Scheduled time for Public Observing: 8pm – 10pm
Solar System Objects:
The Moon: will be nearly full, 90% illuminated, but surface details will still be well-defined along the terminator on the left side of the image below.
Image copyright (c) Virtual Moon Atlas / http://ap-i.net/avl/en/start ,with thanks to Christian Legrand & Patrick Chevalley.
Mars will be observable with the 20″ telescope until 9pm, when it will reach the 20 degree altitude limit, and nearby Uranus will reach the limit at 8:45. While appearing close together in the sky, Mars is 154 million miles away and Uranus is 1890 million.
Listed below are some possibilities of what may be observed tonight, different objects may be chosen by the telescope operators.
Double Stars: Castor is a bright binary star in Gemini. It will be high overhead tonight, 73 degrees in altitude at 8pm. Castor can be seen as a double star in the 20″ scope, and the orbital motion of its components is visible within a human lifetime. Some years ago it was difficult to “split” as a double, now it’s easier because their separation has increased. This article from Sky and Telescope magazine gives information on other interesting stars in the area.
Nebula and Star Clusters: There are a few open clusters of stars and one nebula that wouldn’t normally be too difficult to see from Middletown, but they all will appear fairly close to the moon tonight, reducing their visibility more than the normal light pollution does. The open clusters are M35 in Gemini and M36, M37, and M38 in Auriga, and the nebula is M42 the Orion Nebula. Even if there isn’t much nebulosity visible, the Trapezium at the center of M42 can be seen as a quadruple star system.
The open star cluster M37 is shown below as captured with an 8″ telescope and video camera.