In addition, staff from Chabot and Celestron will have high-quality telescopes set up both nights so visitors can view celestial wonders in the late-summer sky. “We picked this weekend mostly based on what’s in the sky those nights,” says Astronomy Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich. “On Friday, the Moon reaches First Quarter, so it won’t overwhelm other objects the telescope operators want to target. Plus, we can start observing it even before it gets dark.”
Mars and Saturn will be in the southwestern sky for two hours after sunset. The two planets will form a pretty triangle with blue Spica, Virgo the Maiden’s brightest star.
Visitors also will have the opportunity to observe Neptune, our solar system’s most distant planet. August 24 is the date Neptune reaches opposition — a position in its orbit directly opposite the Sun in our sky. On Friday, then, the blue world rises at sunset and shines at its brightest all year.
On Saturday, Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher will present a highly illustrated talk titled, “Astronomy’s new frontier.” In it, he’ll cover the latest research in dark energy, the structure of our Milky Way Galaxy, and black holes, and he also will provide an up-to-the-minute census of extrasolar planet discoveries.
And because Friday marks the 23rd anniversary of the Voyager 2 spacecraft’s encounter with Neptune and Saturday is that probe’s 31st anniversary of its Saturn flyby, Bakich has chosen “How Voyager Changed the Solar System” as his talk. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions after both talks.
The star party hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Friday the 24th and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday the 25th. General admission to Chabot is $15.95 for adults and $11.95 for youth 3 to 12 years old. General admission includes all activities.
Chabot Space & Science Center is located in the beautiful Oakland Hills just off Highway 13 in Oakland, California. A Smithsonian affiliate, Chabot is an educational science center whose mission is to educate students of all ages about planet Earth and the universe. This 86,000-square-foot center offers interactive space and science exhibitions, immersive digital-dome planetarium shows, and giant screen MegaDome shows. Chabot is also home to the largest research-quality telescopes open to the public west of the Mississippi. Learn more at www.chabotspace.org.
Alex Zwissler, Executive Director, Chabot Space & Science Center, summed the event up by saying, “Chabot’s mission of science education and our astronomy emphasis makes this event a particularly exciting one for us, and we’re thrilled to work with two important businesses in the astronomy industry. Leveraging each other’s efforts means we can introduce more people to the wonder and excitement of star and planet observation and discovery.”