Astronomy group hosts Toquerville star party; upcoming sky events

TOQUERVILLE – The St. George Astronomy Group and the City of Toquerville will host a free public star party Friday evening. Everyone is invited to attend and view the sun and stars through a variety of telescopes.

The event will be held at the Toquerville City Park at 250 W. Center St., at the far end of the parking lot. The party begins at 7 p.m. and will last approximately three hours. Telescopes will be provided, and experts will be on hand to help and explain.

The first hour will be spent observing the sun with special solar telescopes. Then as it gets darker, telescopes will be pointed to the planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.

When the sky turns really dark, attendees will be able to see double stars, star clusters, and distant galaxies. An astronomer will use a laser to point out bright stars and major constellations.

If the weather is cloudy, the event will be canceled.

The St. George Astronomy Group is a local astronomy advocacy organization with two missions: to reach out to the public through free star parties and other public events; and to preserve the dark skies over Southern Utah through proper outdoor lighting. The group is welcoming new members; see their website for details.

Upcoming sky events

According to Seasky.org, there are several noteworthy celestial events coming up within the next month.

June 16 – New moon. The moon will be located on the same side of the Earth as the sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

June 21 – Summer solstice. The North Pole of the Earth will be tilted toward the sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer, the summer solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter, the winter solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere.

June 24 – Mercury viewing. The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 22.5 degrees from the sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

July 1 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart, or close enough to cover the pair with just your pinky finger held at arm’s length. Look for this impressive pairing in the western sky just after sunset.

July 2 – Full moon. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.

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1 Comment

  • sagemoon June 12, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for the sky update, Julie. I wish I could go to the star party tonight.

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