Viewing to Zoom in on Rings of Saturn

Westmont ObservatoryJupiter and several impact craters on the moon will be the focus of this month’s free public viewing of the stars with Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope on Friday, April 15, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and lasting several hours at the Westmont Observatory. The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening.

Jupiter and the moon will be fairly close to one another, high in the sky, in Leo Friday evening. “Since the moon will be a little more than nine days old, it will present a nice gibbous face where many impact crater shadows will come into view,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “Particularly interesting will be the triplet of craters: Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus and Arzachel. If the seeing is steady, we should be able to see some detail on the impact mountains in Alphonsus and Arzachel. Since Jupiter will be near zenith at viewing time, we may also see some fine details on the surface of the planet.”

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

Members of the SBAU will also be available to give the public a naked eye view of the night sky, often with the aid of green-pointer lasers. “It’s April and it looks like some of the much-needed rain is back in business,” Whittemore says. “At this time of year, the Big Dipper contributes to the evening showers with its bowl pointed down, releasing some celestial water into the bowl of the Little Dipper whose bowl is currently oriented upwards in the early evening. While the public waits for the big telescope to unveil some dimmer objects, folks should feel free to ask our club members for a tour of the constellations. Our club would be very happy to accommodate their request.”

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.