Oberlin College Observatory and Planetarium

Oberlin College Observatory and Planetarium Oberlin College Observatory and Planetarium
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The Oberlin College Observatory is located atop Peters Hall at the center of Oberlin College campus. Peters Hall was built in the 1880's and the dome was installed in 1929 along with a Gaertner 6 inch f:15 refractor telescope. We currently have a 14" Meade LX 200 in the dome, and are also capable of deploying a number of telescopes on piers on the observing deck on the south side of the dome. The observatory is actively used for introductory astronomy classes, for individual student projects, by the Oberlin Astronomy Club, and for public viewing sessions.

Comet SWAN update.
04/19/2020

Comet SWAN update.

IS COMET SWAN HYPERBOLIC? Newly-discovered Comet SWAN (C/2020 F8) is shaping up to be a beauty. It looks great through small telescopes now, and could become visible to the naked eye next month.

Gerald Rhemann sends this picture taken yesterday from Farm Tivoli, Namibia. "The comet's tail is almost a full degree long," says Rhemann. "And it was an easy target for my 12-inch telescope at magnitude +7.5."

Where does this beautiful comet come from? SWAN's trajectory is an important clue. It's falling toward the sun for the first time, and the sun's gravity will probably slingshot Comet SWAN back into deep space. Comet SWAN may be a "hyperbolic comet"--that is, a comet whose orbit has an eccentricity greater than 1. Such comets come from the Oort Cloud or may even be interstellar.

The case for Comet SWAN being a hyperbolic comet is not ironclad. Based on an observation arc of only 3 days, JPL reports the eccentricity of SWAN's orbit as 1.1 +/- 0.2. The error bars are still large. The uncertainties will shrink, however, as more observations are added to the database in the nights ahead. Stay tuned for updates.

I'll be hosting another planetarium session on Zoom on Saturday at 8PM EDT.Stop in any time between 8 and 9.Message this...
04/17/2020

I'll be hosting another planetarium session on Zoom on Saturday at 8PM EDT.
Stop in any time between 8 and 9.
Message this page for the Zoom meeting number.

The view from an open field this morning, about 5AM.  From left, the waning crescent Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.  Jo...
04/16/2020

The view from an open field this morning, about 5AM. From left, the waning crescent Moon, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Join us on Zoom this Saturday at 8PM for a planetarium session. Message this page for the meeting number.

Three planets and the Moon this morning, around 6AM.  From left, Mars, Saturn (with the Moon below), and Jupiter.
04/15/2020

Three planets and the Moon this morning, around 6AM. From left, Mars, Saturn (with the Moon below), and Jupiter.

Tomorrow morning, Wednesday, will be clear, and you can see three planets and the just-past-Third Quarter Moon if you go...
04/14/2020

Tomorrow morning, Wednesday, will be clear, and you can see three planets and the just-past-Third Quarter Moon if you go outside and look to the southeast around 5:45 AM. From left the planets are Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, with Jupiter the brightest by far. We will have a Zoom planetarium session on Saturday at 8PM. Message this page for the meeting number.

This hasn't happened at our observatory. Yet.   Don't forget that we'll be meeting up on Zoom on Saturday at 8PM.  Messa...
04/13/2020

This hasn't happened at our observatory. Yet. Don't forget that we'll be meeting up on Zoom on Saturday at 8PM. Message this page for the Zoom meeting number.

NASA is working to keep the Corona Virus off of the International Space Station.https://astronomy.com/news/2020/04/how-d...
04/10/2020
How does NASA keep COVID-19 off the space station?

NASA is working to keep the Corona Virus off of the International Space Station.
[email protected]&utm_campaign=News0_ASY_200410_000000" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">https://astronomy.com/news/2020/04/how-does-nasa-keep-covid-19--and-other-diseases--off-the-space-station?utm_source=Yesmail&utm_medium=email&utm_email=[email protected]&utm_campaign=News0_ASY_200410_000000

Intense quarantine, disinfection and inspection protocols are designed to keep astronauts from getting sick in orbit.

There will be a public planetarium session on Zoom this Saturday at 8PM.  We'll talk about anything that's going on in t...
04/09/2020

There will be a public planetarium session on Zoom this Saturday at 8PM. We'll talk about anything that's going on in the sky, now or in the near future. This is pretty much like the planetarium or observing sessions we hold in normal times, but on Zoom. If you want to join in, message the observatory FB page. I'll send you the meeting number. Clear skies to all!

Go out tonight about 8:30 and look to the west. You just might spot the International Space Station moving across the so...
04/08/2020

Go out tonight about 8:30 and look to the west. You just might spot the International Space Station moving across the southwestern sky, below Rigel in Orion.

Moonrise tonight, 4/7.
04/08/2020

Moonrise tonight, 4/7.

The International Space Station will be appearing to pass near Venus tonight. Go out about 9:17 PM (in northern Ohio) an...
04/05/2020

The International Space Station will be appearing to pass near Venus tonight. Go out about 9:17 PM (in northern Ohio) and find Venus. The ISS will pass to the left, or south of Venus. It should be clear tonight.

We will be open (on Zoom) for a public planetarium session tonight, 4/4, starting at 8:00 PM.  We'll meet for about an h...
04/04/2020

We will be open (on Zoom) for a public planetarium session tonight, 4/4, starting at 8:00 PM. We'll meet for about an hour, but folks can come and go as they please. Please join us, the meeting number is 211-721-145.

Venus among the Pleiades last night, with the Hyades cluster and Aldebaran to the left, at 9:23 last night, April 3rd.
04/04/2020

Venus among the Pleiades last night, with the Hyades cluster and Aldebaran to the left, at 9:23 last night, April 3rd.

Another interesting thing to see in the sky tonight, the International Space Station. Go out at 9:13 PM and look to the ...
04/03/2020

Another interesting thing to see in the sky tonight, the International Space Station. Go out at 9:13 PM and look to the northwest. The ISS will pass well to the right of Venus and the Pleiades, and head towards the zenith (the point directly overhead) as it moves towards the constellation of Leo.

Just after 10 PM, the International Space Station flew near Venus and the Pleiades.
04/03/2020

Just after 10 PM, the International Space Station flew near Venus and the Pleiades.

Venus near the Pleiades cluster last night, 4/2.  Go out and look tonight because Venus will appear even closer to the o...
04/03/2020

Venus near the Pleiades cluster last night, 4/2. Go out and look tonight because Venus will appear even closer to the open cluster of the Pleiades. It will be clear in northern Ohio tonight. Don't forget, I will be hosting a Zoom planetarium session on Saturday at 8PM. Watch this page for the meeting number.

It will be clear tonight, so you MUST go out and find Venus in the western sky very near to the open cluster of the Plei...
04/02/2020

It will be clear tonight, so you MUST go out and find Venus in the western sky very near to the open cluster of the Pleiades. Use binoculars for a spectacular view. We will have another public planetarium session on ZOOM this Saturday at 8PM. I will post the meeting number soon on this page. Stay tuned. This photo, by Fred Espenak is from 2012, since Venus visits the same part of the sky every 8 years.

Planetarium public session tonight at 8:00 PM!  All you need to do is get the Zoom app, and use this meeting code: 932-5...
03/31/2020

Planetarium public session tonight at 8:00 PM! All you need to do is get the Zoom app, and use this meeting code: 932-575-169.
We'll discuss the upcoming meeting of the Pleiades with Venus, the International Space Station visibility, the morning planets, the upcoming "not-so-super" Full Moon, and the early Spring sky.

I will be presenting our second on-line planetarium session on Zoom on Tuesday, March 31st, starting at 8PM EDT. Two day...
03/30/2020

I will be presenting our second on-line planetarium session on Zoom on Tuesday, March 31st, starting at 8PM EDT. Two days later, on Thursday, it is looking like it will be clear, and you'll have a chance to see Venus among the stars of the Pleiades cluster from your own yard. We'll talk about this and more. All you need to do is get the Zoom app, and use this meeting code: 932-575-169.

Comet ATLAS last night, 3/25 at 10:10.   The comet is near center and quite green, with Reising's Triangle at upper righ...
03/26/2020

Comet ATLAS last night, 3/25 at 10:10. The comet is near center and quite green, with Reising's Triangle at upper right. Pentax astrotracer on a stationary tripod for 41s at ISO 3200 using a 135mm lens.

Venus is brilliant in our early evening western sky right now.  Here is an image showing how bright it is.  Venus is 160...
03/23/2020

Venus is brilliant in our early evening western sky right now. Here is an image showing how bright it is. Venus is 1600 times brighter looking than the brightest star in this field. Of course, any star is truly brighter than Venus, but they are all much further away. All of the light we see from Venus is reflected sunlight. In early April, Venus will appear amongst the stars of the Pleiades.

Three planets this morning.  From left, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter.  Notice how Mars has "passed" Jupiter moving left.
03/22/2020

Three planets this morning. From left, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Notice how Mars has "passed" Jupiter moving left.

03/21/2020
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The International Space Station will be making a nice, but early, passage tonight, as seen from northern Ohio. Go out about 8:10 and look to the southwest. The ISS will pass "over" Orion's belt about 8:12 and between the twins Pollux and Castor about one minute later. The sky will not be completely dark at 8:10, but the ISS should be very bright. It will be clear tonight.
https://www.heavens-above.com/passdetails.aspx…

Today is the earliest Vernal Equinox since 1896.https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/today-is-the-vernal-equinox-the-earliest-o...
03/19/2020
Today is the vernal equinox… the earliest one in 124 years!

Today is the earliest Vernal Equinox since 1896.

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/today-is-the-vernal-equinox-the-earliest-one-in-124-years

Happy vernal equinox! Today is the day when the Sun rises due east and sets due west. For us in the northern hemisphere (about 90% of humans on Earth), that means spring is coming, with summer not far behind. Some people think of this as the first day of spring — which is fine, but I have other th...

Tomorrow morning should be clear, so get up about 6AM and look to the southeast for a really cool sight, even from light...
03/18/2020

Tomorrow morning should be clear, so get up about 6AM and look to the southeast for a really cool sight, even from light-polluted areas. Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the waning crescent Moon. It is worth getting up for.

Tomorrow morning should be clear, so get up about 6AM and look to the southeast for a really cool sight, even from light...
03/18/2020

Tomorrow morning should be clear, so get up about 6AM and look to the southeast for a really cool sight, even from light-polluted areas. Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the waning crescent Moon. It is worth getting up for.

This morning's sky, with some thin clouds. From left, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the Third Quarter Moon.As I'm sure you k...
03/16/2020

This morning's sky, with some thin clouds. From left, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the Third Quarter Moon.
As I'm sure you know, there will be NO PUBLIC OBSERVING this Friday.

The final installment of today's astronomy posting is actually for early morning tomorrow, 3/16. Look to the southeast (...
03/15/2020

The final installment of today's astronomy posting is actually for early morning tomorrow, 3/16. Look to the southeast (you'll need a pretty good SE horizon) around 6:30 AM. Find the Third Quarter Moon. To the left of it are three bright planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with Jupiter being the brightest. Ignore Pluto for now, it's very difficult to see, even in a rather large telescope. The most interesting part of this grouping is how it will change on a daily basis. Mars appears to pass close to Jupiter on 3/20, and then appears to pass close to Saturn on 3/31.

Continuing our night sky tour for 3/15, go out after 8:30PM and look east. In this part of the sky, you'll see three "si...
03/15/2020

Continuing our night sky tour for 3/15, go out after 8:30PM and look east. In this part of the sky, you'll see three "signs of Spring", the constellation of Leo, the Big Dipper now so much higher than it was in Winter, and low in the northeast, the bright twinkling Arcturus. Leo's alpha or brightest star is Regulus, at the bottom of a backward question mark, or sickle. The middle star of the handle of the Big Dipper is a double star, if you have pretty sharp vision. I'll bet most of you can see two stars there. Arcturus is the second-brightest star in our night sky, and is in the fun-to-say constellation of Bootes.

Friends, you can go outside at night or in the morning and enjoy the late Winter/early Spring sky as a way to make the b...
03/15/2020

Friends, you can go outside at night or in the morning and enjoy the late Winter/early Spring sky as a way to make the best of the current situation. So, whenever it looks like it will be clear in Ohio, I'll post some things to look for in the night and early morning sky. Let's start with tonight, 3/15, the Ides of March:

Go outside after 8:30 PM and look to the west. That really bright object is Venus. Next week, on 3/24, Venus will be at greatest eastern elongation, or furthest to the east of the Sun, so that's why it's so high and easy to spot in the evening sky. Right now, Venus is about 16X brighter than Sirius, the brightest looking star in our sky. Sirius is shown in the chart on the far left. Between Venus and Sirius is Orion, with its famous belt stars, along with Betelgeuse and Rigel. Uranus is labeled, but you'll need binoculars to see it.

Please share my postings.

If you've never seen Uranus, discovered in 1781 by William Herschel, then tonight is a good opportunity to see the 7th p...
03/08/2020

If you've never seen Uranus, discovered in 1781 by William Herschel, then tonight is a good opportunity to see the 7th planet.Go out after twilight ends and find Venus, almost due west and quite high. Put your binoculars on Venus and look to the left of Venus at about the "8 o'clock" position. You can keep Venus centered in most binocs. Uranus will look like a star, not too bright, not too dim. If you have good binocs and eyes, it may even look a bit blue.

Venus and Uranus about a half hour ago. Go look right now. This is pretty much the binocular view of the two planets ton...
03/08/2020

Venus and Uranus about a half hour ago. Go look right now. This is pretty much the binocular view of the two planets tonight, 3/7. You may not get another good night for a while. The two will be closest on Monday.

The planetarium will be open to the public tonight from 7 to 9 PM.  It will be cloudy outside.  The planetarium holds up...
03/06/2020

The planetarium will be open to the public tonight from 7 to 9 PM. It will be cloudy outside. The planetarium holds up to 20 adults. Since we are in a small space, please consider coming out at a later date if you have a cold or otherwise aren't feeling well. Here's a photo of the morning sky yesterday with three bright planets, taken around 6AM. With Daylight Savings Time going into effect on Sunday, you can see them next week as late as 7 AM.

The Oberlin College Observatory will be open for public viewing tonight, 2/21, from 7 to 9 PM.  Venus will be brilliant ...
02/21/2020

The Oberlin College Observatory will be open for public viewing tonight, 2/21, from 7 to 9 PM. Venus will be brilliant in the west and the winter constellations will be visible in all their glory. Here's a photo I took of M42, the Orion nebula, recently. It will be cold, so dress warmly!

The Observatory will be open this Friday, 2/21, for public observing from 7 to 9 PM.  The forecast is looking good so fa...
02/19/2020

The Observatory will be open this Friday, 2/21, for public observing from 7 to 9 PM. The forecast is looking good so far. The waning crescent Moon and Jupiter this morning around 6:30. Look closely, and you'll see 3 of the 4 Galilean moons of Jupiter. Maybe even all four. I'll post a photo of the moons in the comments below.

Venus, upper left, and Mercury, just above the horizon.  Tonight (2/14) just before 7PM. It was cold. We will be open to...
02/15/2020

Venus, upper left, and Mercury, just above the horizon. Tonight (2/14) just before 7PM. It was cold. We will be open to the public next Friday, 2/21, from 7 to 9 PM.

From my favorite astronomy website (and FB page).  "In general, the angle between the Celestial Equator and the vertical...
02/12/2020

From my favorite astronomy website (and FB page). "In general, the angle between the Celestial Equator and the vertical is your latitude." This is a very educational photo and description.

APOD: Star Trails of the North and South (2020 Feb 12)
Image Credit & Copyright: Saeid Parchini
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap200212.html

Explanation: What divides the north from the south? It all has to do with the spin of the Earth. On Earth's surface, the equator is the dividing line, but on Earth's sky, the dividing line is the Celestial Equator -- the equator's projection onto the sky. You likely can't see the Earth's equator around you, but anyone with a clear night sky can find the Celestial Equator by watching stars move. Just locate the dividing line between stars that arc north and stars that arc south. Were you on Earth's equator, the Celestial Equator would go straight up and down. In general, the angle between the Celestial Equator and the vertical is your latitude. The featured image combines 325 photos taken every 30 seconds over 162 minutes. Taken soon after sunset earlier this month, moonlight illuminates a snowy and desolate scene in northwest Iran. The bright streak behind the lone tree is the planet Venus setting.

Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page
http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=200212

#APOD

We will be open to the public this Friday, 2/7, from 7 to 9 PM.  Here are some Groundhog Day astrophotos from early even...
02/03/2020

We will be open to the public this Friday, 2/7, from 7 to 9 PM. Here are some Groundhog Day astrophotos from early evening yesterday. Venus about a minute before sunset in a bright sky, the waxing gibbous Moon one day past first quarter, and Venus and Mercury around 6:20 PM. You have to take advantage of clear nights when you get them in northern Ohio.

Mercury is starting its best evening appearance of the year in the early evening western sky.  I took this photo at 6:20...
02/03/2020

Mercury is starting its best evening appearance of the year in the early evening western sky. I took this photo at 6:20 PM today (Sunday). I was a bit surprised at how bright Mercury was, and relatively easy to spot. It will climb a bit higher until the 10th of this month, then drop rapidly, so watch for clear skies.

If it clears even briefly after sunset this evening, look to the southwest for brilliant Venus and the waxing crescent m...
01/28/2020

If it clears even briefly after sunset this evening, look to the southwest for brilliant Venus and the waxing crescent moon nearby. If you have a telescope or binoculars, try to spot Neptune, only 0.2º away from Venus. Mercury will be easier to see in early February. Our next public observing session will be Friday, February 7th, from 7 to 9 PM.

The ISS passed over us last night, and as it did, it moved into Earth's shadow, so it no longer was reflecting sunlight....
01/22/2020

The ISS passed over us last night, and as it did, it moved into Earth's shadow, so it no longer was reflecting sunlight. It seemed to disappear as it approached Cassiopeia.

Venus, in Capricornus, on a clear New Year's evening around 6:30 last night. Venus will be bright in the west all winter...
01/02/2020

Venus, in Capricornus, on a clear New Year's evening around 6:30 last night. Venus will be bright in the west all winter and into the spring. Keep watching!

Address

50 N Professor St
Oberlin, OH
44074

General information

Public observing sessions are the first and third Fridays of each month during the academic year. Dave Lengyel is the Observatory and Planetarium Coordinator.

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Will there be any solar eclipse events for viewing on Monday August 21?
Any plans for the eclipse?