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Observatory Grand Opening

By: Steve and Irene Little

The day has arrived-the Estes Park Memorial Observatory will hold its Grand Opening and Dedication on Saturday, April 25, 2009 from noon until 5 p.m. The observatory is located north of the Estes Park High School….with a dome on top. You are invited to this gala celebration. There will be food, prizes, fun, displays and give-aways for the younger set as well as observing of the Sun with telescopes. Of course, we hope the Sun will cooperate and show its face and not keep itself behind a cloud.

You can buy tickets for the prizes for $2/ticket. The grand prize will be a Nexstar 102 SLT computerized 4″ refracting telescope. That telescope will be very useful for looking at the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and the brighter nebulae and galaxies you find in the sky. The second prize will be a 10 x 50 Orion binocular-great for viewing the brighter objects in the sky as well as for bird watching. The third prize will be a 7 x 35 Celestron binocular. For a $2 ticket you will get your chance to win these prizes and you don’t have to be there to claim your prize (but why miss all the fun?) For more information you can go to the observatory website at
Stars In April/May 2009

In the evening skies, the planet Saturn will be the object to watch with a telescope. Saturn looks like a ring-less planet with a stick through it. The rings, seen almost edge-on, are the “stick.” The rings usually dominate the sight of Saturn, but now one can see that Saturn has an oblate (squashed) appearance without the distraction of the rings.

This “squashed” look comes from its rapid rotation (in about 10.5 hours). Jupiter rises in the SE about three hours before the sun, but will not be worth observing with a telescope until near the beginning of twilight (when it is higher in the sky). To the unaided eye it is a brilliant object in the SE, however. Venus rises just before twilight and is more brilliant. It is at magnitude -4.7 by the end of April and will outshine Jupiter by a factor of 10. Venus continues to ascend into the early morning sky all through May as well. Mars is a relatively faint morning object at magnitude +1.2, and will be near Venus in mid-month. Remember how to tell planets from stars? Stars twinkle and planets don’t! The moon will be right near Jupiter on the morning of April 19, so you can find Jupiter if you want to get up early.

There are two moderately bright meteor showers in the next two months: the Lyrids and the Eta Aquarids. The Lyrids will peak on about April 22, best visible in the eastern half of the sky between 10:30 PM and midnight. The Eta Aquarids will peak within a few days of May 7, and will be best observed in the morning before twilight (2-4 a.m.) Sorry! The Eta Aquarids are tiny pieces of Halley’s Comet that intersect the Earth’s orbit at this time.   There is another meteor shower in October (the Orionids) when the pieces of Halley intersect another part of the Earth’s orbit.

Be sure not to miss the dedication of the new Estes Park Observatory on April 25, and keep looking up after dark (with your porch lights turned off!).

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