The 2017 season of public astronomical observing sessions begins this month at sites in Salt Lake and Tooele counties. The Salt Lake Astronomical Society invites the public to study planets, nebulas, galaxies, stars and other space objects through large telescope and to learn about the spring sky from knowledgeable amateur astronomers. Five star parties and one sun party are available in April, free and open to all. The sessions will be held if the weather permits.
Public star parties are scheduled for these sites, from dusk until 9 p.m.:
• Friday, April 7, at the Brickyard Harmons Store parking, 3270 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City.
• Saturday, April 8, at the club’s Stansbury Park Observatory Complex (SPOC) in Tooele County. To reach SPOC from the Salt Lake area, drive west on Interstate 80 and turn off at the Tooele-Grantsville turnoff, Exit 99. Then go south on state Route 36; at the third traffic signal on this road, turn right onto Stansbury Parkway. Continue west until you see the “Plaza” sign in the center median strip, and turn left onto Plaza. Leave your vehicle at the parking lot next to the skateboard park and walk to the observatory, which is west of the park (to the right as you face the park).
• Friday, April 21, at Wheeler Farm, 6351 S. 900 East, Salt Lake County.
• Saturday, April 22, at SPOC.
• Saturday, April 29, at SPOC. This is a special celebration for Astronomy Day.
In addition, a sun party is scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 15, at Winchester Park on the Jordan River Parkway, 6400 South and 1100 West, Murray. Expert amateurs will provide equipment allowing safe viewing of the sun. Recently, solar flares have erupted after months of a quiet period with “negligible flares,” says spaceweather.com. The flares and accompanying sunspots can be seen with the gear available at the club’s sun parties.
During star parties, the group gives away items to encourage participation in the hobby, including guidebooks and sometimes small telescopes or binoculars.
SPOC will host “three large telescopes and several smaller privately owned telescopes for your viewing pleasure,” said Enid Elberta Norton, Tooele. “If you enjoy gazing at the stars or moon, or wonder what the difference is between that really bright star and the dim one next to it, come and ask your questions and see for yourself the beauty that surrounds us in the sky.”
Stan Ericsen, Riverton, said this is his fifth year he has been a member of the group. Among his favorite activities “are the many public star parties we sponsor, as many of the people who come have never looked through a telescope before.”
“They almost can’t believe the beauty they are seeing,” Ericsen said.
Often they will look up from the telescope to stare at a little dot in the sky, where they had just viewed a surprising sight.
“It is at that moment when I know for a surety that they are indeed seeing the amazing wonders of the universe before them,” Ericsen said.
For additional information, contact SLAS vice president Joe Bauman, (801) 913-3588.