Open House Previews for Spring 2014
What we look at will depend on weather and interest. Here are a few possible highlights.
Solar System: This will be great night for planets. Jupiter will be visible early. We should be able to see belts and zones (the alternating dark and light stripes across the planet reflecting planetary convection patterns) as well as the planet's four brightest ("Galilean") moons. If conditions are particularly good we may have a chance to note the shadow of a smaller moon on the planet's surface. Mars will be high in the sky tonight. Not the most interesting planet to look at, but if we are very lucky we may be able to make out polar icecaps. Saturn on the other hand, is one of the best observing targets and will be well positioned for us, with the rings tilted so we can get a great look at the ring system, perhaps even make out the Cassini gap between the A and B rings. We should also see some of the planet's many moons. Saturn will be best late in the evening. The Moon, just past first quarter and near Mars in the sky, will make viewing faint deep sky object difficult, but is itself a brilliant and attractive target for observation.
Stars and Clusters: We can take a look at Castor, one of the bright twins Gemini. Appropriately, both Castor and his twin Pollux are binary stars, the telescope will allow us to resolve the two partners. We can see some open clusters such as the King Cobra Cluster (M67) or the well-known Beehive Cluster (M44). But this is a wonderful night for viewing globular clusters, and we will definitely look at the Hercules Cluster (M13) and M5 and perhaps a few others (M3, M53, M92) and talk about these interesting objects.
Nebulae: Those who stay late may be treated to an early (in the year) view of the Ring Nebula (M57), the spectacular remains of a dead star.
Galaxies: Depending on the humidity and how much moonlight is scattered, this could be a good night for looking at deep sky objects with many galaxies in good position, the pretty Cigar Galaxy (M82) (home of the recent supernova), the Leo Triplet (M65-66) and hopefully some of the members of the rich Virgo Cluster.