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3 Planets, a Crescent Moon the Stars of Free Viewing at Westmont Observatory

Jupiter, Venus and a small crescent moon come into alignment this month, but it may be views of Saturn that steal the show at a free public viewing of the stars Friday, June 19 at the Westmont Observatory.

Jupiter and Venus and the moon form a skewed triangle that will be easily visible after sunset in the western sky.

“It will be a real treat for the naked eye, but not one that will fit into the field of view of Westmont’s telescopes,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor.

The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening. In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at 805.565.6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been canceled.

As the night goes on, Whittemore says he will aim the powerful Keck Telescope toward Saturn, which now lies to the west of Scorpius.

“If the weather cooperates, we should be able to see the famous Cassini Division between the A and B rings, some banding on Saturn’s surface and several moons,” he says.

Later in the evening, the viewing will shift to several summer treats, including the Great Globular Cluster (M13) in Hercules; a number of colorful double-star systems (Iota Cancri and Albireo); and the wonderful globular cluster, M3, in Coma Berenices.

Even if you can’t make the public viewing, Whittemore suggests viewers take the time to watch Venus and Jupiter in the western sky as they come closer together over the next two weeks.

“On June 30, they will look like they are practically on top of one another,” he says. “Those who own binoculars or a small telescope are encouraged to take advantage of this eye-popping encounter.”

The observatory opens its doors to the public every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, whose members bring their own telescopes to Westmont for the public to gaze through.

The Keck Telescope is housed in the observatory between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex. Free parking is available near the baseball field.

— Scott Craig is the media relations manager for Westmont College.


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