Star Party to Feature Wild Duck Cluster

Westmont Observatory Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope will take advantage of a late rising waning moon to zoom in on several distant globular clusters at this month’s free public viewing of the stars Friday, Oct. 21, beginning about 7:30 p.m. and lasting several hours at the Westmont Observatory.

The moon won’t rise until after 11 p.m., allowing Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, to focus the 8-inch refractor telescope on M15 in Pegasus, M2 in Aquarius and nearby open cluster M11.

“Known as the Wild Duck Cluster, M11 contains about 2,900 stars and has the shape of a triangle, which caused an early observer to see a collection of flying celestial ducks,” Whittemore says. “The stars in M11 are reasonably young compared to our sun. They are about 220 million years old and lie about 6,200 light-years from Earth. When you think about how long their light has come to your eyes, imagine this light coming from the time of the building of the pyramids.”

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.