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Getting Cosmos

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 15, 2008

This isn’t about trusting the universe; it’s about seeing it, up close and personal.

On Friday night, Oct. 17, and again this month for Family Weekend (Oct. 24 and 25), the UNH Observatory will be open for viewing. If you can’t make either of those dates, there’s another session slated for Nov. 1. (For the full schedule visit http://physics.unh.edu/observatory.)

With the aid of a 14-inch Shmidt-Cassegrain telescope, viewers should be able to see such deep-sky objects as globular star clusters (M13, M92), open star clusters (M45, NGC869/884), planetary nebulae (M27,M57), and spiral galaxies (M81, M82).

The "fall" constellations are now visible in the night skies. All the public viewings are free.  The October sessions will be held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“The UNH Observatory offers a great, and free, way for casual observers to come see the heavens in a whole new way,” says Rich Woolf, observatory manager. “You look up and usually see the moon and a few bright objects. But, the detail of the night sky that becomes unmasked when you view the sky through a telescope is awe-inspiring.”

Public sessions are decided based on the moon's phases and also the need for availability for private sessions. Typically, there are two public sessions a month. Winter and spring often a few more opportunities.

Times are also set aside for groups (elementary schools, 4-H groups, campus groups, Cub Scouts, etc.). Weekdays are reserved for the astronomy classes.

Dress accordingly; there is no heat in the observatory. Also, pay attention to the weather. If it’s thundering or snowing, the sessions will likely be cancelled. To check out the sky before you go, visit http://cleardarksky.com/c/NHUObNHkey.html.

“As long as the sky is clear, the viewings will take place. If there are no clouds or rain and you can see the stars, we will be out there. A good rule of thumb is, if you are in the Durham area, look up and if you can see at least a handful of bright stars, odds are that we are open,” Woolf says. 

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