FAU’s Astronomical Observatory is now open to the public for viewing of the night sky on the first Friday and third Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7 p.m. The observatory is located on the fourth floor of the Science and Engineering building on the Boca Raton campus.
Eric Vandernoot, FAU’s astronomy and physics lab coordinator, will highlight various points of interest in the sky at the public viewings and will show video presentations that match some of the night’s targeted celestial objects. He also will study nebulae, the Moon, planets, stars, galaxies, comets and asteroids. Using spectroscopy, or the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy, Vandernoot can also examine the composition of a star and its atmosphere.
“Technology not only allows us to see more stars, but we are becoming increasingly aware of more sun-like stars which have planets, including terrestrial or Earth-like planets,” said Vandernoot. “Being able to analyze the color of a star with the telescope is the key to astronomy of today. I want guests to appreciate the science, enjoy what the observatory has to offer and see what’s out there.”
Visitors can partake in various significant celestial events at the observatory this year, including Saturn at opposition on Friday, April 1; Asteroid Vesta at opposition as the space probe DAWN orbits the asteroid on Friday, August 5; and Jupiter at opposition on Friday, October 28. Planets viewed at opposition are closer to Earth than at any other time in orbit and can appear bigger. Viewing them as they cross the local meridian at midnight decreases the chance for atmospheric distortion that would interfere with its view, offering the best observations for the year.
The viewings and educational presentations are free. For more information, contact Eric Vandernoot at 561-297-STAR (7827) or firstname.lastname@example.org. For the public viewing schedule, visit www.physics.fau.edu/observatory/about_ob.html.