3 planets, 1 night; community telescope unveiled at summer solstice party

Stock image | St. George News

PAROWAN GAP — Come see planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn as the Southern Utah Space Foundation hosts a summer solstice party, Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Parowan Gap, 13 miles northwest of Parowan.

"Summer Solstice" event flyer | Image courtesy of the Southern Utah Space Foundation.
Summer solstice event flyer | Image courtesy of the Southern Utah Space Foundation, St. George News.

During the solstice event, the Southern Utah Space Foundation will unveil its large telescope to the public. The telescope was purchased with funds raised through the community.

“It’s almost as tall as I am, and I can’t even fit it into my car,” Leesa Ricci, astronomer, said. “So, the fact that we were able to get this telescope for the community after last year’s support is extremely gratifying. We hope that everyone in the community comes and takes advantage of this event.”

The big telescope is coming out, with stars and planets ready for viewing. Binoculars are welcome; however, there will be several telescopes manned with astronomers to assist.

Through the lenses of the telescopes, participants can see Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and the moon, along with many nebulae, globular clusters and galaxies.

“Venus and Jupiter will appear close to each other, and you can see Jupiter’s Galilean moons through our telescope,” Ricci said. “Although these moons are hundreds of millions of miles away from us, they’re very large. One of them, Ganymede, is larger than the planet Mercury, making it very bright and easy to see in a large telescope.”

The closer to 9 p.m., the more visible distant, deep sky objects will be. The event will close around 10 p.m. A light jacket is recommended.

“I personally am looking forward to meeting more people in the community and showing off three planets in one night,” Ricci said. “The Parowan Gap is a beautiful area, and the weather should be amazing. So, we’ll be in a beautiful location with perfect skies, and we’ll be with the community. That’s a combination for a great evening, and I’m excited!”

Earlier on Saturday is the “Summer Solstice Sunset Observation Program.” Children can make sundials, and attendees can watch the sunset.

READ MORE: ‘Summer Solstice Sunset Observation Program’ offered at Parowan Gap

 “We already have the perfect skies for astronomy, and now we can make sure that everyone in the community has the chance to really see them,” Ricci said.

Event details

  • What: Summer solstice party
  • When: Saturday, June 20 | 8-10 p.m.
  • Where: Parowan Gap
  • Details: Southern Utah Space Foundation website

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