Viewing to Zoom in on Rings of Saturn

Westmont ObservatorySaturn will be the star of the show at this month’s free public viewing on Friday, July 17, beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting several hours at the Westmont Observatory. The gas giant will reach its highest point in the sky about 9 p.m. when the Cassini Division, the dark gap between the A and B rings, should be visible. The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening. In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

The viewing may also feature the globular clusters M10 and M14, along with M13, the Great Globular Cluster, and M12, the Gumball Cluster.

“Sometimes, when the seeing is good, you can see a distant galaxy, NGC 6207, in the same field of view,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “If you can see the [M13] galaxy, it’s fun to think about the distance scale that you are witnessing. M13 lies about 26,000 light-years away and thus within the confines of our Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 6207 is about 30 million light-years away and, therefore, some 1,200 times further away.”

The observatory opens its doors to the public every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, whose members bring their own telescopes to Westmont for the public to gaze through.

The Keck Telescope is housed in the observatory between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex. Free parking is available near the baseball field.