Stargazing: Catch a glimpse of the Orion Nebula Saturday night

Megan Warhurst and Ayona Warhurst look through the 12-inch telescope at the Solstice Event, Parowan Gap, Utah, 2015 | Courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — When the sun goes down and the stars come out Saturday night, leaders from the Southern Utah Space Foundation will gather at Three Peaks Recreational Park with their 12-inch telescope hoping to catch a glimpse of the Orion Nebula.

Jeremy Johnson Speaks to a Crowd at Three Peaks, Iron County, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News
Jeremy Johnson speaks to a crowd at Three Peaks, Iron County, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News

Situated in the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula located in the constellation of Orion just south of Orion’s Belt. It is visible to the naked eye on a clear night and is believed to be one of the brightest nebulae in the night sky.

The free educational event on Saturday is open to the public and is family-friendly, Southern Utah Space Foundation President Lee Ricci said. 

The star-gazing event is one of many put together by the foundation with the intention of igniting a passion for astronomy in the hearts of as many people as they can.

“SUSF was founded to bring astronomy education and outreach to everyone in Southern Utah,” Ricci said, “and we will be at the Three Peaks area with our large telescope.”

Andrew McAffee looks through the 12-inch telescope at the Solstice Event, Parowan Gap,, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News
Andrew McAffee looks through the 12-inch telescope at the Solstice Event, Parowan Gap, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News

The 12-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is so massive that it has to be brought in on a moving van in order to haul it all the way out to the recreation area. Once out there, Ricci said they use a base to set the telescope up where it will get the best view of the sky and the least amount of light pollution.

Light pollution has become a major issue for visitors hoping to see certain parts of the night sky at Southern Utah University’s Ashcroft Observatory, prompting members of the Southern Utah Space Foundation to start community star-gazing events in more remote locations.

“You can’t even see the crab nebula anymore (at the observatory),” Ricci said, “because it’s pretty much always in the north sky, and so it’s always completely washed out because of the airport.”

Lee Ricci Addresses a Crowd at Three Peaks for Perseid Meteor Shower, Iron County, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News
Lee Ricci addresses a crowd at Three Peaks for Perseid Meteor Shower, Iron County, Utah, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Lee Ricci, St. George News

At first, Southern Utah Space Foundation events were facilitated by personal telescopes, Ricci said, but when she came on as president of the foundation, she made it her personal mission to purchase a telescope worthy of their mission: “to provide the ability for all people in all walks of life to participate in astronomy.”

The group meets with participants at Three Peaks Recreational Park pavilion, which is to the right as visitors pull into the park. From there, they are guided to the chosen area where the telescope is set up for the night.

This time of year, temperatures drop quickly once the sun is out of sight, so attendees should bring a warm jacket or a blanket to stay warm; however, Ricci said they always set up close enough to a pit to have a fire where guests can warm up and roast marshmallows. Ricci encourages parents to bring children for a family outing and to make it as fun as possible.

For those who plan to stick around for a while, Ricci said bringing a camping chair can be a neck-saver.

Event details

  • What: Southern Utah Space Foundation viewing of Orion Nebula
  • When: Saturday, March 6, from 7-10 p.m.
  • Where: Meet at Three Peaks Recreational Park pavilion
  • This event is free and open to the public

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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