observatory Guest Nights are below. Additional nights may be added, depending on staffing. To receive updates, please use the "Follow by Email" link.

Friday 24 March 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 31 March 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 7 April 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 14 April 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 28 April 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Friday 5 May 2017 : 9 - 10 PM
Friday 12 May 2017 : 9 - 10 PM

Because of occupancy limitations on the roof, we require guests to make reservations via Eventbrite (https://mcobservatory-spring2017.eventbrite.com).

Please note:

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.