Astronomy group hosts star party in Town Square

ST. GEORGE –  The St. George Astronomy Group is hosting its biggest event to date, with a sun and star gazing party set for Friday in Town Square at 50 S. Main Street in St. George.

The public is invited to view the sun through special telescopes starting at 6 p.m. Viewing of the moon and planets will begin at about 9:30 p.m., and as it gets darker, fainter objects in the sky will be visible. When the sky gets really dark, attendees will be able to see double stars, star clusters, and distant galaxies.

The astronomy group will have an information booth set up, and the event will continue as long as people are interested, or until midnight, group member Mark Shelton said.

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

Caution: Looking at the sun, even briefly, with the naked eye or through sunglasses, through unfiltered camera, telescope and other magnification lenses can cause irreparable damage to your eyes.

“The temptation is to think, oh I can look at it with my sunglasses because my lenses are dark,” Dr. Paul Gooch of SouthWest Vision in St. George told St. George News in 2012. “That’s the precisely wrong thing to do.”

Read more: Solar viewing glasses; dates with the sun eclipse your vision

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, there are several noteworthy celestial events coming up.

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.

Find more events here: Make a resolution to get outside: 2015 night sky, celestial events calendar

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