Public Events at the ONU Observatory
Spring 2019 Schedule -- ONU Observatory
Friday, Feb 1, 8:00-10:00 pm. -- Public Event. "The Fading Comets of 2019"
Three of the four brightest comets in the sky this February peaked in brightness at the end of 2018. Comet 46P/Wirtanen was the brightest of 2018, but it may end up being the brightest of 2019 unless other comets surpass the expectations. Additionally, we have 38P/Stephan-Oterma and 64P/Swift-Gehrels which we enjoyed in 2018 and are still good targets for northern telescopes. We hope to get new glimpses of these comets on this event on the eve of Groundhog's Day. If you attended our last event on Dec 7, you will see how Comet Wirtanen is just a little fainter now, but quite a bit higher in the sky.
Friday, Mar 1, 7:00-9:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Greatest elongation of Mercury"
The ONU Astronomy Club welcomes Ada and the surrounding communities to the ONU Observatory on Friday, March 1, for our "Greatest Elongation of Mercury" event. The word "Elongation" refers to the angular separation between Mercury and the Sun. Since Mercury's orbit remains closer to the Sun than the Earth, it can never be farther than about 28 degrees from the Sun. This week, Mercury will be at its maximum elongation on the east side of the Sun. It's elongation will actually be about 18.1 degrees since it will be near the perihelion (nearest point to the Sun) of its orbit. We will open the observatory relatively early at 7 pm in order to catch Mercury before it sets in the West. After setting, there will still be other wondrous sites to see such as Mars and the stars of the winter Milky Way.
Friday, Mar 22, 9:00-11:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Vernal Equinox"
The ONU Observatory will be open to the public on Friday, March 22, from 9-11 pm to observe the vernal equinox, or the beginning of Spring. The precise time of the equinox is March 20, 5:58 pm EDT, but the position of the Sun will be nearly the same on March 22. Coincidentally, a full Moon occurs within 4 hours of the equinox this year. It has been dubbed the "Super Worm Equinox Moon". The "Super" refers to the close proximity of the Moon (perigee), while the "Worm" refers to the way earthworms start appearing in late March! Expect the Moon to rise nearly due east when the Sun is setting due west on March 20. On Friday, March 22, we'll see the (nearly) full Moon rise around 10 pm. Prior to that, the sky will be dark enough to enjoy exploring the winter Milky Way. This is one of the two equinoxes (the other in September) when you expect to see the length of night and day being nearly equal. Dr. Pinkney will demonstrate the vernal equinox and full moon using a planetarium program.
This event was a success.
Friday, Mar 29, 9:00-11:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Supernovae and their remnants"
Ada and the surrounding communities are invited to the ONU Observatory on Friday, March 29 from 9-11 pm for "Supernovae and their remnants". Stars meet their death in a variety of ways which depends mostly on their mass. The most massive stars end in a spectacular explosion called a supernova. Those which occur in our Milky Way galaxy can outshine Venus for a month or more. They leave behind expanding gas clouds which glow faintly for thousands of years. It turns out that SNRs (supernova remnants) would seem much brighter if our eyes were sensitive to radio or x-rays. We will take a look at a few SNRs that are visible in a telescope: the Crab Nebula and the Jellyfish Nebula. Ongoing all-sky surveys are discovering about 100 supernovae per month, but most of these are too faint to see with our ONU telescopes. (There are currently no bright supernovae in nearby galaxies. ) Low to middleweight stars like the Sun are not quite as explosive in death, but they still "puff out" their outer shells to form a beautiful "planetary nebula". We will also observe examples of these nebulae including the "Cat's Eye Nebula" and the "Little Dumbbell".
Friday, Apr 5, 9:00-11:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Galaxies of Spring"
Ada and the surrounding communities are invited to the ONU Observatory on Friday, April 5 from 9-11 pm for "The Galaxies of Spring". Galaxies are a swirling collection of stars, gas, dust, and dark matter. They are generally difficult to see with telescopes because they are so far away and faint. During this time of the year, however, the closest concentrations of galaxies are positioned high in the sky by midnight. We will be targeting such galaxies as M66 in Leo and the "Black eye galaxy" in Coma Berenices for observation with the telescopes. So come and witness the wonders of the deep sky as you learn about extragalactic astronomy!
Friday, May 3, 9:00-11:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Eta Aquariid Meteors"
Weather permitting, the ONU Observatory will be open to the public on Friday, May 3, from 9-11 pm. The event is called "Eta Aquariid Meteors" because the peak of the Eta Aquariid annual meteor shower happens soon after (May 5). The meteor activity has a broad peak so some are expected on May 3, especially after the constellation Aquarius rises at 3:30 am. The shower is named after the closest bright star to the radiant of the shower. The radiant is the point from which the meteors appear to eminate. The moon will be one day before its new phase, ideal for meteor-watching. This phase also favors the viewing of deep-sky objects with the telescopes. The Eta Aquariid meteor particles were produced long ago by Halley's comet. The meteor is seen when these pea-sized particles hit Earth's atmosphere at high speeds. The Eta Aquariids produce some of the fastest meteors at about 70 km/s (150,000 mph).
This event is cancelled due to forecasted cloudiness.
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Fall 2018 Schedule -- ONU Observatory
Sunday, Aug 19, 9:00-10:00 pm. -- ONU Student Event. "Welcomefest Open House"
Friday, Sept 7, 9:00-11:00 pm -- Public Event "Opposition of Neptune"
The ONU Observatory will be open to the public on Friday, Sept 7 from 9:00-11 pm, weather permitting. On this date, Neptune will be in opposition. ``Opposition" is the planetary configuration in which the planet appears in the opposite direction of the Sun from the Earth's perspective. It is also around the time of closest approach to the Earth, making the planet look bigger and brighter than average. (Neptune's closest approach is actually Sept 6.) Neptune is now the most distant of the planets in our solar system, although a planet IX is suspected to exist. Neptune can be seen through telescopes as a pale blue dot.
Friday, Sept 21, 8:00-10:00 pm -- Public Event "Autumnal Equinox"
The ONU Observatory will be open to the public on Friday, September 21 from 8-10 pm to observe the Autumnal Equinox, or the beginning of Fall. The precise time of the equinox is September 22, 9:54 pm EDT. However, the phenomena will be nearly the same on Sept 21. This is one of the two equinoxes (the other in March) when you expect to see length of night and day being nearly equal, and the Sun setting due West on the horizon. Dr. Pinkney will demonstrate, using a planetarium program, how the Sun crosses the celestial equator on Sept 22. Also, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars will be well positioned for observing with the telescopes.
Friday, Oct 12, 8:00-10:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Observe the Crescent Moon"
The ONU Astronomy Club welcomes you to the ONU Observatory on Friday, Oct 12, 2018 for our "Observe the Crescent Moon" event. Stop by any time between 8 and 10 pm to look through our telescopes or ask questions about the night sky. On this night, the Moon will be in a waxing crescent phase, which is usually a good time to look at lunar craters and mountains. In the fall, however, the waxing crescent is far below the celestial equator, which means it will appear low on the southwest horizon. It will begin at a low altitude of 15 degrees, and set around 9:30 pm. But do not despair! There will be plenty of targets to look at after the Moon descends: Mars, Saturn, Uranus, double stars and deep sky objects.
Friday, Nov 9, 8:00-10:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Asteroids and OSIRIS-REx"
Asteroids are large rocks which mostly reside between Mars and Jupiter. Some of them have ended up on orbits that get closer to the Sun than the Earth. These Earth-crossing asteroids (also called potentially hazardous asteroids, PHAs, and near-Earth asteroids, NEAs) pose a threat of collision with Earth. They also pose an opportunity because they are relatively easy to visit with our spacecraft. There are currently two spacecraft on missions to sample NEAs: the Japanese "Hayabusa2" will visit Ryugu, and the US "OSIRIS-REx" will visit Bennu. They will return samples to Earth telling giving us vital information needed for planning an asteroid deflection mission. OSIRIS-REx is currently about 100 miles from Bennu and taking images as it slows down for its Dec 3, 2018 encounter.
If weather permits, there will be a Powerpoint presentation followed by observations with the telescopes.
Here is an recent animation of Bennu taken by OSIRIS-REx (NASA).
Friday, Dec 7, 8:00-10:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Comet Wirtanen"
The ONU Astronomy Club welcomes Ada and the surrounding communities to the ONU Observatory on Friday, Dec 7, for our "Comet Wirtanen" event. We have been clouded out on previous events but the current forecast for Friday suggests less than 40% cloudcover -- we may be able to get a glimpse of the brightest comet of 2018! This comet is making a great appearance because it will be passing so close to the Earth (12 million km, or about 1/13 of the distance to the Sun). Also, it will be well placed for viewing above the southern horizon. It is expected to reach naked eye brightness by Dec. 16, the day of closest approach, but on Dec 7 we will need our telescopes and binoculars to view it. We will take color photographs of the comet which should make its green hue easier to see. Not far from Comet Wirtanen in the sky are Uranus, the Pleiades, and Mars, which we can also observe.
The weather will be below freezing, so dress warmly. The observatory has a heated control room in case you get chilled.
Summer 2018 Schedule -- ONU ObservatoryM-W, June 11-13, 9:00-11:00 pm. -- Private Event. "Summer Academic Honors Institute (SAHI) -- Physics and Astronomy Camp"
Monday, June 18, 9:00-10:30 pm. -- Private Event. "The Ada Library Summer Reading Program - The Night Sky"
Monday, July 30, 9:30-11:00 pm. -- Public Event. "Opposition of Mars"
The ONU Observatory will be open to the public on Monday, July 30 from 9:30-11 pm, weather permitting. On this date, Mars will be 3 days passed its opposition. ``Opposition" is the planetary configuration in which the planet appears in the opposite direction as the Sun from the Earth's perspective. It is also the time of closest approach to the Earth, making Mars look bigger and brighter than usual. This will be the closest we've come to Mars since the 2003 opposition (but that was the closest in about 60,000 years). At 9:30 pm Mars will not quite be high enough to see with the telescopes, but we will observe Venus, Jupiter and Saturn as we wait for Mars to rise higher. (We chose July 30 instead of July 27 because the Full Moon interferes with our view of Mars on the 27th. )
Summer 2017 Schedule
Arrange a tour or visit?We encourage your K-12 students and other organizations to visit during the Public Events listed above. However, you may be able to schedule a special visit. We can comfortably fit about 60 people in the observing room. Bigger groups can still attend. During the daytime, we will show you the building and telescopes and, if clear, can view the Sun! We don't roll back the roof if there is precipitation. If interested, contact the Observatory Manager:
Dr. Jason Pinkney
ONU Dept of Physics and Astronomy
525 S. Main St., Ada, OH, 45810