Telescope Offers Glimpses of Cassini Division

MK4_3396Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope will zoom in on the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn and a globular cluster during a free, public viewing Friday, May 17, beginning at about 8 p.m. and lasting several hours. The best viewing generally occurs later in the evening. In case of inclement weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at (805) 565-6272 and check the Westmont website to see if the viewing has been cancelled.

Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, says the moon will be more than seven days into its current cycle. “There will be a number of craters on the terminator, the portion of the moon’s surface where the sun is rising,” he says. “If the seeing is steady we should get a good glimpse of the jagged edges of these craters as the night advances.”

Later in the evening, Whittemore hopes to turn the 24-inch reflector telescope toward Saturn’s Cassini Division, the gap between the A and B rings. “The moon, Titan, should be easy to spot, and more challenging on the same side of the planet will be the moons Tethys and Dione. These are far dimmer than Titan, but we will try to see if we can bag them.”

The viewing may also include the globular cluster, M3, lying about 33,900 light-years away. “A real odd ball, M3 hosts a large number of variable stars among its 500,000 stars,” Whittemore says. “This is unusual for a globular cluster whose stars are estimated to be about twice the age of our sun.”

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. Here is apdf of the campus map.