The gas giant Jupiter will be the star performer at this month’s public viewing at the Westmont Observatory on Friday, Jan. 17, beginning after 6:30 p.m. and lasting several hours. The free event is held every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. 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.
“Jupiter will split the four Galilean Moons with Callisto, Europa and Ganymede on one side of the planet and Io on the other side,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “It will be interesting to see this alignment as Callisto, the outermost of the Galilean Moons, lies very far from Jupiter.”
The moon will be two days past full, taking control of the eastern sky as the evening goes on. “We will move the telescopes away from this region and concentrate on some of the wonderful open star clusters in Cassiopeia, Perseus and Auriga,” he says. “Among these will be the Double Cluster in Perseus, the Owl Cluster in Cassiopeia and Messier open clusters M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga.”
Finally, Whittemore hopes to zoom in on the Great Orion Nebula, Messier 42. “Although there will some light interference from the Moon, this winter object is always a treat with the public,” he says. “If the viewing is steady, we may even see six of the Trapezium stars in the center of M42.”
Westmont students and faculty use the Keck Telescope, a 24-inch reflector, to conduct astronomical research. The observatory sits between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex. Free parking is available near the baseball field. Here is a pdf of the campus map.