“Gateway to the Stars” moves to Oct. 8

Our next showing of “Gateway to the Stars” will take place on the second Saturday of October (please note the date change to October 8). It will also be the first time we get to present the program inside our newly upgraded Hansen Dome Theatre, featuring Digistar 4 (our new space simulator system). A crisper, more colorful starfield will be on hand, along with a host of new visual effects.

As we move into autumn, stars like the “Summer Triangle” will appear further to the western side of the sky as new stars like the “Great Square of Pegasus” climb up into the eastern sky. These are large groups of bright stars whose patterns are easy to find, like the Big Dipper. They will act as stellar guideposts to other stars, constellations, and specific locations for our telescopes so we can see deep sky wonders like stars clusters and nebulae.

dumbbell nebula

Dumbbell Nebula

For example, in the region of the Summer Triangle (also affectionately known as the “Barnyard Portion of the Sky”), we’ll be able to find a famous planetary nebula called the “Dumbbell Nebula.” It represents the expanding shell of dust and gas that was expelled by its dying star thousands of years ago. We can see it as faint grayish blob of light whose circular shape inspired the term “planetary nebula” even though they have nothing physically in common with planets.

In front of the nose of Pegasus the Winged Horse, we’ll locate the spot for M15, a famous globular star cluster. Sometimes called the Pegasus Cluster, it’s a massive swarm of 100,000 stars. Even at 35,000 light years away, it is still a part of our Milky Way galaxy, one of about 200 globular clusters that orbit around the galaxy’s central bulge.

Jupiter is making its way up into the eastern sky earlier and earlier, rising as the brightest star-like object soon after twilight ends. If you wait a little later into the evening for Jupiter to get a little higher in elevation, it will get above more of the dust and pollution to give telescope viewers a clearer view of the cloud bands in its atmosphere.

Join us at 6:45 pm on Saturday, October 8, 2011 for a new way to see the skies! Tickets are just $1. Members are free.

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