This week the Moon flirts with the two ice giant planets, there’s a star party in eastern Oregon, and we celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Prineville Reservoir Star Party
We’ve been hanging around astronomy types for a while now, but hadn’t heard of the Prineville Reservoir Star Party until stumbling across a notice for it on Facebook recently. This year’s is the 16th annual occurrence of the event, which will be held from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. Saturday, May 16. It will be at Oregon’s Prineville Reservoir State Park, which is about 15 miles south of the town of Prineville, which is 20 miles east of Redmond, which is 17 miles north of Bend.
The park is in an area of marvelous dark skies and park staff promote astronomy there year-round. There will be a variety of astronomy-related exhibits and activities for all ages at Saturday’s star party, and visitors will be able to take a look through the aptly named “Big Doug,” the park’s 16-inch telescope. Solar telescopes will also be available during the day, allowing safe viewing of solar flares on the surface of the sun. Both professional and amateur astronomers will be on hand starting at dusk to help guide viewers in using the different types of telescopes and to point out significant features in the night sky.
The star party is co-sponsored by the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. As near as we can tell the star party is free, though there may be a charge for parking.
Happy 85th to Adler Planetarium
The Adler Planetarium opened in Chicago on May 12, 1930, and is said to be the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. It celebrates its 85th birthday this week.
We have enjoyed visiting the planetarium during the 2012 Astronomical League meeting, as well as during a layover in the Windy City during a coast-to-coast train trip. It’s a marvelous facility, and I especially enjoyed all of the spaceflight artifacts from Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut who is a trustee of the Adler.
The Moon and the ice giants
Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all prime for viewing this week. The most interesting observing will involve the Moon and the two ice giant planets. On Tuesday, May 12, Neptune will appear just three degrees south of our planet’s satellite. Three days later, on May 15, there will be an even closer encounter when Uranus will appear just two-tenths of a degree north of the Moon.
You’ll need optical help to spot either planet, especially from light-polluted city skies, though we’ve heard tell that some eagle-eyed observers have been able to spot Uranus with the naked eye. Check out the Seattle Astronomy Store if you’re shopping for telescopes, binoculars, eyepieces, or other astro gear.