By Frank Parlato
Here’s something different.
On Saturday evening, July 30, starting at 7:30, the Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center will afford the public an opportunity, weather permitting, to view through telescopes “The Classical Planets of Antiquity”.
Absent significant cloud cover, all in one night people will be able to see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
In classical antiquity, the naked eye planets were these five, plus the Sun and the Moon.
Penn Dixie is in Blasdell, a 54 acre, outdoor educational center, located at 4050 North Street.
Penn Dixie’s astronomers will be there to guide the public.
Although amateur astronomers are welcome to bring their own telescopes, Penn Dixie will provide telescopes for use during the outdoor, evening program.
In addition to the five planets, with clear skies, people will be able to view the four moons of Jupiter – named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The moons were discovered by Galileo around 1610 and were the first group of objects found to orbit another planet.
Viewers should also be able to see the Great Red Spot, an ancient high-pressure storm on Jupiter that can be likened to the worst hurricanes on Earth. It is so large that three Earths could fit inside it.
Viewers should also be able to get a marvelous look at Saturn’s rings, which are made of ice mixed with a trace of rock that orbit constantly about Saturn.
As the evening progresses different sights can be seen. The public should get a chance to view M57 — the ring nebula in the constellation Lyra. A tiny silver-grey smoke ring, the Ring Nebula is set in a rich and beautiful section of the northern summer Milky Way. It lies about 3/5 of the way from gamma Lyrae to beta Lyrae in the southern end of the Lyre, and is marked by the brilliant blue-white star Vega which rises overhead in the mid-summer months.
Actually when viewers see the two toned oval ring wrapped around the middle of a cloud of glowing gas, they are looking at how M57 appeared 2300 years ago.
During this end of July night, the night the public will also get a chance to see the Summer Constellations: Cygnus, Lyra, Aquila, Sagittarius and Scorpius. The three brightest stars of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra — Altair, Deneb, and Vega form what is called “the Summer Triangle.”
In addition, viewers may be able, in the moonless sky, to see meteors shower from the breakup of the Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comets, called the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower.
The program is free for Penn Dixie members and $4 for the public. No reservations are needed.
Please check the weather; the program may be canceled due to excessive cloud cover or rainy conditions.
For more information, visit https://penndixie.org/astronomy-programs.