Jupiter and the Great Orion Nebula will be the featured attractions of this month’s free public viewing of the stars with Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope on Friday, March 21, beginning at 7:30 p.m. 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.
Jupiter will be at the top of the sky at the beginning of the public viewing. “If the seeing is good we should be able to see some wonderful detail on the surface of this giant ball of gas,” says Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor. “The moon, Europa, will lie on one side of Jupiter with the other Galilean satellites, Io, Ganymede and Callisto on the other.”
The Great Orion Nebula will also be in a good viewing spot. “Last month gave us some nice, steady views of the internal structure of this stellar nursery,” Whittemore says.
Not too far from Jupiter will be a collection of open clusters (Messier 35-38) for the public to enjoy. “It is always fun to ask folks if they see any particular patterns in these objects,” he says. “They all lie within our own Milky Way and are fabulous targets for Westmont’s 8-inch triplet refractor.”
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.