On Saturday, February 16, 2013, Astronomy magazine and the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) will host an all-day skywatching party at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community College (PCC). Activities start at 10 a.m. and continue through 9 p.m.
This event will feature astronomy-based talks, displays, and handouts (including Astronomy magazine). But the highlight will occur throughout the day as members of the TAAA will have telescopes set up with the proper filters to conduct safe solar observing. Join us, and see sunspots, prominences, and flares. Then, after sunset, things will really heat up as the TAAA turns telescopes large and small toward fascinating cosmic targets. And the two 14-inch telescopes in PCC’s observatory will be providing fine celestial views as well.
Once twilight begins, local astronomers will help visitors spot elusive Mercury low in the west. And even before that, the 42-percent-illuminated Moon will be a prime target for telescopes large and small. Then as darkness falls, the giant planet Jupiter, which will lie 18° east of our natural satellite, will attract lots of attention. At first, three of Jupiter’s four large moons will be in view. As the evening progresses, however, the innermost one, Io, also will appear.
And there’s more. You’ll see magnified views of vastly distant objects such as the Orion Nebula, one of the sky’s great star-forming regions. The brightest star cluster, the Pleiades, will appear dazzling through wide-field scopes and binoculars. And have you ever seen the expanding shell of a dead star? You will when you look at the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Finally, as the Moon begins to sink in the west, telescopes will turn toward galaxies rising in the east, where one view through the eyepiece will reveal a collection of billions of stars.
In addition to observing the sky, you’ll be able to learn a lot about astronomy by attending talks throughout the day. And what a lineup! Keith Schlottmann, president of the TAAA, will tell you about the local amateur astronomy scene in “Amateur Astronomy in Southern Arizona: An Embarrassment of Riches.” Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark-Sky Association, will present “Light Pollution: Perspectives from Earth and Space.” Astronomy’s editor, David J. Eicher, will highlight the latest findings in the science when he presents “Astronomy’s New Frontier.” And Astronomy Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich will discuss things that go “Boom!” in the night in “Star Death.” And those are just the confirmed talks so far.
So, mark your calendar for February 16, and get ready for a day full of sky views, discovery, and fun.