Item Listing

Observatory Reopens for Public Viewing

The Westmont Observatory opens to the public Friday, March 18, beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting several hours. Face coverings will be required at the event. Due to the pandemic, this is the first time in two years the observatory has been open to the public.

Westmont hosts a free, public viewing on the third Friday of every month. Along with the college’s powerful Keck Telescope, members of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit (SBAU) bring their telescopes to share with the public.

“Since the moon will be just past full, we will focus our attention on some bright open clusters in the northwestern sky and some open clusters near zenith,” says Thomas Whittemore, emeritus instructor of physics and SBAU member.

Possibilities include the Messier trio of M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga, the charioteer., which are more than 4,000 light-years away. The viewing will also include M35 in Gemini, the twins. “This is a particular favorite of mine,” Whittemore says. “The contrasting colors in the stars make for some dazzling eye candy.”

Something new on the celestial menu include the open cluster NGC1342, the little scorpion. “It’s particularly fun for me to ask the viewer what pattern they see in the collection of stars and let their imaginations enhance the public viewing,” he says.

Free parking is available near the Westmont Observatory, which is between the baseball field and the track and field/soccer complex. In case of inclement weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 to see if the viewing has been canceled.