WHAT'S UP: Party with the stars on Saturday

Jul 29, 2011


The SAAA is an association of amateur astronomers based in Holland.

Saturday’s event is free, open to the public, and no registration is required.

“Members of SAAA will bring their telescopes and instruct participants on how to explore and observe the summer night sky — including constellations, hunting down deep-sky objects, and viewing everything from planets and stars to countless nebulae, clusters, comets, satellites and many other fascinating objects,” writes

SAAA President Russ Hills on the association’s website (www.holland-saaa.org). “Bring a lawn chair and binoculars (if you have them).”

Hills also notes that participants are welcome to bring their own telescopes. Maybe you have a scope that you are not sure how to use; the SAAA crew can help.
I’ve worked with Russ and other members of the SAAA. They are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

If it’s clear Saturday night, you won’t be disappointed if you make your way to Hemlock Crossing County Park. The park is located at 8115 West Olive Road, just off U.S. 31 in West Olive.

Note that the event will not take place if the sky is more cloudy than clear, and that you will want to remember to take along some bug repellent.

Saturday evening, the moon is new, so it will not be visible. Not to worry — when the moon is new, the sky is dark; and planets, faint star clusters and nebulae, and distant galaxies are easier to see.

Saturday evening, when it gets dark after sunset, Saturn will be visible in the western sky. Saturn’s rings and several of Saturn’s moons will be clearly visible through a small telescope.

Later in the evening, Jupiter will rise in the east. The four largest moons of Jupiter — the so-called Galilean Moons — are easily visible through even the smallest telescope. Cloud bands and sometimes even the Great Red Spot are visible through larger telescopes.

And two meteor showers are active in late July, so you might catch a few shooting stars Saturday evening as well.

Party on!

— By Doug Furton, a member of the physics faculty at GVSU. Send questions and suggestions to dgf@inbox.com.


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