Viewing to Sneak Peak of Black Hole Galaxy

The Westmont Observatory

The Westmont Observatory

The Westmont Observatory, which opens its doors to the public every third Friday of the month, will zoom in on Gemini to get a glimpse of a great open cluster, M35, on Friday, April 19, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and lasting several hours.

“I will also point Westmont’s 8-inch refractor telescope toward Gemini’s Castor, which is a wonderful triple-double system of stars,” says Thomas Whittemore, adjunct professor of physics at Westmont.

Viewing distant galaxies will be hindered by a full moon that rises in the east after 8 p.m. Whittemore says he hopes to aim his green laser pointer to the section of Virgo where M87 lies. “This is the elliptical galaxy where the supermassive black hole of about six billion solar masses resides,” he says. “I think, with this dominating phase of the moon, we won’t have much of a chance to see the galaxy, but I just might take a swing at it. I have easily seen the galaxy with my home-crafted 8-inch reflector telescope, but in a dark sky.”

The viewing occurs in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit, whose members bring their own telescopes to Westmont for public use. Westmont’s powerful 24-inch 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.