On Friday night, the Westmont Observatory opened to the public and a steady stream of people patiently waited to view the skies through the Keck Telescope inside!

Crowding in for a closer look.

Crowding in for a closer look. Click here for more photos from the observatory. (Robert Bernstein photo)

The telescope is actually a pair of telescopes. One is an eight-inch refractor designed for viewing the finest details of planets and star clusters.

The other is a 24-inch reflector telescope designed to gather as much light as possible to view the faintest objects in the sky.

Westmont physics and astronomy professor Tom Whittemore answered a wide range of questions about the cosmos, the objects viewed, the telescopes and much more. His student, Jackson, provided helpful assistance and guided the telescopes to the targets Whittemore selected.

Even before the sky was dark, people viewed bright test target star Arcturus.

As the sky began to darken around 8:30 p.m., we were treated to a view of Messier Object 22, which is a globular cluster of stars.

As the sky became truly dark around 9 p.m., the view shifted to the delightful “Ring Nebula,” which is a faint smoke ring in most amateur telescopes. But through the powerful 24-inch Keck telescope, much subtlety of texture and color came through.

Click here for photos of the Westmont Observatory and telescope, along with links to some online views and information of these two objects observed early in the evening.

Every third Friday evening, the Westmont Observatory, on the campus of Westmont College at 955 La Paz Road, opens for public viewing in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. The SBAU is a top amateur astronomy club in the United States in numbers of the public served and is affiliated with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. SBAU volunteers set up their own telescopes outside the observatory for public viewing.

Robert Bernstein is a local photographer and frequent Noozhawk contributor.