Observatory open house, TAS meeting this week

Happy September! It’s a pretty light week on the calendar, though we will get to enjoy a club meeting and an observatory open house as Labor Day approaches.

taslogoTonight is the night for the monthly meeting of the Tacoma Astronomical Society, which welcomes our friends from Cloud Break Optics, who will visit to talk about useful telescope mounts for public star parties and outreach. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at the University of Puget Sound’s Thompson Hall, room 175.

TJO winding down


Theodor Jacobsen Observatory at the UW. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2 the University of Washington hosts an open house at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the Seattle campus. As we move into September, the start time for the bi-monthly open house moves up to 8 p.m. Physics and astronomy student Mallory Thorpe will lead a discussion titled “The Planet Club.” Thorpe will talk about how the definition of a planet has changed over the years, covering the discovery of Neptune, exoplanets, and the controversy around Pluto’s planetary status. These talks at the TJO open houses have become about the hottest ticket in town. Today’s talk is full and has a lengthy wait list as well. The talk for the next open house on Sept. 16 is also full, and that will be the last one of the year. Even without a reservation for the talk, you’ll have a chance to tour the observatory dome and, weather permitting, peek through the vintage telescope, operated by volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society.

The ice giants are out

The ice giant planets are near the top of our observing list for the week. Neptune is at opposition Sept. 1 and well-placed for viewing. Uranus will be easier to spot, as it will appear barely one degree north of the Moon this evening. Binoculars or a telescope are a big help on both, though some eagle-eyes claim to be able to spot Uranus, in particular, without magnification. Check out Astronomy magazine’s The Sky This Week for more observing highlights for the week.

Future file

bigbangThe University of Washington Astronomy Department is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a string of lectures and events that begins next month. The talks feature UW faculty members and guest astronomers, and a special multimedia concert is on the docket, too. Check our post about the celebration for the low-down on all of the events, and watch our calendar to find other interesting local astronomy activities.