Star Viewing Zooms in on Summer Triangle

Westmont ObservatoryA triangle of constellations that holds some of the finest open clusters in the night sky will be the starring attraction of this month’s public viewing at the Westmont Observatory on Friday, Sept. 19, beginning after 7:30 p.m. and lasting several hours. The free event is held every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. 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.

Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says Mars and Saturn will be too low in the sky at viewing time. “I’ll point the scopes to the top of the sky,” he says. “At zenith will be the Summer Triangle, Cygnus (the swan), Aquila (the eagle), and Lyra (the harp). Westmont’s 8-inch refractor telescope will bring out many details in these sparkling gems.”

In the same part of the sky, Whittemore says there will be two interesting nebulae: M57, the Ring Nebula, and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. “These two spooky objects show us how an aging star might appear as it sloughs off its atmosphere,” he says. “I will use the Keck Telescope, a 24-inch reflector, for these objects since its large light-gathering mirror will be able to bring out the details in these very different nebulae.”

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. Here is a pdf of the campus map.